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Skua Family - About to Migrate

Guest Blog by V R Manchem

(V R Manchem was my partner during my long walks at Maitri. He too followed the story of Shiv and Uma and their family closely with me - Sudhir)

On the night of 13th March, the lake was frozen completely. One part of the frozen lake is like glass now, while the other is like waves frozen in motion. The young skua is now flying very well. It exhibits great patience, perseverance, and high spirit in following his lessons of flying. It spends most of its time on the frozen part of lake. The parent skuas sit on land watching it. They must be feeling proud of its getting ready for the long journey ahead. Even during high winds when the parents are under the shelter of the rocks, it is out in the open like a mischievous child. At the wind speed of 60 knots (100 kmph) per hour, it is not only out of the shelter, but defies the storm by flying against the wind direction. From the window of my lab, I would watch its concentration, devotion and interest to develop strength and skill to fly with or against the wind. Sometimes, it appeared as if the wind was blowing at greater speed just to break the vanity of the novice flyer. However, it could not; the young one would flutter and flutter at one point but would not come down. One more pair of skua has come here and is developing friendship with the family. Since the chick is almost fully grown, its parents do not feel threatened any more from any intruder. Very frequently all five fly together, playing and chasing each other and building up on their stamina. They may fly together as a group to their distant destination. The day may come sooner for their departure. I shall feel sad on their going away. It has been a wonderful experience over last few months watching them right from their days of courtship in November to their journey of nest building, laying of eggs, hatching of chicks and then seeing the chick grow. I wonder if the family would miss me or remember me. They must have seen me practically everyday peering towards them from behind some rock.

I know they have to go; they perhaps have a promise to keep. I shall remain here to face the polar nights and long winters. That they will surely come back next November will certainly help me withstand the Antarctic winter.


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