Great Saltee Island off the SE coast of Ireland is the place to go in May or June – or most times of the year.
But in early Summer the flowers and birds are terrific.
It seems to have its own micro-climate and has been kind, weather-wise, to us on our yearly pilgrimages.
We spent 4 or 5 hours on the island but could have spent 4 or 5 days without doing it justice.
It is known best for its 2 Gannet colonies and for its Puffins but has so much more – birds such as Auks, Waders, Gulls, Cormorants, Choughs, Pipits etc. as well as Seals, Rabbits (inevitably), wild flowers and great views.
The Gannets number over 2,000 and try to nest away from interference – one colony on a rock stack and the other at the extreme end of the island.
However over-enthusiastic visitors and camera holders constantly get too close, pushing the colony back and causing unnecessary stress and disturbance.
Gannets build a small mound of earth and vegetation – grass, seaweed, etc. – with more vegetation on top.
In such a crowded place, the Gannets are very regularly spaced. This is not so much about privacy for couples or respect for neighbours but rather fear of agression and use of agression to keep a small gap!
Fights do break out in the close noisy turmoil.
Gannets mostly look all the same to us but presumably they can see distinct differences and hear different calls. Nevertheless finding one’s mate in a large noisy colony can’t be easy and landing amongst defensive neighbours in wind has to be difficult.
A magnificent bird and beautifully designed for life on the sea and for diving into the water from a height.
Puffin calling from rock amongst Pinks on clifftop, Great Saltee
Hard to ignore the gorgeous, cute little Puffins though.
Puffin numbers go up and down yearly based mainly on the numbers of Sandeels available.
The last 2 years seem to have been fairly good but of course fish numbers worldwide are only fractions of 100 years ago due to over fishing, pollution, human interference and now, particularly plastics – hard to imagine such a happy state for our seas now 😦