08 January 2016

"My Precious" Cormorant

BirdTrack's own Nick Moran writes:

The BTO Nunnery Lakes reserve boasts an imaginatively nicknamed ‘Cormorant Tree’, a favoured perching site of…you guessed it…Cormorants. On 23 October 2015, I pointed my new-to-me bridge camera at a metal-ringed Cormorant I’d noticed in said tree. Reviewing the images, I was pleased to see that the first two digits were clearly visible as ‘25’ and the third looked likely to be ‘2’. Not having much experience of L rings, I showed the photos to Lee Barber. The shape and size of the ring and proportionally very large numbering meant he instantly recognised it as not being a BTO ring. Game on!

Numbers 252 confirmed. Taken 23/10/2015

I became Gollum for a week, consumed with an unrelenting obsession to ‘possess’ the One Ring.  And what more appropriate beast to be bearing it than a real life Nazgûl-bird?! Fortunately for me, the wearer of my preciousss was considerably tamer than the other Cormorants, allowing relatively close approach. However, the Cormorant Tree stands right on the bank of the Little Ouse, making it impossible to walk round and unlike the real Gollum, dark, cold and dirty water is not my thing. The only option was to approach from opposite sides of the river on successive visits, striving to see and photograph the ring from all angles.

Through the tree hole. Taken 26/10/2015


Looking fine for (252)39. Taken 27/10/2015


Final digit falls (25239)4. Taken 27/10/2015
By 27 October, after an awful lot of ‘here we go round the Cormorant Tree’, I’d managed to piece together 252394 and the address: Helgoland, Germany. After submitting the sighting to the BTO, the ringing details have just arrived. The bird was ringed as a chick in Wasservogelreservat Wallnau, Fehmarn, Germany on 11 June 2009. Surprisingly, it is only the eighth German-ringed Cormorant to be controlled in Britain & Ireland at the time of writing!

Confirmation of the Ringing Scheme. Taken 27/10/2015



Like all good stories, there was an unexpected twist: whilst clearing some photos from my old smartphone, I came across a ‘phonescoped’ shot I’d taken of a metal-ringed Cormorant on the same branch of the same tree…on 31 October 2014! The digits ‘25’ were once again clear to see, and close comparison of the bill and facial skin confirm it to be the same individual.


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