We’re just back from a journey to the Saltee Islands in Co. Wexford. The islands are home to some of Ireland’s largest sea-bird colonies. Many of the birds on the island are relatively rare on the mainland.

After a mad morning dash through south Wexford, we took the boat from Kilmore Quay at 11.00. A small group of day trippers accompanied us on our journey. We travelled there on a powerful motor boat, transferring to a dingy in order to reach the shore.

There are some very bizarre statues and monuments on the main island, built by “Prince Michael the First”, the first owner of the place. There is even a stone ceremonial throne behind the family home. The Saltee Islands have their own flag and coat of arms, but perhaps rumours of a secession from the Irish Republic are premature.

The Great Saltee is home to large colonies of gannets, razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes. Puffins, coromorants, shags, fulmars, choughs, herring gulls and black-backed gulls were also commonplace around the island. The largest colony of gannets is at the far western end of the island and, incredibly, you can walk right up beside these large birds. They appear unperturbed by humans, despite the fact that they are all looking after chicks of various different ages and sizes. Not so the black backed gulls. Come close to a nest and you will be swooped on by an anxious parent until you leave the immediate area.

The seas were dotted with seabirds of all shapes and sizes and every now and again large seals could be seen diving in the numerous inlets. Why the seals appear here in such numbers, I have no idea.

We spent a lot of time walking along the southern coastline, taking in the sights and sounds. July is a great time to go as most birds are still nesting and chicks are in their abundance.

Our trip lasted from 11.00 am until 4.00 pm. The five hours go by very quickly. For birders and non-birders alike it’s a great place to go for a day trip.

Photos by Claudia Wagner

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