I was watching a Cormorant and some wading birds, possibly Redshank, in Pwllheli harbour today. The Cormorant looked as though it had recently returned from a fishing mission and the waders were scurrying around in the mud looking for worms and small crustaceans while the tide was out. There was a lot of avian activity, plenty of Oystercatchers on the waterline and Jackdaws closer to shore.
I was hoping to see the Cormorant hang its wings out to dry but it seemed otherwise occupied and I noticed a movement slightly behind it, something flapping in the mud. After a while I realised a fish was stranded within the Cormorant’s reach and from time-to-time it wriggled side-to-side in an attempt to escape into the water just a few feet away.
These aren’t the clearest of photographs but you can see the fish in front of the Cormorant in the shot below.
I watched for a while trying to work out what fish it might be. The shape reminded me of a dogfish, it was long and lean, muscular with its dorsal fins set a long way back on its body. It had a very angular head just like a dogfish but after a bit of research I think it was most likely a Small Spotted Catshark. They’re fairly common in the area, often discarded by anglers or commercial trawler crews which is a shame because they’re really rather attractive creatures and can live a long and fascinating life.
I confess I wanted the fish to escape, make its way back to the water and live to see another day. Cormorants are master fishers so one escapee wouldn’t be the end of the world and had it not been for the mud (fine for near-weightless wading birds, not nearly as navigable for a fully grown human) I’d have helped it on its way. The Cormorant eventually lost interest and took off when a Great Black-Backed Gull began to approach. Gulls are opportunists, bullies and scavengers and this one was sharp, fast and far more persistent than the Cormorant. Bad news for the fish in the end because I’m fairly sure it wasn’t one that got away.