Country diary: A winged hunter with a hunted look | Derek Niemann – Rights History
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Country diary: A winged hunter with a hunted look | Derek Niemann

Sandy, Bedfordshire: The semi-aquatic cormorant never seems at ease on the water

Down by the river, a fearsome appearance is no guarantee of fearlessness, for the big beaks here are the most timid of all. The heron’s dagger gives no reassurance to a bird that lifts off from the water meadows as soon as it thinks it has been seen. And though the cormorant has a devilish look, Old Nick is a bolter too. I was always struck by the paradox that this semi-aquatic bird never seemed at ease on the water, a hunter with a hunted look, while firm-footed on land, it chills out with the best.

Until this year, there was just one spot in the neighbourhood where cormorants hung out, an old waterside ash that went bare after throwing out its last sprigs of leaves a couple of years ago. What it lacks in foliage, this ash gives to birds with a wide, open view. Cormorants perch there two or three at a time in statuesque poses to shoot the post-dawn breeze, sometimes raising their wings to make a heraldic living frieze.

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