Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Mystery Visitor To Camp

(from Paul)

Yesterday, we had left the barn door open while taking out the boxes for the birds; when we returned the boxes, there was a black deposit on the snow inside. When I looked closer, I figured out it was skua guano. One must have wandered in when the door was open.

Sure enough, it looks as if Fred is back (or Fred’s cousin). I saw him hanging around today.

Fred is a South Polar Skua, Stercorarius maccormicki. They feed primarily on fish, but will rob nests and prey on penguin chicks. They are also highly adaptable and will scavenge human food if given a chance.

In fact, in McMurdo when the skuas return to the Antarctic, one has to take care walking across Derelict Junction holding food. The skuas have been known to bomb-dive humans and steal food right out of people’s hands. As a consequence, skuas have a bit of a bad reputation, but I admire them. They are smart, tough birds.

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