Spotting the South Polar Skua

I know, I haven’t posted recently. Yet again, I find myself turning into a blog flake. But I have a good reason: I’m taking my national board examination in a month, and I have been cramming the last 3.5 years of my education into a few short months. I know, I know, this isn’t a platform for vet stories, but it’s the biggest thing on my mind right now.

Anyway, back in August, the local birding community hit on something big: a south polar skua.

At the time, I was on a rotation which required 15-18 hours of my time per day to provide adequate care for my patients (this is not an abnormal situation for medical students), but for one glorious afternoon, we finished our outpatient cases early and I had a few hours to spare before my next treatments. Just enough time to go see something really cool that I may not get the chance to see again. Unfortunately, this necessitated a few incredulous questions from my clinicians about why I was making a roadtrip to see what they saw as a sooty-colored bird-eating albatross.

It wasn’t until we were pulling up to the lake that I stopped short and looked at the Other Half to ask the obvious question: Where was the bird? His answer: “Just go slowly and look for the big group of people with telescopes.”

Sure enough, there was a knot of a dozen people who were more than willing to update us on the bird’s activities. Hey, you have got to be excited when you drive out to see this:

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What? You mean you can’t see the bird that was 300 yards out in a picture that was taken through a telescope?

Well, I wasn’t very happy, either, and nor was the dog, so I took him for a short jaunt away from the group for about two minutes. When we turned around, there was a sudden burst of activity from the birders, who hadn’t gotten anywhere near the bird for the last two days. And I’ll be danged if the bird didn’t decide at that moment to make a beeline for the group of people and the convenient prey sitting right in front of them.

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I excitedly ran back to talk to the Other Half, who had snapped a few quick shots when the skua attacked a yellow-crowned night heron right in front of him (others’ pictures here). On the way there, the entire group of birders turned as one to stare right at me. Nonplussed, I looked up to find the bird eying me and the dog from twenty feet in the air. Hopefully he wasn’t seriously contemplating taking the dog on, but you never know…

Added bonus: We got to see some other cool things, as well, including a spotted gar and a turtle species I’d been gunning to get a picture of for months.

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