Monday, August 26, 2013

Fishy Tales

I returned to Conder Green today where I found much the same species but with a little variation to recent counts. 

For a week or more I suspected there might be more than one Spotted Redshank, confirming it today with one in the main channel and a second one in the channel nearest to the Stork. More Snipe today, with a count of 18 a possible underestimate, plus 5 Greenshank when a flight of three arrived from the west calling loudly to join the two already counted. Still 2 Common Sandpiper around plus the regular 50+ Redshank and 300+ Lapwings roosting in the creeks and on the secluded margins and islands of the pool. 

Wildfowl numbers remain similar with 10 Teal, 6 Wigeon and 3 Little Grebe. Three Pied Wagtail around the water margins, a couple of “tacking” Whitethroats, a “ticking” Robin and handfuls of both Goldfinches and Linnets proved to be the only passerines. A single Raven was an early fly over. 

Little Grebe

Pied Wagtail

Recent high tides and the resulting water inflow seem to have increased aquatic life/tiny fish stocks in the pool, as suggested by the appearance of more Cormorants, the grebes hanging around the inflow and the regularity of the Kingfisher. There were two Kingfishers this morning, the birds travelling together across the pool and then back towards the creek and the road bridge, their regular spot. 


This morning I watched as a flight of 9 Cormorants came from the direction of the Lune, twisting and turning, whiffling down to the pool, looking for all the world like a gaggle of geese landing on a winter’s day. They then proceeded to fish the water as a pack, their black bodies disappearing below the surface before one by one they resurfaced briefly before dropping below again. After a while the Cormorants flew back out to the Lune, singly or in twos or threes. 



The Cormorant is another bird which is very good at catching fish but which is not as popular as the Kingfisher or the supreme angler the Osprey. Unfortunately, unlike that of the Kingfisher and Osprey, the fishing prowess of the Cormorant is not universally admired, anglers in particular being jealous of the Cormorant's expertise. 

Most people are familiar with Cormorant fishing, an age-old art practiced in China, Japan, and a few other countries, which today exists largely due to the tourism industry. It is not so generally known that a similar method was once practiced in England. 

The ornithologist Francis Willughby (1635-1672), quoting Faber’s Annotations of Rechuss says ‘It is the custom in England to train Cormorants to catch fish. While conveying the birds to the fishing grounds the fishermen keep the heads and eyes of the birds covered to prevent them from being alarmed. When they have reached the rivers, they take off the hoods and having first tied a leather strap loosely around the lower part of the neck that the bird will be unable to swallow down what fishes they catch, throw them into the water. They immediately set to work and pursue the fish beneath them with marvellous rapidity. When they have caught one they rise to the surface, and having first pinched it with their beaks, swallow it as far as the strap permits, and renew the chase until they have caught from five to six each. On being called to their master’s fist, they obey with alacrity and bring up one by one the fish they have swallowed, injured no farther than that they are slightly crushed. The fishing brought to an end, the birds are removed from the neighbourhood of the water, the strap is untied and a few of the captured fish thrown to them as their share of the booty are dextrously caught before they touch the ground.” 


More unlikely tales soon from Another Bird Blog.


Ana Mínguez Corella said...

Great shots. Cheers!!!..

Wally Jones said...

Last year, we watched a scene almost exactly as the one you describe of Double-crested Cormorants descending onto a lake. They proceeded to dive as they moved en masse along the shoreline and appeared to be very efficient at their task. (Even have photos that look like yours!)

We just saw the first Belted Kingfisher of the season last Sunday.

Very nice report and images, Phil!

Have a great week!

Isidro Ortiz said...

Buenas capturas.Un abrazo

Sylvia K said...

Beautiful birds and terrific captures for the day! Thanks for sharing!!

Linda Kittmer said...

Great shots and an interesting post. I love getting shots of birds too.

Unknown said...

Great series, but I love the Kingfisher shot!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Snap said...

Wonderful series, but the Kingfisher is just too gorgeous!

mick said...

Very interesting post and I had no idea that fishing with cormorants was once practiced in England. The photo of the Kingfisher is especially beautiful.

Kay L. Davies said...

The Kingfisher is gorgeous, as always, Phil, but I want my very own Little Grebe. Too cute.
The cormorant fishing does sound logical, although some might think it was cormorant abuse. But men used hawks for hunting, too, didn't they? Using the conveniences available to them, and no worse perhaps than sending retrievers out when game birds had been shot.
PS—keeping a Little Grebe as a pet would probably be animal abuse as well. Sigh.

eileeninmd said...

Nice bird and outing, Phil! I would be tickled to get a kingfisher shot like yours. Awesome photo.

Carole M. said...

really like the kingfisher and hope some day to be lucky to see one in close range like this. I'm sure many years back having seen a documentary re the cormorant fishing. Can't say it appeals to me, bird-labour, it's not fair

Russell Jenkins said...

Great detailed post Phil. I think I have to appreciate cormorants more. They are a wonderful design.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

The Kingfisher is so beautiful. The only bird I've ever seen 300 of at one time is the seagull (here on the Oregon Coast)...your counts are amazing to me and wonderful.

Cormorants have a bad rep here in Oregon not b/c the fishermen are jealous of their ability, but because they foul up the coastal trees so bad (I guess come to think of it there must be hundreds of them up there). It kills the trees and stinks. We see them in Florida too and it doesn't seem to be such a problem there for some reason. So I only take pictures of Florida Cormorants, because nobody likes them here in Oregon.

Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

HI Phil Great shots adn interesting post about teh Cormorant fishing in England. Did yuo seeme post yesterday where the Cormornats were nesting in a tree?

Mary Howell Cromer said...

I just thought Saturday, that I had seen a Cormorant, but evidently not so...maybe some kind of small Egret. We have them here though and your images are great! The Pied Wagtail and the Little Grebe images really look lovely. Now for theKingfisher...wonderful!!!
I will share my story later...No, I still did not get the image...however ;)

TexWisGirl said...

your little grebe is similar to our pied-billed grebe. that kingfisher, though, is just beautiful and vibrant!

Kenneth Cole Schneider said...

Interesting facts about the cormorants. I have not seen ours in Florida engage in cooperative fishing, although cormorants are often followed by herons, egrets and ibises as they move around the periphery of the lake. The other birds seem to be profiting as fish are frightened towards shore.

Maude Lynn said...

I have never heard of cormorant fishing. That's amazing!

Unknown said...

Beautiful birds. Interesting facts about the cormorant fishing.

Neil said...

Interesting series love the Kingfisher.

Christian Perrin said...

Beautiful Kingfisher photo - I saw the Australian variety this month, and by that I mean I saw a blue blur speeding along a creek. I enjoyed your photo much better!

It's funny how overlooked the Cormorants are as master fishers. Maybe because their "capture moment" happens out of view? I think they have a greater strike rate than the others too!

Stewart M said...

Nice set of pictures - I do like that kingfisher.

One of my targets for this summer will be any kingfisher (except for Kookaburras!)

Cheers - Stewart M _ Australia

Dave said...

A lovely snap shot of this patch of yours Phil. Spotted Reds are always welcome arnt they, a lovely bird.

Really wish I could nail a Kingfisher shot.

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