I got a call from Mark Rossell this afternoon reporting a Skua at Watermead Country Park South. Mark said they’d got some photos but ID was eluding them. Mark hadn’t got his bins with him either as they had gone to practice flight photography on the Gulls.

Mark sent these photos to Andy and me that Connor Thornton took. Sadly they’re not the best but I’m putting them up for discussion. It’s either Arctic or Pomarine and I will say at first glance I said Pom but now I’m swinging towards Arctic.

Skua sp. Connor Thornton

Skua sp. Connor Thornton

Skua sp. Connor Thornton

The bird was constantly harassed by the Gulls and headed off North. Tomorrow I’m going to start at Swithland and work South hoping to find it… I doubt I will though!


10 responses to “Skua’d

  1. Hi John , Thanks for having a look at the poor images . I’m swinging towards Artic Skua to.
    Thanks , Connor Thornton

  2. For what it’s worth (and I’m certainly no expert) I would go for very dark juv Pom. To be honest, the apparent lack of upper/undertail covert barring had me thinking ‘Arctic’, but the central tail feather shape looks perfect for Pom, and not good for Arctic. In the ‘spread tail’ shot I reckon I can be persuaded that there is in fact some uppertail covert barring, though weak. The faintness of this feature might be because the bird is so dark …

    Perhaps… :o)

  3. I agree that the tail looks much more like Pom than Arctic, but that’s about it. To me the bird looks quite small headed and long billed on the ‘crow shot’, but is that a photographic effect against a pale background? On the same shot, I think I can see a hint of a pale shawl and darker cap, which would also suggest Arctic.

    Overall, I’m not convinced this bird is identifiable from these photos. It’s a shame they didn’t manage to get a shot of the underwing, which would have made it a lot easier!

  4. Don’t suppose that there are any other shots…[no matter how poor]…available…?

    ps…agree with Andy that these images don’t reveal enuff to be sure of ID…[think the resolution may be fuckin with bill shape somewhat]…etc

  5. No, that was it, apart from two that were so blurred you couldn’t even tell it was a skua!

  6. Looking at the photos briefly at Watermead, I thought it was a Pom and after some reading I still think it’s a Pom! Noted from the skua’s book Arctic Skua should now be off West and North Africa, with the majority of Arctic Skua migrating south by early October!
    Also I remember Mark saying that when he first saw the bird he thought it had quite purposeful flight which sounds good for Pom and he thought it was harrier sp with his first impression of the bird, which again sounds good for Pom Skua.
    And finally just wonder if there any records of Juvenile Arctic Skua migrating overland in November?!

  7. There are two VC55 records of Arctic Skuas in November: an adult at Swithland Res on 12th November 1985, and the juvenile that lots of people saw at Eyebrook Res on 5th & 6th November 2007. Although I don’t know for certain, I would guess there are other inland November records as well.

    But time of year shouldn’t come into the identification process at all. If birds were only identified on where they ought to be at a particular time of year, there were be no vagrants on the British list!

    Going on what is actually visible on the photos, there is one character, and one character alone which suggests it was a Pom – the shape of the central tail feathers. Everything else (size, structure, upper/undertail barring) is either subjective, possibly distorted by the photographic effect of a dark bird against a pale sky or not properly visible. Conversely, there’s nothing concrete at all to say it was definitely an Arctic.

    So it all comes down to whether the one visible character (the shape of the central tail feathers) is enough to identify it conclusively as a Pom? In the end, that probably comes down to people’s personal level of caution in identifying birds – some people may happy to identify a bird on one character and a few subjective impressions, whilst others may prefer a more cautious ‘don’t know’ approach. No doubt there will be plenty of debate when this one comes round the Records Committee!

  8. Bollocks – that should have said ‘…there would be no vagrants on the British list’. Engage brain fully before typing…..

  9. ‘Chances are’….the bird would be a pom..especially goin on the numbers recorded on the coast in recent times etc…

    But….’chance/probabilities’ ain’t good enough for the bird to be recorded other than a probable….[shame n all that but there you go]…!

  10. So it looks like the jury is out and could be for a very long time.
    Thanks to everyone for looking at the photos and giving me your thoughts on this Skua.
    I feel like I should apologise to the VC55 Twitching community for not getting a 100% ID.
    But Bollocks!!

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