Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Birds of Great Saltee Island

Spending a day on a remote, uninhabited, marine island is always an exhilarating experience. Some islands provide a peaceful and tranquil respite from the hustle and bustle of daily human activity – just lie back and take in the sound of the waves lapping on the shore. Islands with seabird colonies, however, are far from peaceful. But these bird cities are exciting and enthralling – the incessant screeching and cawing, the wheeling, ducking and diving. The birds take little notice of you as you wander about among them. Visions of Charles Darwin on the Galapagos Islands spring to mind. For wildlife enthusiasts these islands are magical, heavenly places. Great Saltee Island is one such place, lying just over 3 miles off the coast of Wexford in the South East of Ireland. Uninhabited since 1905 the island is 219 acres in size and is the summer home for at least 40,000 seabirds. The island holds internationally important numbers of many species, as described in Seabird Populations of Britain and Ireland: Results of the Seabird 2000 Census (1998 – 2002). Of particular note are the following (breeding adults): 3,800 gannet (Morus bassanus), 300 Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), 4,200 kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), 21,400 common guillemot (Uria aalge), 3,200 razorbill (Alca torda) and 3,000 puffins (Fratercula arctica). Below are a few pictures from a trip to the island last summer:

Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

Razorbill (Alca torda)

Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

Guillemot (Uria aalge)

Gannet (Morus bassanus)

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