Bonxie variety + changing Puffins

Shetland week with Mrs G!

by Martin

This was one of the  first ever Birding Frontiers posts from 2 years ago. It was following a visit to Shetland with Mrs G and me celebrating 20 years of marriage . I am making plans to try and see South Polar Skua in the North Atlantic this year. Be great to compare much effort at learning Great Skua plumages over the years. Here’s hoping!

July- August 2010

Had a very special week with Sharon, celebrating  20 years of marriage this month! Shetland is not overrun with rarities in late July/ early August, but the scenery is constantly awe-inspiring, the people are a continuous blessing and the breeding birds are something else! (never mind Cetaceans i.e. Whales and Dolphins, Otters and wild flowers) Here’s a little selection from our trip:

Amoung thousands of Puffins on Sumburgh head, nearly all the adults were in full summer dress (as above) , apart from this one (lower photo) , which is well advanced towards winter plumage. An unusual opportunity to see the 2 plumage types side-by side.

Bonxie special

I have had a keen interest in Great Skua (Bonxie) plumages for many years, learning them partly in the vain hope of finding a South Polar Skua on some autumn seawatch. Hermaness on Unst hosts the 3rd largest Bonxie breeding colony in the world. If you can avoid being dive-bombed by these fierce predators, it is a great opportunity to view the great variety of adult plumages. Besides their intricate pattern with plenty of pale internal markings and evident warm, even rusty tones to the plumage, the head patterns come in 3 broad types: dark-capped, dark -masked and dark-hoodedHave a look through these photos to see what I mean:

many have white flecks on the head

Although not a great shot, this bird appears to have dropped the innermost 3 primaries simultaneously. There was  a time, due to its more rapid moult, that 3 simultaneously moulted inner primaries was considered to be more of a South Polar Skua feature. On many individuals on Hermaness the secondaries had already been renewed (see also photo at bottom).

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