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Arctic Skua in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Although named the Arctic skua because its main breeding grounds are within the Arctic circle this species also nests in the far north of Britain in northernmost Scotland and the northern Isles, Orkney and Shetland. However, once the breeding season is over they are quick to head south and spend much of their time at sea in warm coastal waters and some travel as far as the southern regions of Africa. During this time of migration they can often be seen off British shores and it is not unusual for them to be seen in small numbers off of the Dorset coast. 

Sparsely reported on Twitter during the winter months Arctic skuas are more evident from about week 14 in early April as they start to return north to breed and there are frequent reports up until week 19 in mid May.  They start to lay eggs from early May and southerly migration starts in July with birds that have been unsuccessful in breeding followed in August and September by adult and young birds. There are a few reports from Dorset during this breeding time but the first returning birds are reported from week 29 in late July and continue through until week 32. There is then a gap until the main exodus starts to pass our shores in week 35 in late August and continues through September and in to October ending in week 42. Just the occasional sighting occurs after that until the main spring movement starts again in the following April.

Eighteen locations have reported Arctic skua since January 2017 with Portland Bill and Chesil beach seeing by far the most although the western end of the Solent around Hengistbury and Mudeford see a number too.

There is no ready made prescription for adding Arctic skua to your Dorset list, it will take a fair few hours of sea watching in April and even then they are not guaranteed!


 

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This is just my nature note: for lots more information including distribution maps, status charts, identification guidance and more photographs go to the species home page by clicking/tapping the icon