The early morning sun breaks over Gauley Mountain to wake up the three rivers area. As my big blue truck rolls by I noticed something odd perched on a piece of driftwood out in the middle of the Kanawha River. I had to rub my eyes and blink a few times. We had always joked and called that partially submerged log “The Gauley River Monster” because of it’s resemblance to the famous Scottish cryptid. But this morning it actually seemed to move it’s head. I pulled into the parking lot of the Glen Ferris Inn and in typical redneck fashion wheeled into a 180 back up the road. I keep a small set of binoculars in the console. I knew that there was no way possible that the log had grown a living head overnight and just needed to see what it was. It’s neck was long like a goose but it’s beak was pointed like a heron. Except that it seemed to have a hook on the end like a bird of prey. The legs were short like a duck and it even had webbed toes. Skin around the face seemed to have bumps and scales like a buzzard. I found myself asking God if he had parts left over from other birds when he built this one. Then it spread out it’s wings began to dry them in the sun. This day I only had my cellphone as a camera and the digital zoom just didn’t bring the bird in with enough clarity to make me happy. But it did access Google and I found a match. It’s a cormorant! I have been around lakes and rivers my whole life but had never seen this odd dinosaur looking critter before.
The bird is considered to be pest by modern day fisherman. However, in Asia they use the cormorant as an aquatic falcon. The bird is given a collar to prevent large fish from being swallowed and then it’s released into the water to dive down. It’s been found that a cormorant can dive as deep as one hundred and fifty feet! The birds return to the raft and wait for the fishermen to remove the stuck fish. They don’t seem to be harmed by this and it actually looks like they bond with the owner.
The ones here are pretty standoffish though. Even my 400 mm lens can barely bring them in for a photo.
A local cormorant standing on the “Gauley River Monster” which is fully submerged in this photo.
I have stopping in these spots on a fairly regular basis and trying to catch them doing something other than standard out on that log. Then finally one morning I caught the feature image. The cormorant took off from its perch and flew in circles slapping the water with his wings. I’m not sure if it was trying to flush out prey or just playing and enjoying being a bird but it was a spectacular show. I have watched a few days and this seems to be something that they do often.
I also thought that because of its reputation as a pest in North America that it was a non native species but they are found all over the world.
The literature on these birds is quite extensive, especially in the cultural references. I could write pages and pages just covering all the little threads on Wikipedia alone but as life would have it time is the limiting factor in everything. And it’s time to metaphorically turn my big blue truck back onto the highway and look for the next subject to photograph.
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2 thoughts on “The Water Falcon”
This is beautiful!!
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Thank you ❤