A Natural History
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of New Hampshire Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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A thin black line wavers across the sky. Perhaps they are a flock of undisci-plined geese, but even from this distance they appear to be something else. They seem smaller than geese, more slender, their wing-beats quicker. As they gradually descend from their high flight, several of the birds in the line pause their flapping for several seconds. They soar, then resume beating their wings. ...
1 | Gifu City
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... ’m sitting on a veranda that opens onto a well-manicured garden. From a perch in a small tree that extends over a pond, a single cormo- rant presides like a dark prince. The bird’s gray feet are wrapped around the highest limb. A few more cormorants roost in a tall cage at the far side of the garden, while others waddle around freely or stand on the edge of ...
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Male cormorants stand in different areas of the small island to claim spaces for nesting. They dart out their necks and spread their beaks wide to warn others who come close. Males try to attract the females by lifting their tails vertically and rearing their head and neck toward their tail so their crests almost touch One glossy black cormorant flies into the colony. With a croak like the ...
2 | Henderson Harbor
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... aptain Ron Ditch has spent the last twenty-five years leading the against the local population of cormorants. He founded an organi-zation called “Concerned Citizens for Cormorant Control.” To build his case, he amassed reams of biological and policy research on the birds. He and a local television producer, who is also a fisherman, created a short ...
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Nearly two hundred cormorant nests cover almost the entire island. By this first warm windless day of the year, Gates Island already has a whitewashed, paint-splattered look. Only two chicks have hatched so far. They broke out of their shells over the last two days and are cuddled under their mother, curled inside the nest of this first breeding pair beside the two largest boulders....
3 | Aran Islands
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...that is Phalacrocorax aristotelis. They are scandal and poetry, iam O’Flaherty was born on the largest of the Aran Islands, In- ishmore, in a small house a stone’s throw from the cliffs. Near this sheer western edge he spent his childhood and adolescent years looking down at sea stacks and ledges and terrifying drop-offs, as if on ...
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Thick fog. Low tide. Cormorants fly on and off the island so low that their wings almost touch the glassy surface of the water. The high-pitched peeping of hundreds of chicks is steady and more noticeable because the gulls are quiet, as if dampened by the fog. A long shrill comes from an oystercatcher that has finished its meal on the limpets exposed at the southern rocks, where the ju-...
4 | South Georgia
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... iall Rankin became a millionaire by inheritance. The story goes that he fell in love with one of the queen’s consorts at Buckingham Palace, but the wedding was forbidden because he barely had a quid to his name. He had never met his own father, Sir Reginald Rankin, so he decided to approach him. Niall’s hopeful bride, Lady Jean, managed ...
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The adult cormorants begin returning to Gates Island in large numbers before sunset. They fly by the half dozen or so in short, rough lines. Nearly all of them come from the west, from upriver. As they land, most are chased by fledglings The four fledglings from the first clutch by the boulders pursue their parent into the water after food. They are able to fly about half the length of the tiny ...
5 | East Sand Island
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... t is just after 11 p.m. on East Sand Island, Oregon, site of the larg- est single double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) colony in the United States.¹ A light rain has been falling steadily, day and night, for nearly all of March and well into this April. Several cormorants are roosting in what the research team calls the “dissuasion area.” The scien-...
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In the boat channel between two shipyards, a cormorant methodically fishes against the tide. The bird dives for thirty to forty seconds, surfaces for about ten, and then dives again. The cormorant does this for a long stretch of water, submerging for over a dozen repetitions for almost exactly the same amount of time. Every few dives the bird is successful in catching a few small silversides, ...
6 | Tring
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... he bird research collection held by England’s prestigious Natu- ral History Museum is not in London, but at its smaller suburban site, the Natural History Museum at Tring. Access to the birds is not available to the general public. The collection is open to researchers who prearrange their visits and bring proper identification with a photo-...
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A tropical storm, nearly a hurricane, barrels over the Mystic River, screeching enormous southeasterly winds for almost two days. Gates Island is flooded and beaten. The wind and seas blast the guano off the boulders and wash away nesting material, corpses, shells, everything. Some of the cormorants, gulls, and other coastal birds of the estuary fly upriver and hide in various leeward ref-...
7 | Bering Island
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...for skins and eggs. . . . Within the same period another large he most compelling and creative work of art I’ve seen that fea- tures a cormorant is a table. Audubon’s paintings of North Ameri- can cormorants are extraordinary and often narrative. Maine artist Andrew Wyeth painted a dynamic watercolor of a soaring cormorant in ...
