On our walk around Papa Westray we are excited to see Arctic Skuas.
At least we are until they attack us.
There’s one standing on the sloping grassland overlooking the ocean. It’s very dark, with an even darker head.
There’s another with the same dark head but very pale plumage. They are two different colours of the same species.
They fly fast and low with pointed wings. They look like powerful predators, as if they are the raptors of the sea.
They come to this isolated spot to breed and spend our winter in the Southern Ocean.
Their scientific name is Stercorarius parasiticus. In Orkney they are called Scootie Allan. Their conservation status in the UK is listed as red; of highest conservation concern.
I’m fascinated by their pointed wing feathers and their decorative overlap:
They have two pointed tail feathers which extend into a point.
As we walk along the coast there seem to be many of them. They like to live where there are Arctic Tern colonies as they feed by hunting birds carrying fish back to their families.
I wonder if these three are all youngsters from the same parents?
I’m not going to be staying around to find out.