Skua (Kjói)

I walk into the mist on the heath. Paranoia sets in.

I am being watched, monitored from all sides, flown around, warned, threatened. Me: a fool of a human, an invasive species, an intruder. I grapple to identify where each noise comes from, swinging my head around at a sound to see nothing.

Up out of the mist a large black bird flies over me. It is so rare to see dark birds here; most of the birds are sleek grey or perfect camouflage brown. This is not shiny black like a raven, it is more of a matt dark grey. I notice the long point in the middle of it’s splayed tail and excitedly identify it as an Arctic skua.

It lands nearby on a mound and just watches me calmly, no fuss, cool as anything, totally at odds with the skua’s fierce reputation for aggression. Maybe they are so secure on this predator-free island that they don’t bother coming after a silly human like me in my yellow raincoat. Or maybe as my father, an expert birder, reassured me in jest, ‘They obviously know that you are kind.’

Snapshot of life during an artist residency in Gamli Skoli, Hrísey Island, North Iceland during the month of June 2018.

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