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A flock of about one hundred cormorants flies just below a layer of gray stratus clouds. Southbound before a stiff cold northwesterly wind, they are making good time. The birds form a sort of loose V, an uneven echelon with only a quarter of the individuals on the windward side. All the cormorant wings beat-ing the air create both a steady shushing sound and a thin squeaking, as if their ...
8 | Galápagos Islands
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... ary Hepburn, a high school science teacher from upstate New York, is the character critical to saving the human race in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Galápagos. In this story, published in 1985, Von-negut places on the wall of a travel agency a large photograph of a flightless cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi) just so that Mary would be in the posi-...
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Just before dawn. A pink blush where the sun will come up barely lights the dark turquoise water. Floating on the surface in a dim trough of wave is one of As the rim of the sun comes up over the Gulf Stream, the bird paddles toward a copse of mangroves. Nearby, two skimmers drop their long lower mandibles and trace the water’s surface, seeking to scare up fish. Along this ...
9 | Belzoni
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... white truck zips by and kicks up dust as it turns away. It races “My man’s out there seven days a week after these birds,” says Chris Nerrin, a veteran of the catfish business who took over the farm from his dad. “It’s just a pain in the ass, and I don’t see it getting any better As we are talking there is an occasional distant crack of a shotgun, and ...
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The water around this key has a red-brown tinge. A bloom of poisonous plank-ton has left a line of dead crabs and fish on this stretch of Florida beach. Among the dead animals are redfish, lookdown fish, barracuda, and dozens of little sardines. Several large groupers have also washed up dead, as have dozens of A male from the first clutch of cormorants from Gates Island, Connecticut, ...
10 | Isla Chincha Centro
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... he soft-spoken guardias, Hermilio Ipurre Choccña and Claudio Mallqui Padilla, live nearly year-round on the island. The creases around their eyes are perhaps from smiling—which they do often—or from age, or from squinting against the steady wind that blows the dust every afternoon. The two men live in a cement home by the dock. Painted ...
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It is after midnight. The moon has yet to rise. The two surviving juveniles from the first clutch on Gates Island sleep beside one another on an unlit naviga-tional buoy that bobs with the sea. The steel edge over which the birds wrap their feet is thin, but they remain balanced as they sleep. The female has bent her neck back to nestle her head under one wing. Behind them headlights whir ...
11 | Cape Town
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... ola Parsons was born in Zimbabwe but raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. After earning a degree in veterinary medicine, young Dr. Parsons moved to London and worked for a few years in a small animal clinic, spending most of her time neutering dogs and cats. During her free time she backpacked around Europe. She spent a month on one ...
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Warm sea breeze, cloudless afternoon. The two surviving juveniles from the first clutch by the two boulders on Gates Island now join dozens of other cor-morants and several other species of birds at the mouth of a freshwater rivu-let in the Everglades. The cormorant siblings have been here for almost two Right now an ibis searches for minnows in the shallows with its beak. The ...
12 | Gates Island
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... t’s March again. I can see how cold and windy it is out the window, but I’m comfortable inside sipping coffee. My office is warmly lit by a large paper lantern hand-painted with a Nagara River ukai scene, and I’m surrounded by all of my cultural artifacts about the relationship be-I have a sort of Victorian curiosities cabinet. It has various skulls and ...
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The one remaining female from the first clutch, after migrating nearly the length of the continent, veers with the flock around and down toward Gates Island. As have her relatives for tens of millions of years, eons before Homo sa-piens walked the earth, the cormorant pulls herself up vertically. She opens her wings and splays her feet wide. She lands softly on one of the two boulders, ...
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This project would never have taken flight if not for my tolerant master’s thesis adviser, Jim McKenna. As I studied all things cormorant and trav-eled around, I dragged in many friends and colleagues as members of the Brave Research Team. These kind figures provided curiosity, patience, and good humor while helping with fieldwork, logistics, and expertise in a wide ...
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Permissions & Credits
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A few portions of the book have been published previously in a different form in The Log of Mystic Seaport 55 (2004); Maritime Life and Traditions 25 and 31 (2004 and 2006); Beyond the Anchoring Grounds: More Cross-Currents in Irish and Scottish Studies (2005); I am grateful to the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation for permission to publish Amy Clampitt’s “The Cormorant in Its Element,” to University of Queensland ...
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Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2013