Gone fishin’

Posted: July 18, 2015 in Nature
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One sight that can temporarily stop my walk is that of a fishing bird patiently waiting for its next meal. I hit “Pause” on the app that keeps track of my walk and simply enjoy. Herons and egrets are common near us. I often spot them waiting, unmoving, until suddenly their heads and long beaks dart down and another fish dinner is consumed. But I’m just as intrigued by cormorants, even though they aren’t elegant in the same tall, thin way these other fishing birds are.

If for not having to flap their wings (quite fast, as they’re somewhat stubby), a cormorant, at least the ones who live here, would look like an avian version of the stealth fighters that sometimes overfly a sporting event. Slim and black, they move quickly through the air and I’ve never heard one make a noise. But it’s in the water that they really shine.

Here the image is, to me, one of the feared German U-boats: they run silent and they can run deep. One moment a cormorant is floating on the water; then next, it’s gone, diving after its victim. Watch and wait. Nothing happens. Keep watching. Still nothing. A movement catches your eye and there, quite a distance from where it began its dinner run, is the bird, floating deceptively peacefully…until its next dive commences and another fish becomes a bit of bird sushi.

The most amazing thing is how long these birds can stay underwater. I’ve repeatedly counted, routinely reaching as long as half a minute before the slender head emerges, dripping water. They can do this repeatedly. One day on the lake near our house, three cormorants dove and popped up time after time, in all directions, a not-quite-synchronized swimming/diving/eating team.

The end of the first half of my morning walk in the park takes me down to the river. I keep my eyes open for birds but on Tuesday, a cormorant and I mutually surprised each other. I’d almost reached the river when the bird, fish partly in mouth, saw me, frantically skimming the water before finally taking off. My first thought was regret that I hadn’t had my phone out, camera ready, although it’s doubtful I would have been able to catch the shot anyway. The second was pure enjoyment at catching a unique moment in the lovely morning light. I continued on my way with a smile on my face and a sense of joy at the beauty of nature.

  1. A beautiful description. It’s a good thing that you left the camera at home.

    • Cardinal, that’s the nicest compliment a writer could get. Even if I’d had my camera, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get the photo in time, so word pictures were what was left for me to paint.


  2. There is nothing like a good dose of Mother Nature first thing in the morning. 🙂

  3. On a visit to Pas Christian, I spent a half hour watching a Great Blue Heron watch a fisherman. Both bird and man sat at the edge of a dock, separated by about five feet. The heron would seem disinterested, but as soon as it heard a tug on the man’s line, its head twisted and it inched closer to the man. Usually, if a fish came up, the man tossed it to the heron. And so it went into the afternoon, the man catching fish for the heron.

  4. Trisha says:

    Someone recently told me that all moments aren’t meant to be captured with a camera. This sounds like one of them. Magical!