Hospital Dinner

After The Ranger’s adventures at the Isle of Wight’s only RSPB reserve, it was HM the Cat’s turn to go bird watching – and with much more success. In the grounds of a hospital on an industrial estate next to the Isle of Wight’s only dual carriageway is a small but popular pond; popular with the hospital’s incumbents, and the plentiful waterfowl that dabble in its bread-laden waters. Cat, on a mission to photograph a moorhen got more than she bargained for one windy lunchtime…

Cormorant drying its wings (c) Cat James

Cormorant drying its wings

Amidst the splashing of the copulating ducks, a cormorant arose from the pond like an oily Venus. Cat turned her attention, and camera, away from the domestic disharmony of the breeding mallards to photograph the unexpected cormorant – up close and personal. The hospital pond is probably much smaller than the cormorants’ usual habitat. These magnificent if not particularly beautiful birds can more often be found on the coast although they will also haunt a big lake or a sheltered estuary. Oblivious to the quacking (and clicking of the camera) the cormorant spent some considerable time ‘au faire du toilet’, straightening individual feathers with its hooked bill, redistributing oil and drying its vast wings in the warmth of the bright sunlight. After 20 minutes of watching the show, Cat’s interest (and lunchbreak) began to wane. However, the best was yet to come… Suddenly the big bird arched its long black neck and regurgitated a pile of fish onto the grass!

Something stuck in your craw? (c) Cat James

No sooner were the fish out than they were hooked up by the bird and choked back down into its stomach.

The cormorant swallows down the fish (c) Cat James

The cormorant swallows down the fish – again!

Cat had never seen such a thing! Soon the cormorant splashed back into the pond, leaving Cat to investigate the ‘arisings’.

The remains of the cormorant's stomach contents (c) Cat James

The remains of the cormorant’s stomach contents

Cat peered at the worm-like remains. Could they be fish intestines? The Ranger, on seeing the picture, considered that these unsegmented worms may be nematodes (roundworms). Either way, Cat wasn’t the only one interested in the glistening invertebrates. Before long, and while she was still examining the cormorant’s rejected stomach cargo, a swan heaved into view and ate the lot!

Swan (c) Cat James

Yummy!

2 thoughts on “Hospital Dinner”

  1. Isn’t nature wonderful?! So good at recycling waste.
    Cormorant ‘wing-drying’ may be something else though. A while back I read (somewhere – sorry folks – I can’t remember – New Scientist?) that some researchers had fed fish to cormorants, and found that the the time they kept their wings open afterwards was proportional to how cold the fish were. So probably cormorants spread their dark oily water-repellent wings out in the sun not only or even to dry them, but to collect heat, which will speed up the digestion of the fish.

  2. Urghhhhh! Is this the grossest post on naturenet?
    Were those nematodes parasitic to the consumed fish or the cormorant?
    Great photo documentation though!

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