Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Cormorant or Shag?

There was a Cormorant (or Shag) in close on the high tide this morning. We normally only see them far out in the bay but this one was within 20 metres of the shoreline, bobbing gently on a steely-coloured, lightly-rippling sea. It didn't hang around for long: it's large black wings carrying it off across the water using a slow "ground-effect" flying technique similar to that of a Heron.

I can't tell Cormorants and Shags apart. On a grey morning like this morning, even with binoculars, it's hard to pick out the differences. So, I've done a bit of research on Wikipedia and I now think that it's most likely that we have been seeing Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo. They are larger and less uniformly black in their summer plumage than Shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis. There still seems to be some confusion about the naming though, with Phalacrocorax carbo being known as "Great Black Cormorant" in much of Europe but "Black Shag" in New Zealand.

The sun has just burst through the clouds and begun playing clicky-havoc with our black plastic guttering. I might, after all, be able to tackle the expanse of docken-infested fecundity which our lawn has become of late.

I should mention the spectacular very-nearly-full moon we watched last night. At first it was completely masked by clouds but it gradually emerged from the rust/blood-coloured plume to shine onto the bay in all its cold-gleaming glory. We admired it through binoculars before turning the lenses towards Jupiter - the only other naked-eye visible object in the sky last night. We were just able to make out the pinprick of a moon, probably Ganymede.

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