Every year numbers of Irish photographers – wildlife, nature or just any or none categories – make their annual pilgrimage onto small island off shore, just few miles from Kilmore Quay. Reason is simple – it’s a wild birds sanctuary, even privately owned, it’s accesible just for anyone who enjoys taking photos or watching birds.
When one of top wildlife/nature photographer from my camera club announced this year trip, I joined in. I strongly advise to go with somebody who was there few times, as local knowledge is a key. And tips and hints about bird photography are always helpful.
A little history about the place itself. Saltee Islands – it’s two of them – lies on south shore of Ireland in county Wexford. The bigger of them is privately owned by local family, who occasionally resides on island. It was bought by local farmer, who self titled himself as a Prince of the Saltee. However, visitors are welcome, even though some restriction of visiting times are in place. Boats are departing from Kilmore Quay harbour and it takes around 30 minutes to reach the island. Then it’s a transport into Zodiac boat and brought to small beach. From there is a little hike on top of hill, pass the family house and throne – every royalty has to have one.
First main point is on the first cliff on south side of island. On this steep cliffs are hundreds of nesting puffins. Great aviators, with colourful beaks, it’s a great joy and fun to watch them. Graciously gliding in air, hunting for fish to bring to young ones.
Unfortunately, this time there was only few of them and not much air show to watch, or capture. Nevertheless, everyone managed to get some decent shots. Me having the crappiest lens on the bunch. Canon 70-200/4 L USM is great, but for this kind of photography is just is not long enough to zoom in birds in distance. So I had to crop almost all images in post-processing. The results are OK for viewing on computer screen, some maybe suitable for printing, but this will have to wait for later.
After some time I decide to move into other side of island, where gannets colony resides. I walked across narrow footpath across with my colleague from camera club. Along the way we pass few black back seagulls. This can be very vicious and aggressive in protecting their nesting chicks. There are stories about some nasty scars people have on their heads as a reminder. Best protection is to take umbrella or put up tripod. This time we were lucky and left unharmed.
Gannets colony is easy to find. The smell and noise can be felt from distance. They occupy rocky outcrop, bumping into each other almost constantly. They are fun to watch to land, as smoothly they glide thru air, landing is process Mother Nature has to work on. It looks like they just stop flying and drop to ground. They are beautiful birds with white body and yellowish long necks.
We had to leave at around 4:00 pm, and it was just well as sea for started to rolling in, covering hills and eventually whole island. I had to admit I was a bit nervous as we could not see any land for most of our journey, but I’m no seaman.
We finished our trip in near by chip shop with one of the best – and biggest – portion of fish and chips. And cone of ice cream. Overall, it was nice day out, got a little sunburn on my hands, so this is definitely on my diary for next year.