A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Poms and Larks in Lancs

With a Pomarine Skua having been present on the saltmarsh at Pilling for several days and the beautiful Shore Lark still mooching around at Rossall Point, me and Alex headed up to the Fylde to catch up with them both – the Pom actually being a lifer for myself.

Upon arriving at Preesall Sands, I spotted the Pom immediately, just right of the small building and happily feasting on one of the many grisly carcasses that had been left, presumably by photographers to entice the bird in to providing exceptionally close views. 

Pomarine Skua

We approached the bird slowly, and it soon became apparent that it was suffering from a possible broken wing – several of the feathers were looking very untidy with the wing jutting out at an odd angle. I’ve since seen shocking photos showing dog walkers allowing their Dalmatians to attack the bird in its vulnerable state, although the latest reports and photos seem to show the bird is on the mend, with the wing seeming to have healed a little. Whilst we were on site, the Skua did have a little bit of difficulty flying, shuffling along the grass before finally alighting, only to drop down again a short way away on the beach. Fingers crossed it's able to make a full recovery and continue on with its journey!

Pomarine Skua
The damaged wing is clearly visible
Obviously brought in by the recent storms, this unseasonable sighting was completely unexpected and I was blown away to get such close views of an often difficult to identify bird, which in most cases can be a distant dot miles out to sea! Having until recently only experienced Skua species as far away specs in a scope, the Pilling Pom now completes my set of UK Skuas, having experienced close-up and satisfactory views of all 4 species in the space of a year, with a stream of fantastic Arctic Skuas passing by extremely close to the shore at Porthgwarra and a lucky fly-over-the-head moment at Spurn as we jammed in to a juv Long-tailed Skua this autumn.

I personally find Skua species very difficult to identify in flight, often on the backdrop of a stormy and wind battered sea, so it was great to get the rare opportunity to see one both on the deck and at such close quarters (I’ve only ever previously seen the Audenshaw Bonxie on the deck before).

Pomarine Skua

This particular individual was a dark morph juvenile, larger than the very similar Arctic Skua and displaying all the typical features of Pom ID – thicker neck, head and bill, as well as the overall bulkier appearance when compared to the much slimmer Arctics. The barring of the undertail coverts was also apparent – not seen in dark morph juv Arctics. Quite how useful this will be when assessing a fast moving dot in the scope on future seawatches has yet to be seen!

Pomarine Skua
The barred undertail covers can just be seen
With the much-loved Shore Lark still present at the picnic area at Rossall Point, I couldn’t resist going back for second helpings, and sure enough after an accidental locking-in the car and the horn pipping that resulted, we were both admiring extremely close views of this winter wonder as it happily hopped along the grass in front of us. These were much better views than the last time we visited, and it was great to see this little bird enjoying itself and bumbling around for everyone to admire. Truly one of my all-time favourites!

Shore Lark

Shore Lark

Shore Lark

Shore Lark

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