Friday, March 4, 2011

Cormorants Fishing

Plat I Reservoir, Douglas County, OR

Winter gray sky. Winter gray water. No breeze. Quiet on this small reservoir, Plat I (‘I’ is pronounced ‘eye’). A gathering of slow swimming cormorants ease across the quiet water, cutting silver streaks. They remind me of a group of sophisticated snobs promenading along a river walkway. Their noses are in the air; their gait unhurried; all flowing in one direction. One has been fishing and now holds his wings aloft for a couple of minutes as he swims with the rest. A great blue heron stokes by, heading in the opposite direction.

Not much fishing going on, but one cormorant slips into the dark water and comes up with a large bullhead, too big to swallow quickly. He adjusts and readjusts the fish. Is he trying to kill it, or just positioning it head first so he can swallow it? After at least a minute he finally has it head first, but it is no easy swallow. He gulps and gulps again. Another cormorant rushes over. The first drops the fish. Down it goes. Gone. No dinner for either cormorant.

I go back to sketching until I am interrupted again, this time by deep, guttural croaks. It is cormorants again. Another has caught a fish and two are rushing over to it. Once again the fish is dropped, but this time all three dive. When they pop up I can see one has a big lump slipping down its throat.

Soon after a third bullhead is caught, this one a little smaller, a little easier to handle. The cormorant flips the fish about until it is head first in the cormorant’s mouth. Down goes the fish before any intruders arrive.

Raindrops start to dimple the water. By good fortune I picked one of the few picnic tables that has a roof. I can sit quietly and let paint dry while the grayness gets darker. My cormorants swim to the far shore and all gather on the muddy bank.


  1. Great sketches Elva. We went to the duck pond today to just watch and saw the great blue heron that frequents it fly by us. They are so wonderful to watch. I got a chuckle out the snob reference to the cormorants.. They do look like snobs. lol.
    You write so well.
    I got some pctures of a cool snow white goose with a top notch today at the pond. Do you know if those geese have a special name? I went crazy with the camera. :) Wish I had had a sketch pad.

  2. Are cormorants and anhingas the same bird? They sound very similar.

    Love the sketches and I can easily imagine the gray....everything. Hope the sun shines soon!

  3. Hi Chris ... that goose is domestic. I don't know what kind.

    Hi Laure ... In my mind anhingas are the royalty of that bird family. I dream someday I'll get to see one. They are related, but different species. 'Your' (you have them in Florida) anhingas have even longer necks. One would be so much fun to draw from life!

  4. Thanks for the info, Elva! And the new perspective. I've never thought of anhingas as royalty!

  5. Dear Elva,
    Always your post is full humor and humane eyes to any creatures that make me happy. Your sketches often have beautiful wet in wet. Keep sketching and inform us!!
    Kind regards, Sadami

  6. Thanks for taking us on your outing Elva. Cormorants are fun to watch. I love seeing the inside of their mouth. It is the most beautiful color of blue. I have often wondered what color I would use to paint it.

  7. How fun to see Cormorants! They seem so exotic and prehistoric. Great sketches!

  8. There's a blog award for you over at Painted Thoughts!