30 September, 2014

Skuas, skuas and more skuas!

Juvenile Pomarine Skua by Erik Mølgaard, photo taken in Sweden. Thanks Erik for the great photo and please visit his gallery too.

On Saturday evening, the 27th of September my birding buddy Ilkka Hakala found 5 skuas from lake Mallasvesi near my home. He managed to identify couple of them as juvenile Pomarine Skuas, one as juvenile Arctic Skua and the rest he had to leave unidentified.

Sun had already settled down when I got the message. So, there was no doubt what to do next morning. I woke up at 5:30, quick breakfast and then out. At 6:40 I was at the eastern cape of Riuttasaari. Sun was just rising up, many gulls were already on the fly, one Black-throated Loon flew by towards northeast. And then I saw a Skua coming towards me, no, but two Skuas. They both came rather close and when they turned, I saw all characteristic identification marks - two Pomarine Skuas! Cool! First time for me in the area of my local birding club and first time for me in Valkeakoski.

Arctic Skua in Baltic Sea coast by Miia Parviainen.
Thanks Miia for the photo!
Soon came Ilkka too and we continued watching - and identify and count the skuas. The amount caused some debate, but in my humble opinion, the final number was 8. As during one turn of my scope in the whole visible sector, I counted 6 dark Skuas. Later I found an adult pale Arctic Skua and later there was also an adult pale Pomarine Skua, so that makes 8 skuas. How many juvenile Pomarine / Arctic skuas there were, is a bit unclear. At least 4 of them were identified as Pomarine

Skuas and 1 as Arctic Skua, so one juvenile Skua was left unidentified.

This autumn has been amazing on what comes to Skuas in Finland. During last 30 days, 1115 Skuas were reported to Tiira. 354 of them were Arctic Skuas, 401 Pomarine Skuas, 21 Long-tailed Skuas and 699 unidentifed Skuas. I love these kind surprises in birding world!

But why so many Skuas here now? There were also exceptional Skua migration in northern Norway a week ago. On 22nd of September, Hampus Lejon counted 166 adult and 421 juvenile Pomarine Skuas in Gamvik, in Finnmark county. Also on 23rd of September, 104 adult and 258 juvenile Pomarines were counted in  Flintholmen, in Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Note also the big proportion of juvenile birds, it tells something about good production of Pomarine Skuas in Siberia. Maybe there were a good year for moles? If so, will we see lot's of Snowy Owls later this autumn / next winter?

1 comment:

  1. Meteorologist Juha Koistinen published today his opinion or quick speculation, as he describes it, in ´Finnish birders e-mail list Lintuverkko, about the weather conditions in Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea and White Sea a week ago, here's the translation:

    "Approximately from 18th to 22nd of September prevailed in the Barents Sea moderate-to-stiff WNW flow, which in 22nd turned to the north. There was nothing dramatic in weather during that time. Possibly the skua migration in region had started due to wind, but instead of normal migration out in the open sea, it packed to coast of Norway to be seen. Such must have been happened many times before, but the migration may not have been detected in Northen Norway and perhaps this year, nesting on the Siberian tundra was a great success, because the number of juveniles is so high.

    Section 23rd-24th of September was dramatic: low pressure system moved north from the Baltic countries, strengthening in Viena Karelia (Arkhangelsk Governorate), and gave birth to strong northeastern gale (storm in White Sea and in front of Kola peninsula) and at the same time the visibility was poor due to low clouds, rain and snow. At the same time, further in the northeast, there were an excellent tailwind for migration. I think this weather deflected the skuas from already southern route to even more south, to White Sea and lakes of norheastern Fennoskandia, where big numbers of skuas were seen.

    When the weather got better on 25th of September, started the strong southern / southwestern gales. Because the headwind does not motivate the skuas to departure on migration and on the other hand they have in this area a lot of of food (eg. plenty of Commong Gulls to be chased), they have continued to move to the south-west very slowly over the last week."