I’ve liked these birds for as long as I can remember. As a child I’d scan the shoreline hoping to see one flying low over the sea or popping up like a dart after what seemed an inordinate amount of time under the water.
In some parts of Norway cormorants are a sign of good luck and folklore also suggests people lost at sea may return to their former homes in the shape of a cormorant. In the epic tale of Ulysses, a sea nymph disguised herself as a cormorant and offered him a float when the mast of his raft was smashed in a storm. Ulysses swam safely ashore. Like other animals cormorants have been persecuted by ill-informed humans who thought the birds took too many fish. Fortunately our ignorance hasn’t served to make them all extinct. In Japan and China cormorants were kept by fisherman who realised the birds could help in their endeavours; the fishermen kept the largest fish while the cormorant was allowed to eat the smaller ones.
Cormorants are still one of my favourite seabirds and this rock in Bideford bay is a popular resting place for them. They sit here uninterrupted with waves crashing around them as they wait for their plumage to dry.