Moon Roost

Double-crested Cormorants Silhouetted Against the Moon

click for larger image

Every night, they dart under the highway bridge, buzzing boaters as their wings slice the air above the channel. Cormorants, nature’s flying and diving machines, are sleek and malleable to the point of being reptilian. Everything about the cormorant says speed … everything except parking it at the roost.

As branches fill up with rows of totipalmate feet, the available roosting spots get thicker into the tree, and the cormorants — who can’t hover to a stop — have to grab one of those branches on the first pass. Otherwise, it’s another sweeping circle, around and again, until finally, the feet clamp on, and the cormorant flaps and flails and tries to stabilize, like Charlie Chaplin falling over himself in a taxi.

On a good night, the moon drifts above their throaty calls, and casts moon shadows below — moon shadows that look strangely like cormorants. The moon rises and frames the cormorants in a soft-box of light, a wizardry that morphs them from avian and reptilian, to mystical and silent — illuminating their birthright as earth’s winged children, cradled against their mother moon.

 

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This Double-crested Cormorant roost (Phalacrocorax auritusis) is along an urban waterway in Seattle, not far from where we live. When I saw the full moon rising, I stopped by to see if I could frame a cormorant or two against this spectral backdrop. I photographed a few cormorants perched on the outer reaches of the trees, where the silhouettes were not obscured by branches. Shot at ISO800, 1/800, f5.6 with my Olympus E-3 and Zuiko 70-300mm. I went for a higher shutter speed to offset any camera movement from me and my monopod. Lately, I’ve been favoring my monopod over my tripod, just for ease of carrying. I did light processing in Lightroom (contrast enhancement, sharpness and slight noise reduction).

Here’s the Chaplin video, linked to above:

Comments

        • says

          Mia, I just now got back to your blog to read that post. Funny … and excellent! Here’s the link for anyone who wants to check it out — along with Mia’s absolutely-stunning photos (all shot with strict wildlife ethics in mind, I should add):

          http://www.onthewingphotography.com/wings/2011/02/08/so-ya-think-ya-want-to-be-a-bird-photographer/

          The part that really cracked me up was your comment about the smell of seagull and tuna in the car. Okay, I confess that I’ve been a lot more soiled on animal rescues than on photo excursions, but the end result is the same. When Hugh and I untangled those gulls from the fishing-pen net (http://www.thefreequark.com/2011/10/derelict-nets-entangled-birds/) we were contorting ourselves every which way, smearing our entire bodies with gull poop. Of course, the smell in the car on the way home (3-hour drive) was lovely — no change of clothes with us. But the worst part is the clothes I wear on gigs like that never stop smelling. A friend of mine swears by some detergent that supposedly can rid your clothes of everything, even the stench of zombie corpse. But, it didn’t look biodegradable so I can’t in good conscience use it. Right now, I just stuff my set of rescue clothes in a bag in the trunk and hope I have somewhere discreet to throw them on for the next time around. If you have a miracle, eco-safe gull-poop-smell-remover, I’d love to know about it.

          Last thing, being a writer (bad career choice if you love good glass) … a writer with no kids … I have no firstborn nor any huge assets to exchange for the killer lens. It’s still in my future, and it’s getting harder to wait on it. I might be one of those people you need to watch out for when she says, “I’d kill for that lens.” I’d never kill a bird, though. :)

          • says

            Ingrid,

            I wish I knew of a detergent that was biodegradable to get rid of some of the smells clothes can pick up when low crawling through gull poop and various other items that attack our olfactory senses. I remember throwing out a pair of boots because I was involved in cleaning motor oil off of a pair of swans, my boots were covered in swan poop and I could never get rid of the smell. But we saved the swans.

            You made me laugh out loud with “I’d kill for that lens”. I’m glad you enjoyed that post!

  1. Greg Bishop says

    Love this, #1 for the photos, and in close second the ‘links’ and education… Awesome, Ingrid! These things are so much more important than most people realize. This is what living on this planet is about, enjoying its natural beauty and wildlife, while assuring they both survive.

    BTW, Clicking on….. Charlie Chaplin falling over himself in a taxi. = This screen: X This content cannot be displayed in a frame

    To help protect the security of information you enter into this website, the publisher of this content does not allow it to be displayed in a frame.

    • says

      Greg, my Chaplin link somehow grew odd characters. I fixed and re-posted, but here it is, just in case: http://youtu.be/lyAGn2IZS3Q. Thanks for letting me know about that!

      Thank you for your kind comments, Greg. And I couldn’t agree with you more about the imperative of survival. It’s my single biggest joy and heartbreak, to be immersed in this beauty while understanding the immense challenges facing our wildlife and wild lands.

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