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.