Tuesday, 1 November 2016


When I received a text from Dad mid afternoon yesterday that read 'Arctic Skua stuck in the mud on the estuary from tower hide' my day took a complete change of direction...

Although I have seen Arctic and Long-tailed Skuas fly inland whilst being stood on Seaton Beach, in all my years birding here I've never actually seen a Skua on the Estuary. I also wanted to check it was definitely an Arctic, on this late date Pomarine or possibly even Long-tailed could be as or even more likely. I also wanted to see if it needed help.

As soon as I got to Coronation Corner I could see it in the mud, and could see it was indeed an adult-type Arctic Skua.  But I could also see it really did need help, the rising tide would almost certainly have drowned it. So on went the wellies and off I trudged out into the middle of the mud flats. Thankfully it was easy to pick up and I managed to avoid all contact between its bill and my fingers!

I got it home and Jess and I gave it a full body wash and dry...

I was hoping that by this morning all his feathers would have dried out so I could release him, but he wasn't quite as lively as I was expecting. Although there was certainly plenty of life in him he just didn't seem to be sitting right in the box, so I used Plan B.  I have a friend Catharine who volunteers at RSPCA Westhatch every Tuesday (she took 'Marti' from our hands back in the summer) and she kindly dropped by this morning to collect him.  Archie is no doubt now receiving some first class treatment in the best place he can be. Here's a few more pics that we took this morning...

What a stunning bird to see close up. I absolutely love Skuas, and this is the first time I have ever handled one.  I was really surprised at how small he was, really felt the same as holding a Black-headed Gull to me, not much to him at all.  They always look so powerful and strong when flying over the sea.

Although yesterday I was sure the only reason he needed rescuing was because his flight and body feathers had become clogged up with mud, thinking about it there's really no reason why a healthy Arctic Skua would be up the Axe Estuary on a calm day like yesterday. Very little wind, it was warm, and it was the last day of October! These guys should really be off the south west coast of Africa about now.  I will keep you posted if I hear any updates from the RSPCA. Good luck Archie.


  1. Great post Steve. Must have been amazing to see such an enigmatic species up close. Hope it fully recovers. Fingers crossed!
    All the best,

    1. Thanks Matt, and it really was fantastic. Even if it doesn't make it, at least I know I tried my best and gave it the best chance it had. If I had left it on the Estuary it would have had no chance at all. Cheers, Steve.