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Posts Tagged ‘cormorant’

I never fail to be entranced by the striking blue eyes of a Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), like this one that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the time when I spot cormorants, they are in the deep waters and their eyes are too far away to be seen. Even when they are a bit closer, the eyes are often hidden by shadows.

On this occasion, however, the cormorant was in a small pond, so I was able to track it easily after I spotted it. On one of its dives the cormorant popped up within range of my camera and turned into the light for a moment before it submerged itself again, allowing me to get this shot with a clear view of its sparkling blue eyes.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the birds that I spotted last Thursday at a small pond seemed to be part of a small flock or at least of a couple. This Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), however, appeared to be the only one of its species. It mostly hung out with a flock of gulls, floating along on the surface of the water.

I observed the cormorant off and on for over an hour and not once did it dive underwater.  Most cormorants that I have seen in the past have either been diving or drying out their wings.

Perhaps this cormorant felt the need to feel like it was part of a group, although it clearly stood out from the other members of its chosen group. I personally would agree that conformity is overrated—be yourself. (Speaking of non-conformity, be sure to check out the cormorant’s striking blue eyes.)

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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When I spotted this bird as I was walking along the Seine River yesterday morning, I knew immediately that it was some kind of cormorant. Unlike most water birds that float on the surface of the water, cormorants sit really low in the water with their bodies barely visible. Their long necks always make me think of a periscope coming out of a semi-submerged submarine.

Although this bird looks a lot like the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) that I am used to seeing at home, I have determined that it is most likely a Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). This cormorant followed a familiar pattern of behavior—it would be swimming along when without warning it would dive deeply into the water and remain underwater for a long time. It was a fun challenge trying to figure out when and where the cormorant would reappear.

Most of the time the cormorant stayed far from the banks of the river, but on one occasion it popped up right in front of me and I was able to capture this image. It was nice to be able to capture some of the orange coloration around the cormorant’s mouth, but the real prize for me was getting a clear view of its spectacular blue eyes. It is definitely worthwhile to click on the image to get a closer look at that amazing shade of blue. If you look closely at the water, you will also notice some small concentric ripples created by the falling raindrops.

When I went walking in the rain yesterday, I knew there was a good chance that I would see ducks and gulls and maybe a swan or two. Who knew there were Great Cormorants on the Seine RIver? No matter where I am, I am always thrilled by the joy of the unexpected, by those little surprises that add so much texture to life. So I choose to live my life in hopeful expectation as I scan the world for marvelous subjects to photograph, confident that they will present themselves if I keep my eyes and my heart open,

Great Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Perhaps it is because today is Halloween or because the overcast sky on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge caused everything to be shadowy and monochromatic. Whatever the reason, the shape of this Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) reminds me of a bat, especially in the first image.

I captured these two images as the cormorant was preparing to take off from the water. Unlike some birds that rise straight up, a cormorant has to bounce across the water to gain enough momentum for liftoff, which is why you can see the splashes of water behind the cormorant in both shots.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Early Friday morning I spotted this Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) at Horn Pond in Woburn, Massachusetts. Although the bird’s facial features were in the shadows, I was happy to be able to capture its distinctive hooked beak in this silhouetted view.

As many of you know, I try to find opportunities to capture nature images even when I am traveling. On Thursday I drove from Virginia to Massachusetts to attend a surprise 60th birthday party on Friday evening for one of my brothers. Although I was somewhat worn out from the drive, which took almost 12 hours thanks to numerous road construction projects and rush hour traffic in Boston, I was out on the trails of Horn Pond by 6:30 in the morning. In many ways immersing myself in nature helps to recharge my batteries as much as sleep does.

A few seconds after I spotted the cormorant, it sensed my presence and flew away. I was anticipating that it might do so and was able to capture this shot just as the bird was starting to take off.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As the waves washed over the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) perched on a floating remnant of a tree, the solo bird looked like a shipwrecked sailor, adrift on a swamped, semi-submerged sailboat. My mind conjured up scenes from different movies with this theme.

A short time later, I encountered a basketball dashing up against the shore with each successive wave. As the ball slowly turned I caught sight of its faded lettering. Like Tom Hank’s companion in the movie Cast Away, the ball was labelled “Wilson.” Perhaps the shipwrecked cormorant had been engaging in lengthy conversations with this Wilson, as Tom Hanks did during the movie.

double-crested cormorant

Wilson

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this little family of Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past Monday. The adult seemed bothered by something and initIally cried out before finally taking off, leaving the younger cormorants temporarily by themselves.

