Saltee Islands – Paradise for Seabirds

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The Saltee Islands, St. George’s Channel consisting of the Great and Little Saltee, are situated approximately 5 kilometers off the coast of Kilmore Quay Co.Wexford.

The larger island Great Saltee is the most famous bird sanctuary in Ireland and is very popular with both day-trippers and birdwatchers alike. These Islands are privately owned and are one of the world’s major bird sanctuaries.

The Saltees are a haven for sea birds, nurturing an impressive array of birds, from Gannets and Gulls to Puffins and Manx Shearwaters. They also lie on an important migratory route and a popular stopping-off place for spring and autumn migrants.

The Great Saltee also has a breeding population of Grey Seals, one of the very few in eastern Ireland. Up to 120 animals are present in autumn and up to 20 pups are produced annually.

Gannet in Flight

One of the most spectacular sights on the Great Saltee in mid-Summer are the sea birds colonies on the cliffs to the north-east of the Gannet headland. Vast numbers of Guillemots and Razorbills pack the ledges and create a frightful incessant din which only at night abates a little.

The Fulmars too play their part in this splendour. Towards dusk the sight of the Puffins congregating in small groups near their nestling sites presents a marvellous sight.

I visited the Saltee Islands together with two friends, Alan Mahon and Liam Arundel, on 28th June 2018. With a cloudless sky and very little wind the conditions were perfect. The ferry departed at 09:00 am from Kilmore Quay and arrived at the larger of the two islands, Great Saltee, twenty minutes later. The return ferry at 03:00 pm, gives ample time for a tour along the cliffs to the gannet colony at the far end of the island.

The Razorbill (Alca torda) is a colonial seabird that comes to land only to breed. This agile bird chooses one partner for life; females lay one egg per year. Genus‎: ‎Alca‎; ‎Linnaeus‎, ‎1758
The Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) is a wader in the oystercatcher bird family Haematopodidae.
The European shag or common shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) is a species of cormorant. It breeds around the rocky coasts of western and southern Europe, southwest Asia and north Africa, mainly wintering in its breeding range except for the northernmost birds.
Chicks of Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) with Chick.
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) in Flight
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) in Flight
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) in Flight
The northern gannet (Morus bassanus) is a seabird, the largest species of the gannet family, Sulidae. It is native to the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, breeding in Western Europe and North America.

Alan taking aerial shots of the gannet colony
Liam most comfortable on the throne of Prince Michael
Ken taking flight shots of the gannets

There are a number of charter boats operating out of Kilmore Quay marina. They offer a variety of services including: Deep Sea Angling, Trips around the Saltee Islands for all the family, Equipment rental, Survey Charters and Scuba Diving Charters. They are all insured, licenced and fitted out to a high standard with a full range of marine electronic and safety equipment on-board.


Trips to the Saltee Islands run daily. Contact Declan Bates for details. (Mobile: +353 87 252 9736)

 

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Ken Billington

Ken Billington

Ken, a scientist by training held various management positions in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries during his professional career, enabling him to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Americas, North Africa, Asia and Japan.Ken has always been a keen photographer and bought his first telephoto lens 10 years ago. This was the beginning of his interest in bird photography.Since then he has also become an active supporter of birding and wildlife conservation.

Ken Billington

Ken Billington

Ken, a scientist by training held various management positions in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries during his professional career, enabling him to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Americas, North Africa, Asia and Japan.Ken has always been a keen photographer and bought his first telephoto lens 10 years ago. This was the beginning of his interest in bird photography.Since then he has also become an active supporter of birding and wildlife conservation.

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