I was out surveying at a secret location in central Derbyshire today in gale force winds. I've not been to this site since about February when I was getting some amazing views of Peregrine Falcon.
Today was no exception with excellent prolonged views of the pair of adults performing aerial displays and hunting a mix of Feral and Wood Pigeons, often giving really close views, however the main interest came at about 1.30pm when a shape caught my eye as it headed east on the gale force winds, a quick look with my bins made me do a double-take, SKUA! I quickly got on it with my scope and there it was, an adult pale-phase Arctic Skua, complete with long tail streamers. As it flew right over my vantage point it gave spectacular views. Its flight was jerky as it moved up and down in the wind, occasionally it circled up high but it also dropped really low several times as it went on its way. I watched it for about 3 km as it flew away and out of sight. A VP tick for me!
I'm not sure how many annual records there are of Arctic Skua in Derbyshire, though I guess most of them are from Carsington Water or Ogston Reservoir, in fact a quick search of Birdguides reveals:
A juvenile at Carsington Water on the 24th/25th September 2011 with one on 5th November 2007, one on 27th May 2007 and a probable 26th October 2002 Ogston reservoir with a juvenile over Pleasley Pit CP on 8th August 2005.
However I guess this is not all of the records. I have some recent Derbyshire Bird Reports in the office so will check this out tomorrow.
My location was approximately 110 km (70 miles) from the west coast with the east coast being a further 135 km (83 miles) away, so pretty much as inland UK as you can get!!! Though I guess a cross-country flight of approximately 250 km (150 miles) is not huge for a bird such as this!
Certainly a memorable day!