Great Cormorant, Bird of the Week XIII

It sounds like the kind of cursing Clark Kent’s boss at the Daily Planet used.

“Great cormorant, what are you writing Clark?”

As it happens, I do have a few cormorant pictures from last year’s mini-trip to Maine. Your job? Figure out which is a great cormorant versus which is a cormorant or a pelican. Because they are all there and I didn’t have a long enough lens to get details. I did have enough length to realize I was seeing pelicans, then doing a quick search and discovering that despite my firm belief that pelicans are warm weather birds, seven of them live in Maine which isn’t tropical.

All taken on the rocks right next to the old Bush mansion in Kennebunk, Maine. You can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them which might help you figure out which birds are which. I didn’t bring my birding lens, but I didn’t know I’d be taking pictures of birds. This is a great argument for having one “do it all” camera with a very long lens. You might not get the BEST pictures, but at least you are ready for anything.

Cormorants and American Eagles (aka Bald Eagles)

Back when both of us were working, we used to share a house on the water on Martha’s Vineyard. It was a magical place for bird watching. I identified (I was the second confirming identifier) of the return of the Willet to the island. I actually made the birding column in the Edgartown Gazette. This was a charming little paper owned by the New York Time. It had a whole page dedicated to everything about wildlife and a big separate column about birds. Making the paper in the birding column was thrilling. I talked about it until everyone told me to please shut up already.

This was a period when American (Bald) Eagles had come back to the Vineyard. For those who don’t already know, American Eagles are fishers. They hang around coastlines, lakes and rivers. They are also really BIG. If you catch something big, don’t be surprised if an eagle decided to grab it off your line. I am sure the eagles figured why do your own fishing when all those people will do it for you? No one ever argues with eagles. It’s pretty much a “Please take my fish, just keep those talons away from me!” They also have a beak that I’m sure could remove your hand at the wrist. No one wants to tangle one-on-one with an eagle.

Just about when the eagles were settling in and all we birders were very excited about it, the cormorants arrived. Cormorants are very efficient fishers. They can out-fish pretty much all the other shore birds. They were far more efficient than the eagles who found they had to fly further and further out to sea to get food for their big brown baby eagles.

People complained to the “bird people.” On the Vineyard, there’s actually a direct telephone line to the bird administrators. Everyone wanted them to get the cormorants to move somewhere else so we could keep the eagles.

They wouldn’t do it. They said that this was a natural environmental event. It wasn’t caused by people or habitat destruction. Nature had brought in a bird who fished better, so the eagles would have to find a place without cormorants.

The bigger American Eagles have moved to the mainland but the smaller Osprey (also an eagle) does well along the New England coast.

They flew across the water and moved, for a couple of years, into our backyard. We still have the old nest. After a couple of years, our eagles discovered fishing was even better in the larger Merrimack river further north. These days, there are so many of eagles up there you can see them lined up in the trees along the banks. It’s easy to spot them. That bright white head gleams in the sun. And, as I said, they are very enthusiastic about stealing your fish. They show no fear of people, or maybe it’s all about the fish. You’d have to ask the eagle.

I think it’s an honor to have your fish stolen by an eagle.

Categories: #Birds, #gallery, #GarryArmstrong, #Photography, Anecdote

Tags: , , , ,

7 replies

  1. Misidentifying birds is one my hidden talents. (Maybe not so hidden).

    Because I had the same problem on our Vancouver trip. We stopped at a beautiful lake to take some pics and I saw what I was certain were Loons on the lake. Took several pics while applauding myself on my good luck – don’t see Loons very often. Later in looking at the shots I noticed these birds had red bills/beaks. Loons don’t have red bills. Otherwise I would still have thought they were indeed loons. I still haven’t bothered to ID these birds though. They would seem to be related to Loons or another kind of Loon?? I have to figure that out now … ???


    • ONE of the common mergansers is black and white with a red beak, so at any distance could easily be thought to be a loon — with a red beak.

      Could also be one of the divers, and there are a lot of them. But there are at least 10 other birds who resemble the common (but not nearly as common as they used to be) loons including: common mergansers, western grebes, Canada geese, double-crested cormorants, red-breasted mergansers, American coots, and several loon species, including yellow-billed loons, pacific loons, etc. The pacific loon has a brown beak, but in the right light, it might appear as red or reddish. I’m very good at identifying the birds that show up around here, but not great at any OTHER birds unless they are famous for some other reason, like bald eagles or pelicans — both of which are hard to miss.

      That’s what bird books are for. And also, there’s at least one bird identifier you can add to your cell phone. It’s passable and better than nothing, but any standard bird ID book is better — BUT you can’t keep those books in your pocket. I have both. I try to memorize what I see then look it up online. I’m still looking for the best bird book. None of them are organized well, at least not for me. I never even know where to LOOK for a particular bird — which is why I go online because I can enter a description and usually get an answer.


      • That’s exactly what they were Marilyn: Mergansers. Thanks for that. (I always consult an expert).
        Beautiful birds though. Didn’t even chastise me for thinking they wuz loons.


  2. Yes, if you’re interested in birds it’s good to have a long lens all the time


    • The problem is that hauling my 100-300 lens is weighty — and it’s no good for anything BUT distance. So far, the best I’ve managed in the 12-200mm, which is what I was using for the heron. There is a 25-300 available now, but I can’t afford it. THAT would be ideal. I stand corrected: there’s also a 100-400 available from Panasonic-Leica that I might some day be able to afford. If I live that long 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. To have your fish stolen by an eagle. haha That’s a nice thought.

    I suddenly appreciated that place. To have birds, to have the sea nearby. Oh, to have nature around you is a blessing nowadays. =) Enjoy!


    • And the Bush family can live there all the time and probably do in the summer. Winters, they move back to Texas. Bush Sr. mostly lived in Maine. The kids favor Texas. Geo. Bush Sr. was born in Massachusetts, so for him, New England was really home.

      Liked by 1 person

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