With news of five Long-tailed Skuas present on Whalsay yesterday, including a near-mythical adult dark morph, it proved too difficult a temptation to resist. I met Larry Dalziel on my arrival at Skaw and he told me the good news that at least some of the Long-tailed Skuas were still present. Almost immediately, a pack of six Skuas flew low across the hillside on the far side of the loch that clearly included some Long-tailed Skuas - a close examination of the images obtained revealed the presence of the adult dark morph, the two adult pale morphs, the first-summer pale morph, the first-summer dark morph but also a third-summer pale morph. They all quickly gained height, thermaled-up to join around the same number of Arctic Skuas, and disappeared in different directions. The two adult pale morphs were then seen on and off for most of my visit with the first-summer pale morph also subsequently making a few appearances. The most exquisite of the pale morph adults put on the best performance with it even hovering over the moorland on several occasions. A Red Grouse was also seen at Skaw on Whalsay. A thoroughly enjoyable and instructional day shared with John Lowire Irvine, George Petrie and Roger Riddington.
click on image to enlarge
for a selection of far superior images by the finder John Lowrie Irvine here
Adult, pale morph Long-tailed Skuas at Skaw, Whalsay
Third-summer, pale morph Long-tailed Skua at Skaw, WhalsayWhilst adult-like in respect of the contrast between its greyish upperparts and blackish flight feathers and in having long tail-streamers it shows both a greyish breast band and a paler belly as described by Olsen & Larsson (1997).
Showing a nice combination of an overall cold appearance, pale collar and head-sides, broad dark breast-band, retained juvenile primaries and white underparts.