Sunday, July 6, 2008

Arctic skuas

I am now making preparations to go on an Arctic cruise as "artist in residence" with Quark Expeditions. As my departure is just a week away, I am thinking more about the arctic wildlife we might see. I remember seeing a pair of "arctic skuas" also called "parasitic jaegers" on the tundra in Franz Josef Land two years ago. We were on the nuclear powered icebreaker, "Yamal," stopping at Franz Josef Land, a Russian archipelago, on the way south from the geographic North Pole. I sketched the birds through binoculars, and later used that pencil sketch to compose a painting of the nesting pair. Today, walking on a beach in Rhode Island I thought of them as I watched one hungry tern zipping through the air after another, who had a small fish in its beak. The arctic skua takes that one step further, by chasing gulls and terns in the air, forcing them to disgorge their last meal, so they can steal it. These are true aerial pirates! Maybe we will see that in action on the upcoming trip.

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