I am not actually completely certain that this is a family unit, but I think it is a pretty safe assumption when I look at the way that the smaller ones are paying attention to the larger cormorant. It also appears to me that the the adult was potentially reacting to a perceived threat and flew off as a way of protecting the younger ones.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When this bird spread its wings and left them open last week at a small pond in Brussels, I instantly knew it was a cormorant. Cormorants have to frequently dry out their wings, because their feathers are not completely waterproof like some other water birds. It sounds like that would be a problem, but it actually is an advantage for them. Their waterlogged feathers help them to dive deeper, kind of like a weight belt that a deep-sea diver might wear.

It turns out that this is a Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), a larger and somewhat darker cousin of the Double-crested Cormorants that live in our area.

Great Cormorant

Great Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Cormorants are usually really skittish. Even when they are fishing far away from the shore, they will usually take off as soon as they sense my presence. When I spotted the unmistakable silhouette of a cormorant perched on the remnants of a duck blind in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past Monday, I fully expected that it would fly away before I got within range to take a decent shot.

As I was approaching, I could see that it was a juvenile Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)—juveniles are paler around the neck and breast than adults and have more exposed orange skin around the bill. Perhaps this young cormorant had not yet developed a fear of humans, but whatever the reasons was, the beautiful blue-eyed bird remained in place as I took some shots from different angles and was still there when I silently moved away.

 

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Its heavy weight and non-waterproof feathers cause the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) to float really low on the water. The cormorant that I spotted yesterday in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, however, was even lower than usual, with most of its body almost completely submerged.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Reduced to its essence, photography is all about light and shadows. Sometimes details are not even necessary to evoke a mood, a sense of the moment, as in this image of a Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) that I captured this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) was focusing so intently on the water yesterdy that I thought it was stalking a fish. I was initially shocked at the size of the fish that it pulled out of the water until I realized that it was only a large leaf.

Double-crested Cormorant

The cormorant waved the leaf around proudly until it finally let go of the leaf. Obviously this bird has a policy of “catch and release.”

Double-crested Cormorant

Undeterred, the cormorant went back to fishing—I never did see him land one, but he might have been catching small fish during his dives.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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A new alcoholic beverage? No, in this case, the title of my blog posting is literal.

When I first spotted this Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) on Monday, I thought it was wading in the water. Looking more closely, I realized it was standing on the rocks, giving us a really good view of its dark, webbed feet.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The plumage of the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) is pretty drab, but it helps to make its beautiful orange bill and spectacular blue eyes stand out even more. I spotted this immature cormorant—adults have darker-colored breast feathers—yesterday afternoon at Lake Cook in Alexandria, Virginia. The cormorant was standing still in shallow water and seemed to be trying to absorb some warmth from the intermittent sun on a cold and windy day, with temperatures just above freezing.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I captured this image of a Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) as it lumbered across the water before taking to the air yesterday at Lake Cook in Alexandria, Virginia. Cormorants are so big and heavy that they have to build up a good deal of momentum to get airborne. As a consequence, cormorants tend to bounce across the water for a little  while before they actually are able to take off.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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On a visit yesterday to Lake Cook, a tiny body of water not far from where I live in Northern Virginia, I was thrilled to spot an immature Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus). These prehistoric-looking water birds have feathers that are not completely waterproof, so periodically they have to extend their impressively large wings to dry them out.

Most of the cormorants that I have seen in the past have been on the much larger Potomac River, but this solitary one seemed content to paddle about among the geese and ducks that had congregated on this small pond. It was nice finally to have a day with some sunshine and I spent a pretty long time observing the cormorant. One of the coolest things for me about these birds is their spectacular blue eyes, which you can just make out in the image below, especially if you double click it to view it at a higher resolution.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Generally it’s best to have the sun behind you when taking photos, but sometimes you are forced to shoot almost directly into the sun. When the conditions are right you can sometimes get wonderful silhouettes, like these images of Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) that I spotted on the Potomac River near Dyke Marsh in Alexandria, Virginia this past Monday.

The shot of the perched cormorant was a conscious composition—I assessed the light and knew that I was shooting a silhouette. In the case of the flying cormorant, however, I was reacting to the movement of a bird taking off from the water and trying so hard to hard to capture focus and keep the bird in focus that I was not paying much conscious attention to the lighting.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double=crested Cormorant

 

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I spotted this beautiful Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) in the vegetation along the shore of the Potomac River as I explored Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve in Alexandria, Virginia. Although “heavy-boned” is a euphemism sometimes used for large people, it is literally true for cormorants and is one of the reasons why they ride so low in the water. Additionally, their feathers don’t shed water like those of ducks and can get waterlogged, which makes it easier to dive deeper, but requires them to dry them out periodically.

