Ever since I can remember, birders all around the UK have referred to Great Skuas as bonxies. Why they chose to adopt this Shetland dialect name in particular I’ve no idea. I suspect tammie-noorie (the Shetland dialect name for Puffin) is, while cute, just not quite as cool as bonxie.
The bonxies have been back here in Shetland for a few weeks now, though I fancy they’re finding slim pickings thus far as we’ve been enduring a cold, late spring here and our seabirds seem to be taking their time getting going where breeding’s concerned. For all they’re perhaps not the most popular species in the isles – you kill Kittiwakes, bonxies… how could you; it’s like drowning an angel – I nevertheless am a big fan of them. They’ve got buckets of character and attitude. And a cool name.
I spent the afternoon today crewing on board Dunter III for Seabirds and Seals. We had a good trip around the north side of Bressay to the massive gannetry on the cliffs of Noss. There’s another Shetland dialect name for you – solan, the local name for a Gannet.
One of our guests was Norwegian, and we were soon comparing notes on the similarities between Shetland dialect names for birds and their Norwegian language equivalents – unsurprisingly, given Shetland’s Scandinavian history, there are many common threads.
The Gannets were on good form, with much nest building, plunge diving and social interaction going on all around us. These big, smart birds never fail to impress. As usual, there were skuas mooching around the base of the cliffs hoping for a casualty and an easy meal.
The return trip to Lerwick in deteriorating weather conditions wasn’t without event either – we found a fishing Otter, or draatsie, busily catching large Butterfish and bringing them into the shore to consume. She’s been seen carrying fish inland to, presumably, a holt with cubs in the past few weeks so it wasn’t entirely unexpected to find her in the area.
We watched her for a while before reluctantly heading for the pier. Sadly today the sea conditions hadn’t lent themselves to launching our ROV for a real-time exploration on the boat’s screens of the underwater world beneath us; happily though, I’ll be out on Dunter III plenty more times this summer so will get to enjoy those colourful Dahlia Anemones and their companions another time soon.