October 7th   Leave a comment

I have a rule when sea watching – never identify anything rare in the first five or ten minutes. You need to get your eye in to the light and the wind conditions which change how a seabird looks and flies fundamentally. Everything can look bigger in a slight mist or when flying into a strong wind, and on a dull day everything looks much darker. After a while you calibrate things with known close in birds – kittiwakes and gannets and manx shearwaters – so when something different flies by you have much more confidence in what you are seeing. Today I had 3 skuas past in the first 3 minutes of a sea watch to test my rule and my resolve not to be bad birder! The first looked structurally like a long-tailed skua, small and dashing; the second like a pomarine – bulky and heavier; and the third intermediate in structure and flight action like an arctic. I think they were really all three arctic skuas – which is the most likely as we have them resident off Crail with the kittiwake flocks from August to October – and I hadn’t got my eye in yet. The first bird was further out than I first thought and really flying fast making it look a light bird; the second the reverse; and the third like goldilocks porridge, probably just right. I had mentally caught my breath and was considering things a bit more critically. I waited for some more skuas – after all the signs were good – to make some proper identifications, but that was my lot. Plenty of little gulls still coming past though. I gave up as the evening gloaming came on and all the auks started turning into black guillemots.

An obvious arctic skua - but well out to sea, shooting past in a strong wind...

An obvious arctic skua – but when well out to sea and shooting past in a strong wind…

Posted October 7, 2016 by wildcrail in Sightings

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