Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Black-faced Cormorant in 'Action'

I recently spent an hour or two, watching and photographing a Black-faced Cormorant fishing in the Lauderdale Canal. On many occasions I've watched them fishing off nearby bluffs and reefs in the Derwent River, but getting close enough to photograph or observe them in detail, is usually difficult. I have only noted one 'Black-face' fishing in the canal, but I've no real way of knowing whether it's always the same individual. I took many shots and found it difficult to know what to publish, so I've chosen a few that perhaps show some of the observations I made. As you can see in top left image of the submerged bird, in places this waterway is very shallow and in that regard, is not typical of this species preferred fishing haunts. In the main, presumably because the water's so shallow, it searched for prey by putting only its head underwater, and on locating the prey would usually dive. It could achieve an amazing burst of speed over a short distance. Difficult to quantify, but seemingly faster than brisk walking pace. Most of the smaller prey appeared to be partially swallowed before it resurfaced, as I only occasionally saw the prey, small fish. One of the images shows (on close examination), the bird expelling water, something I hadn't previously noted, but on reflection, it would take in quite large quantities catching prey that would have to be expelled! At other times, it would cruise around with just its head showing, and in still water, this appeared to be sufficient for it to find prey. One of the shots at the bottom of the page, shows what I can only describe as the bird having a bath, in which the bird splashes madly about, prior to wading ashore to dry out. Perhaps this action, which is somewhat akin to land birds ruffling their feathers, helps reposition feathers. How bedraggled cormorants get, can be seen in the shot of it wading ashore.
For me, the few hours spent with this particular bird, was a fascinating insight into a small slice of this species habits.
NB This "canal" is more akin to a long narrow tidal inlet.


Snail said...

I love cormorants. Have only seen the black-faces in Tasmania but they're around the coast here. Must go for a trip down to the beach soon.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Snail,
I've probably photographed them more often than almost any other bird. They have become an increasingly common bird on the local rocks. I think this is largely due to the banning of netting in the Derwent River. They have beautiful blue eyes, although this feature is difficult to convey in photographs.