Wednesday, 27 July 2016

An island of skuas!


Our morning on Fair Isle today was made up of seeking out and ringing Great Skua (Bonxie) chicks! Quite different to their confrontational and aggressive parents, these delightful 'monsters to be' generally behave very well once located and sit still whilst their metal ring is affixed. Providing they survive the first year, these ocean predators may well live for twenty years or more...

Record numbers are breeding on the island this year, and it seems that they and other sea-bird species are generally enjoying a productive breeding season.

Also on the island are the beautiful and graceful Arctic Skuas. Much smaller and slimmer than their Bonxie cousins, a small population manages to breed on Fair Isle but sadly the chicks are often predated by the Bonxies at the fledging stage. Nevertheless they also seem to be experiencing a more productive season than of late.

Very few migrant passerines are moving through but gulls and waders are definitely on the move with plenty of Common Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Curlews, a Whimbrel and a variety of smaller waders feeding on the beaches or croft fields.


Neil M

Helen Franklin and Lynne
Barnett holding Bonxie chicks

Adult dark phase
Arctic Skua

Juvenile Arctic Skua

John Franklin suffering 'the Bonxie
experience'. Even when they are not
on territory, these intimidating birds
are renown for flying at the heads of
people, sometimes with a resounding
'slap' as they make contact with their feet...

Head to head with a Bonxie!

Adult Bonxie or Great Skua.
Big, powerful but also very
maneuverable too, these
predatory sea-birds really are
the 'wolves of the sea'.

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