The parade of unusual bird visitors continues. The other day, in our local park, we saw half a dozen large cormorants, or perhaps shags, sitting on a wooden platform in the middle of the lake. Surely cormorants are seabirds, found on rocky cliffs? But there they were slumming it among the ducks and coots. When we went back a few days later, I managed to get a distant photo of the only one who was still there.
By chance I had just read a very striking passage about cormorants in a marvellous book, Sea Room, by Adam Nicholson. Writing about the Shiant Islands off the Hebrides, he describes a close encounter with shags on a cliff face: ‘Nothing prepares you for the reality of the shag experience. It is an all-power meeting with an extraordinary, ancient, corrupt, imperial, angry, dirty, green-eyed, yellow-gaped, oil-skinned, iridescent, rancid, rock-hole glory that is Phalacrocorax aristotelis. They are scandal and poetry, chaos and individual rage, archaic, ancient beyond any sense of ancientness that other birds might convey.’ Gulp! I looked at our avian visitors with fear and respect, but they were gazing innocently at the trees, pretending to be suburban.