A New Species, Kind of

A new bird species stopped in for a visit yesterday (Thurs. 1/7). I’d seen the species before here at the Museum, but always in flocks as a fly-over, never perched in a tree, on the ground, or in the water of the Wetlands.

A flock of double-crested cormorants flies over museum's airspace.
A flock of double-crested cormorants flies over museum’s airspace.

At the end of that chilly, overcast day, I noticed something out-of-place in one of the willow trees of the Wetlands. A large branch had suddenly sprung up, where there once was none, on a low slung willow trunk on the south side of the Wetlands. I grabbed my camera to get a magnified and clearer look at the new “stump.”

It wasn’t a stump, but a bird perched on the branch with its head slung over its back and tucked in under its wing, sleeping. It had large webbed feet, a light colored breast and dark belly. It had to be a cormorant, a double-crested cormorant.

The "stump."
The “stump.”

I walked around the bird to get a view of its back side. It had a long tail. Of course, I already knew what it was but wanted further documentation photos. Double-crested cormorants are by no means rare or uncommon here in the North Carolina Piedmont, they are quite common, but I wanted photos for the purpose of this blog, to show you what I saw.

The back side of a sleeping cormorant.
The back side of a sleeping cormorant.

The bird never raised its head while I clicked away, or while visitors walked by.

Finally, the movement of a nearby great blue heron caused the bird to look up and I was able to get a shot of its head, the entire bird.

A heron aroused the bird.

As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve seen flocks of these birds fly over the Museum before, on their way to or from perhaps Falls Lake, Jordan Lake, or some other nearby and larger body of water. So why was this bird here, and alone?

The bird in the photo is a young bird, hatched the previous summer. Perhaps it was separated from its flock and our wetland looked like a nice place to rest while it got its bearings. Maybe the bird was ill. Maybe a combination of the two is what had the bird landing in our Wetland.

The young cormorant was not to be found the next day, so perhaps it was healthy and just resting while it got its bearings. Let’s hope that’s the case.

Ranger, Greg Dodge

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