Pickieternos v Bonxies

Orkney has its own names for its birds. Many of these are from the Old Norse language and came with the Vikings who settled here, built a cathedral and used the islands to farm, to fish, and as a base from which to go raiding. In fact, just the same as Orcadians do today.

Bonxie is the name for the Great Skua. There’s one on the hillside ahead amongst the dried husks of Thrift. They are huge, powerful birds.

Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I decide to see if I can get a closer look:

Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I know it can see me. I try a new technique of looking as if I’m walking sideways while getting closer all the time:

Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It seems to be working. It’s a very impressive bird:

Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I decide to leave it in peace and walk quietly away. What I don’t know is that it’s taken flight and is heading straight towards me:

Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I have no idea what it’s doing. I turn round to glance back at it and see that it’s just six feet behind me and heading straight for my head very, very fast:

Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I duck and turn to see it soar past:

It’s not impressed with me:

Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It wouldn’t risk that behaviour unless there’s a nest nearby so I decide to retreat quickly so I don’t cause it any stress. As I walk along the coast there are Arctic Terns overhead, or, as they are called here, Pickieternos. They are curious about me as they fly out to sea:

Arctic Terns - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Bombs away!

Arctic Terns - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They are noisy as they fly out to sea:

Arctic Terns - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They can’t be noisy as they fly back as they have mouths full of fish:

Arctic Terns - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I love the green of the fish against the blue of the sky:

Arctic Terns - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Then something happens to disturb the entire colony. There must be over 100 in the air:

What’s upsetting them is the Bonxie. Pickiternos have no fear and mob the Bonxie relentlessly:

Arctic Terns v Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

My favourite moment is this one, when one of the Pickieternos gets its red feet out to strike the Bonxie on the head:

Arctic Terns v Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Classic.

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