I had finished up a shoot and was driving back towards home but decided to divert to Kenmore. The evening light was looking good and I thought some floatplanes might be returning to base. By the time I got to Kenmore, it must have too late as I didn’t see any planes. However, there was a cormorant sitting on one of the posts near the end of the jetty. As the sun set, he was stretching out his wings to gather maximum warmth. How could I resist yet another cormorant shot?
It’s been a while since I had a cormorant post on this blog so time to have another one. This one is to showcase something I love about watching cormorants but that I hadn’t got good images of. When cormorants take off from the water they start flapping and running across the surface. They take quite a while to get up to a speed at which they can sustain flight. This trip across the surface usually is too far away to get a good shot of, even if you do spot them in time to get the camera on target.
However, if you are in a boat and the boat approaches the cormorant, you might spook it into taking off. They are pretty resilient creatures so may just float on by and ignore you but sometimes they will take off. Then, if you notice in time and the camera is to hand, you might get the takeoff sequence. They hop from wave crest to wave crest as they flap and accelerate and then they are flying. You can also lose a little weight before take off to improve performance!
This was an evening that I was out hunting planes. I did have some success, but I got a lot more shots of birds than planes. The cormorants were out in numbers and they obviously know I like them. Log Boom Park in Kenmore has a concrete pier that goes well out into the lake. At the end of the pier are pilings from a previous version of the pier. They provide a nice spot for birds to rest and the cormorants had taken over the place.
The light was not in a good place for getting a photo but it was still worthy of a shot or two. Some of the cormorants were stretching their wings to dry out. They have a prehistoric look about them at the best of times but when they stretch the wings out, they really do look like a pterodactyl. The concentrated group of cormorants were in a bad spot for the light but, fortunately, one of them was feeling antisocial and was on a different post. The light was a lot better for this guy!
An impromptu shot of a cormorant is a good thing as far as I am concerned. Normally when I photograph birds, I am shooting wide open at as high a shutter speed as possible. However, this time I was set up for shooting at a lower shutter speed when the cormorant came by. Consequently, the success rate was down a bit. I did still get some shots though and the motion blur gives more of a feel of speed, even if it is just the water blurring out.
My like for the cormorant is no secret if you read this blog. I think they are a cool bird with a prehistoric look to them. One thing I enjoy when seeing them is watching the way they take off from the water’s surface. They run across the water getting some speed up as they flap. I have wanted to get good shots of this for ages but they usually do it a fair distance from the shore. When they onshore, they launch from whatever they are on. Fortunately, when out whale watching, we got a cormorant that was very close to the boat before it decided to take off. I happened to be looking the right way at the time and got something close to what I had been after. It was backlit but still close. I’ll still be hoping for something better but this was a good result for me.
If you have seen the previous posts from Elkhorn Slough and have followed the blog for a while, it won’t take too much imagination to work out what bird I also got a bunch of shots of while we were on the boat. The cormorants were out and about keeping me entertained. Maybe they were a little put out that so much other wildlife was getting my attention although they really didn’t seem to care too much about our presence at all.
Whatever their attitude may or may not have been, they were all over the place. Flying past us, sunning themselves on marker posts, resting on sand banks or fishing in the waters around us, they did it all and I tried to photograph them doing it all. Since I have gone overboard on cormorants before, I won’t go nuts here. Just a few to maintain expectations…
I am getting repetitive! I can’t get enough of cormorants. I have said it before but they are just my favorite bird. Moss Landing proved to be a fun place to go and watch some. We ended up sitting near the harbor entrance and the waterway there was something of a highway for cormorants. There was a steady stream of them in each direction so I was a happy guy. As they came out, the light was better for them but either way was okay so I was shooting a lot. I was trying to work out whether there was a cormorant traffic plan since they seemed to go out on one side and in on the other. This wasn’t a rule but seemed to happen a lot. Maybe I was just looking for a pattern that wasn’t really there. I’m sure they can manage to avoid each other without implementing traffic rules!
Having said that, I did get watch must count as my first crossing shot of the season. Not fast jets or even any other type of plane. Two cormorants made a head on pass and I caught the moment. Let’s tick that one off for the year. As with Monterey over the holidays, I saw a few birds carrying material which I assume is for nest building. The big load in their mouth doesn’t seem to affect the balance. I also noticed the variation in colors between some of the birds with a light colored breast on a few of them. I was even spoiled by having one fly straight in towards me to land on the water and then proceed to dive under in the area in front of me. What a star!
Living near the ocean now means I have a lot of chances to see these great birds. Therefore, prepare to have a steady stream of cormorant related posts in the months to come. You may not love them like I do but hopefully the shots will be enough to avoid driving you away!
There have been a few cormorant posts of late on the blog so, if those were not your thing, look away now. Santa Cruz may have had a large colony of pelicans as described here but it also was not short of cormorants. They were busy zipping back and forth along the coast, sadly not often coming too close to our location but we did get an occasional look.
More fascinating was watching them land on the rocks. The pelicans seemed to be clearly in charge of things but the cormorants did have some spots they were taking up. However, good landing areas seemed in short supply for them. Instead, they took a rather more direct approach. They would fly right at the rock face and flare into what seemed like an impact with the rock. In doing so, they would grab on to something and then clamber up the rocks to their colleagues.
Having recently posted about both cormorants and swallows, it would appear a little repetitive to post about both together. Oh well, that isn’t going to stop me. While in Indiana for the powerboat racing, I was sitting on the harbor wall for a while. This was a popular place for the local bird life too. We had a cormorant swimming nearby and I couldn’t resist a shot of him (or her – I am not a specialist on these things).
Also, the local swallows seemed to be enjoying the air currents over the waves. When watching them, they seemed to spend a lot of time almost in one spot as they soared on the wind. Of course, trying to get a long lens on them was less straightforward and suddenly it was apparent just how much they were moving. Still, got a few shots off. It certainly provided some practice time between the races!
While I would not describe myself as a bird guy, I do spend a fair bit of time trying to get photos of them. I guess it is the “all things flying” part of my nature but they do make challenging subjects and also help with panning practice when I don’t have planes to shoot. A species I have a particular fondness for is the cormorant. I really don’t know why this should be. Growing up by the sea I certainly saw plenty of them and their enthusiasm for bombing along at surface level over the water does fascinate me.
Cormorants in the US seem to be a lot happier to fly higher up than I remember in the UK. While I was at Waukegan visiting the Warbird heritage Foundation, a pair of them blasted across the airfield. I quickly tried to grab some shots as they flew over. Nothing too special but something that pleased me all the same.