A Day of Cormorants

With smoke from the Camp fire in Butte County hanging over the Bay, the rising sun made a red shimmer on the water, and these cormorants took their wake-up swim at times in molten gold.  This pair of Pelagic Cormorants — the kind that have their heads the same color as their bodies — sometimes spend the night on the rocks just opposite the hotel, and I’ve come across one of them early in the morning, fast asleep.  Here they are setting out together close in to shore, taking their first dives of the day.  I felt relieved to see that when one of them dives, the other one, like myself, isn’t sure where the diver is going to come up; it had to wait and look around until the other bird surfaced before rejoining it.  As the Cornell bird lab website points out, this species is misnamed.  “Pelagic” means to ply the vast spaces of the open ocean.  Actually, this species prefers to hug the shorelines.  As did this pair this morning.

Meanwhile — or rather, half an hour later — on the north side of the park, I saw a sizable flock of dark, medium-bodied birds flying in from the west, making a turn over the Nature Area of the park, and then swooping north to come down in the water maybe a quarter mile away, or a bit more, in the Bay toward Richmond.  These were Double-crested Cormorants, marked by the lighter bill, the orange cheeks, and (in the young ones) the light gray breast.  They made quite a gulp (the conventional term for a flock of cormorants); they set to work diving without delay.  It’s almost impossible to count cormorants when they’re feeding.  At least half of them are under water at any given moment.  I would guess that their number exceeded one hundred.

Something very interesting must have been running in the water where they came down.  The video shows that a Forster’s Tern, a Brown Pelican, and several Grebes also joined in.

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