Cormorants at the Pond

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Visitors taking photographs of birds at Fleet Pond

David Pottinger writes:

Recently I was walking to the station via the Pond and I came across two visitors from Farnborough (see above) who were doing some wildlife photography. We had a brief chat about their visit and they mentioned that they were especially interested in the cormorants at the Pond. Here is some information on these interesting birds.

The RSPB website describes the Cormorant as follows:

“A large and conspicuous waterbird, the cormorant has an almost primitive appearance with its long neck making it appear almost reptilian. It is often seen standing with its wings held out to dry. Regarded by some as black, sinister and greedy, cormorants are supreme fishers which can bring them into conflict with anglers and they have been persecuted in the past. The UK holds internationally important wintering numbers.”

Colin Gray, Chairman of Fleet Pond Society, adds:

“The cormorant is designed to hunt fish in deep water. It therefore lacks the natural oils in its feathers that other waterbirds have to give them buoyancy. The bird needs rapid manoeuverability under water and to be able to stay submerged for some time. It therefore has to stop regularly to dry the feathers between hunting trips. This lack of buoyancy also explains why it swims with only the head, neck and part of the upper body above water.

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A spectacular shot of a cormorant roost at dusk at the Pond by Nigel Cridland (click to enlarge)

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An impressive closeup of a pair of cormorants drying themselves off at Fleet Pond by Barry Perfect (click to enlarge)

Habitually, mature birds return to coastal cliff sites to breed in summer and only young and non-breeding cormorants will be found inland in summer. In more recent years, however, the number of commercial freshwater fisheries inland have led to some birds breeding close to these and not taking to coastal breeding sites. One pair attempted to breed at Fleet Pond on Cormorant Island two years ago and two young hatched. The nest was destroyed however and it is uncertain if the two young survived.

The cormorant looks black from a distance, often because the feathers are wet, but on closer inspection on a sunny day the plumage has a glossy, iridescent green/blue sheen similar to that seen on a mature male starling in summer plumage. Young cormorants have pale, almost white breast feathers.”

Photo credits: with kind courtesy of the mentioned photographers.

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