Searching for Brandt's Cormorant

Yesterday I was in charge of the kids for a couple of hours so I decided that a trip up to Campbell River was in order. I figured that after about 3o minutes of driving they would both be asleep and I could do some roadside birding along the shoreline. In particular, I was hoping to find some Brandt’s Cormorants since that is a species I need to add to my 2010 Year List. Campbell River has produced Brandt’s in the past and I had my fingers crossed for a repeat.

Double-crested Cormorants
Double-crested Cormorants on a float. Apologies for the grainy image - have I mentioned recently that I'm still looking for a good telephoto lens?

Unfortunately, I was only able to locate some Double-crested Cormorants near the coal loading terminal. I was limited to locations where I could park my car and get out and bird – walking wasn’t an option unless I wanted to wake up my charges. As they say, “Let sleeping babies lie and enjoy the quiet.” The Double-crested Cormorants were still pretty neat to see though – I never get tired of watching them spreading their wings out to dry.

Back in 2004 during the Deep Bay Christmas Bird Count I had a little more success and actually saw all three cormorant species in one place. Here’s the post that I wrote back in December 2004:

Flashback to Deep Bay CBC, 2004

By far the highlight of the count was a “lesson” in cormorant identification. At the south end of our area we returned again to the water and were lucky to view all three possible cormorants resting on one raft near the shore.

All three cormorants - Double-crested, Pelagic, and Brandt's.

In the photograph above the double-crested cormorant is identified by both its size and the orange colour of its bill. On the right side of the photograph is a single pelagic cormorant, the bird that is noticeably smaller than the double-crested cormorant behind it. Note also the smaller head and thinner bill and neck of this bird. Finally, a pair of Brandt’s cormorant complete the image. These cormorants are on the edge of the raft closest to the viewer and are facing each other. They are somewhat similar in size when compared to the double-crested cormorants behind them but their bills are dark in colour and their feathers are more “greenish black.” This group of cormorants provided an excellent opportunity to observe all three species and pick out diagnostic identification features.

Fast forward to 2010 – I’ll have to keep looking for the Brandt’s Cormorant. It’s all part of the fun of keeping a year list!