Today was a blustery day at Cape Royds: gray skies, intermittent snow, and a cold south wind whistling over the ice. At the penguin colony, my eye was immediately drawn to brown shapes wheeling in the skies. Large seabirds called skuas were having a field day, coasting in the lee of the Cape Royds cliffs, then shooting over the bluffs where the full force of the wind sent them skyrocketing.
Skuas are a fact of life at penguin colonies, always lingering around the edges or flying low over the crowded nests. From time to time they swoop down, singly or as a two-skua team, to steal a penguin egg or young chick. Adult penguins fight back bravely, but often they lose out. In the water, leopard seals are a penguin’s main source of anxiety. But at the colony the enemy is the skua, as we saw up close today.