I hoped to catch a cormorant with its wings extended for drying, but none of the cormorants I saw were accommodating in that regard yesterday. I’m no psychic, but I foresee a return trip to that area in the near future.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I will sometimes see other birds open their wings and stretch them out for a moment, but the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) is the only bird that I have observed that leaves its wings open for an extended period of time.

Initially I was confused when I heard the cormorant had to dry out its wings because they got waterlogged. How does a waterbird survive if its wings are not waterproof?

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, my favorite website for information about birds, provides the following explanation of this phenomenon:

“They have less preen oil than other birds, so their feathers can get soaked rather than shedding water like a duck’s. Though this seems like a problem for a bird that spends its life in water, wet feathers probably make it easier for cormorants to hunt underwater with agility and speed.”

Double-crested Cormorant

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Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) are strange-looking waterbirds that sit really low in the water. I’ve seen them from time to time, but until yesterday, when I saw this one at a small suburban retention pond, I never knew that they have striking blue eyes.

One of the other unusual things about this bird is that they spend a good amount of time outside of the water drying out their wings. Despite being a diving bird, the cormorant’s feathers do not shed water as well as a duck’s, for example, and they can get soaked pretty quickly.

I took some photos of the cormorant drying its wings that I will post later, but I wanted to post the image of the cormorant resting on one leg, because it shows off the blue eyes (and I like the reflection).

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I slowly made my way through the tall grass on the lake shore, my eyes were focused on the low-hanging branches where I had seen a Belted Kingfisher earlier in the day. Suddenly the water exploded at my feet.

I was startled and so was the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) that scrambled into action and started moving across the surface of the water. The cormorant had apparently been resting or feeding at the water’s edge and had not heard me approach. It was interesting to see the cormorant move—it rose up a bit and seemed to walk across the water and then settled back into the water once it was a good distance away from me.

The action happened so quickly and in an unexpected location that I initially had trouble framing my shots. This is my favorite of the ones in which I managed to get the entire cormorant in the frame. I especially like the details that you can see on the wings. As I was working on the image, it was interesting to note that there are almost no colors in the shot, except for the bird’s bill. When I adjusted the hue and saturation, for example, almost nothing changed.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Two weeks ago I didn’t even realize that we had Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) in this area and now I can find quite a number of them on the Potomac River. It’s a little difficult to tell from the range maps in my bird guide if the cormorants are migrating through this area of if they may choose to winter here.

The more I observe these birds, the stranger they appear. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology described them this way—”The gangly Double-crested Cormorant is a prehistoric-looking, matte-black fishing bird with yellow-orange facial skin. Though they look like a combination of a goose and a loon, they are relatives of frigatebirds and boobies and are a common sight around fresh and salt water across North America.”

I am still working on getting some shots of the cormorants in the water, but as a start, here are a couple of images of a cormorant in the air. I took the first one before I knew that it was a cormorant—I have a habit of trying to capture anything in flight that is remotely in range. The second one shows a cormorant as he is taking off from the water after some bounding steps across the surface as he gained speed. The location of the light caused much of the cormorant’s body to be in the shadows, but did illuminate the details of some of its feathers.

cormorant_flying1_blogcormorant_liftoff_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Who knew that the man-made pond in a nearby suburban neighborhood would be a favorite spot for juvenile birds to hang out together?  That’s what it looked like when I spotted an immature Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) and an immature Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) together, both with their heads turned in profile, probably checking out some cute little female goose.

Actually, I couldn’t immediately identify the cormorant, though it was obvious that it was neither a duck or a goose. The way that it swam with its long neck extended and its bill pointed in the air, however, was distinctive enough to make it easy to find in my identification guide.

I like the way that these two birds posed for me, with the cormorant perched on a narrow concrete slab to compensate for the heron’s greater height and the synchronized head positions. I have seen this young heron hanging around the pond before (it’s the same heron that I featured in the Crouching heron posting this morning), but I don’t think that I have seen a cormorant there before. Usually there are only geese and occasionally some ducks, like the small flock of Ring-necked ducks that are there right now.

cormorant_heron_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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