A Year on Clear Lake – Jan 07, 2013

Getting the scoop – Jan 07, 2013

A slow day on a gray lake.  These two Double-crested Cormorants take time to catch up on the latest lake gossip.

Of all the posts to date, none have generated as much discussion as those of the cormorants (Nov 23 and Nov 30.)

One reader shared information about the Galapagos Cormorants – yes, of Galapagos Islands fame. These birds, found only on two islands, are also known as Flightless Cormorants because they have lost the ability to fly. With no natural enemies on the islands, and their main source of food procured by chasing fish  under water, they had no need of flying. Over time, their wing evolved into tiny stubs, yet they still strike the same pose as that of their northern hemisphere cousins – wings outstretched to dry in the sun.  It seems the cormorant’s feathers (whether they fly or not) are not waterproof like a duck’s. On the plus side, it makes it easier for the cormorant to maneuver underwater while chasing dinner, but then on the negative side it also precludes the need to hang them out to dry, so to speak.

Then, I learned from my Dallas area sailor friend, Phil McBride, that these birds have something akin to a split personality.

Phil writes, “As a youth I was always in the Northern Canada region and always thought of these birds as the most destructive creature on the lake. They make huge nesting areas in the trees and stay for months, the end result are trees that die and whole sections of forest that never recover. Apparently it is breeding time during summer.

Cormorants in your neighborhood are not engaged in reproducing so I guess they just go from bar to bar and don’t bother to get a home or congregate on Sundays. They are apparently quite transient while on Clear Lake.”
It’s true. The cormorants breed during the summer months in Canada and the far northern  mid-central states in the U.S. They build stick nests in trees there; the accumulated fecal matter eventually kills the trees. When that occurs the cormorants pick up and move to another area. I’ve not heard of these creatures causing any harm as they vacation in our parts, but it goes to show you that you don’t truly know someone until you’ve seen them on their own home turf.