A funny fisher

Loch Lomond NNR


Last week we were counting wetland birds at the north end of the Loch Lomond reserve. A great day for wetland birds but no so good for us, a testing wind and wetting rain made getting good visibility difficult. But despite the conditions there was a wide range of wetland birds about. One of the more obvious were the cormorants. These big fish eating birds rest on prominent perches so some make a dramatic sight (see above).

One of the cormorants caught our eye as it had a lot of white on its head and sides. You can see the bird below looks different from the one above. This extra white could mean that it is a continental sub-species of the cormorant. These slightly smaller birds spend more time on freshwater habitats than our blacker UK birds, and are gradually spreading into England and maybe Scotland. So was it one of these sub species? Well easier said than done to answer that question. Apprently the only way you can tell definitively is that the continental birds have a gular pouch angle of greater than 75 degrees. The gular pouch is the flap of flexible skin below the bill that stretches to accommodate big fish when swallowed.  Exactly. Not easy to see in buffeting wind and rain on the telescope and how do you measure the exact angle of the pouch anyway? So this bird will go down as a possible continental bird and a possible UK bird with lots of white on it. That’s one of the things in nature, it isn’t always easy to get a definitive answer. P1050246
Meanwhile the a small group of whooper swans on the flooded area were much easier to identify and enjoy!

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