Thursday, December 1, 2011
"My" Friends, the Cormorants
My friends, the cormorants, in the Gulf ICW
You all know my First Mate’s affinity for such things as pelicans and dolphins. When she spots the first one of those each day she usually says something like, “Oh…look, there’s my friend the (fill in the blank)”. Someday (after the kids take my power boat keys away) I just know she and I are going to be paddling around some small mountain lake in our canoe, and I’m sure “Her friends” the loons will be our company. Think Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda in “On Golden Pond”. She’ll probably even learn the “Looooooon” call, alla Hepburn. She thinks she talks to whales now, so why not?
But, there is one particular species of wildlife which she does not claim as her own. Rather, she always points at them and giggles, “Look Frank, there’s your buddies, the cormorants.” Now cormorants are not particularly cute, nor funny, nor beautiful. So how, you might wonder, did they become mine? So glad you asked.
Ironically, the incident was all my First Mate’s doing in the first place.
We were in our “west coast boat” (thank you Doug) a couple of years ago, moored off Catalina Island. Our friends John and Linda on Poseidon were moored not far away. We were both spending the month of September wandering around the waters of Catalina, and having our family members join us for a week or so around the Labor Day holiday. When we awoke this particular morning however, we were all alone…sort of…
In the division of responsibilities on our boat, the Admiral always checks the doors at night before we retire. She insists on locking them as well. Since she is so fixated on this, I rarely worry about it (kind of like minor amounts of water in the bilge). So, when she arose one sunny morning and went up to make coffee, we both knew whose fault it was that she found this huge bird flapping wildly around inside our salon. All I heard from below was the Admirals screeching (or was it the bird's?), so I sprinted up to the pilot house, (where the side door to the outside deck had been left wide open overnite) and assessed the situation
It was pandemonium! The bird was flapping his four foot wingspan around near the aft salon door, which was closed. It should be noted here that just as we both knew who had let the bird in, we also both knew whose job it was going to be to get the damn thing out of the boat. I moved out the side door and shimmied my way down the skinny side deck to the rear cockpit, intending to slide the door wide open and hope the bird would take the hint. Naturally, when I arrived there, I found that the Admiral had locked that door! At this point a couple on the adjacent boat yelled, “We think we saw a bird go inside your boat.” Yeah thanks, I thought, smiling at them. Then, in a concerned voice they warned,”He may be injured.” Well, if not, he’s about to be, I thought.
Working my way back to the open side door of the pilot house, I re-entered the boat to find the crazed bird had moved up there also and was, for the moment, sitting in one of the side window frames. He looked unhurt, but was a little demented…or was that me? He also had a very sharp beak that looked to me very much like a six inch paring knife. What to do, what to do? The Admiral tossed me a throw blanket and orderied me to capture the bird by wrapping him up. OK…that’s one idea. Since the only option I could think of involved the 12 gauge shotgun I keep on board, I figured I had better try the Admiral’s solution first.
I did manage to get most of the bird in the blanket on the first try. However, from the neck up, he was still free, and he did his level best wildly trying to peck me to death as I worked my way across the cabin with him in my outstretched arms. I noticed the Admiral doubled over in laughter at what must have looked like me with an angry tiger by the tail. I managed a perfect underhand toss through the open door and suddenly both bird and blanket were set free! All was quiet aboard except for the Admiral’s giggling.
So, now you know, why to this day, every time we see cormorants...