I’ve been very fortunate this year to see a wide variety of Cormorants – all a short distance from home. It’s been quite some time since I’ve been able to get out and see the various migrants or even the birds in their full breeding plumage. For years as a wildlife rehabilitator, any spring free-time was spent caring for newborns of all varieties, the latest being harbor seal pups. It has of course all been worth it(!), but I’m also quite excited to have a little time to explore this time of year.
And speaking of the spring.... seeing the breeding plumage is such a delight – especially on the Brandt’s Cormorants. Blue being my favorite color, I can’t help being spell-bound by their blue plumage this time of year, and their gorgeous blue eyes. Brandt’s Cormorants – endemic to North America, and only found along the Pacific Coast - frequent our area for breeding. Unfortunately they've been at risk from a number of disturbances, including recreational marine use and commercial fishing. I usually see them arriving in the Slough, skimming the water to grab seagrass and other materials for their nests, built atop the channel markers. I laugh at myself when they're here: in my kayak, fighting the current around the channel markers, just to get a glimpse of their beautiful blue beauty, around and around again. I'm ever so careful not to disturb, but just close enough to relish their beauty this time of the year. If I get a photo, it’s a bonus.
And while we so often see Double-crested Cormorants from our kayaks, this year I was fortunate to see them in their breeding plumage. And LOTS of them. In one of our local reservoirs recently, I counted a group of over 90(!) Double-crested (that was just those on the surface). I don’t recall ever having seen so many in one location. Clearly our Reservoir is a breeding ground and I was delighted to have a chance to see them rearing their young. I laughed at the site of the breeding plumage, with all of the head feathers sporadically shooting out of their heads, some with more wisps than others. It's a funny sight.
Earlier this spring, I also happened upon a couple of lone Pelagic Cormorants in Monterey. While I’ve seen Pelagics, it's rare and I had to do a double-take to make sure it was indeed a Cormorant. Very sleek and slender, this little Cormorant is the smallest of the Cormorants. Because the largest concentration of Pelagics are up in Alaska and not nearby, I do stop and relish seeing them. Besides their small size, you can easily spot them aflight – the only Cormorant with a big white circle on their backs.
And so I’ve been enjoying the changing of the seasons, the familiar friends like the Cormorants that come our way, and the changes they exhibit during these special times of the year. As the late American essayist, John Burroughs, has written, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” What will you find in nature that will soothe and heal you? I encourage you to open your doors and go find out….