[Tweeters] The Otter and the Cormorant

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Feb 25 15:46:54 PST 2015

Bopped over to Point Wilson, here in Port Townsend, around noon, and checked out the scene . First stop was the pier at the Marine Science Center.
First sighting was a splendid pair of Common Goldeneye's, seen at close range. A fabulous duck. Next, I couldn't help but notice a tremendous amount of carnage on what I think of as the Otter Dock - the floating dock out there I've written about before. Sometimes it seems like a River Otter is primarily a digestive tract that large portions of Salish Sea life passes thru - they eat a lot and poop a lot. The dock was covered with crap and body parts.
At one end of the dock, was a dark mass of feathers, which at first glance looked like a crow carcass, but turned out to be the wing of a fairly large bird. Tip-toeing down the dock, in between piles of crab leftovers, otter poop in various forms (if you go, don't wear your dance shoes), I found another big dark wing about 50ft away, attached to a cleaned-out sternum. Wondering what this bird was, I soon found out, a bit further down the dock, where I found the severed head- a Double-crested Cormorant.
Just a few weeks ago I got very close looks at one of these birds, right on this same dock, as it sat on the dock edge, drying it's wings. At the time, I noted just how colorful the face of these birds can be- bright yellow-orange skin at the base of the bill, and a nicely complementary blue tint to the eye. Todays severed head, allowed an even closer view of this beautiful creature. Alway's having enjoyed the leisurely pace of Dead Wildlife photography, I got a close-up head shot with my cell phone. The kill was so fresh, that the eyes noticeably faded in the short time I was there.
Too bad for the ol' Cormorant, but the Otter got a good meal deal - based on the size of the sternum, it seems like a Cormorant packs a fair amount of pectoral muscle. I was also surprised at the heaviness of the bird's wing bones- pretty stocky they seemed to me. I now understand a bit more how these birds dive with such ease- like a loon, they're a bit heavy, and if you've ever seen one underwater, its apparent that they lack the buoyancy that some of the lighter weight diving birds have working against them down beneath the waves. Truly designed to dive.
Jeff Gibsonreporting fromPort Townsend Wa

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