The Cormorant

Inside the mind of an average sea bird.

I stand here many hours a day,
Preening, cleaning, blooming, grooming,
On the stanchion by the jetty.
This is my plinth, my vantage point - -
I guard it jealously. No passing seagull - -
Life’s competitor, nuisance, curse - -
Alights for long, believe me.
I stand here watching.

The eagle is famous for his sight.
But little happens there below my perch
Above the clear Gulf waters, that evades my eye - -
Neither the young crab scuttling in the falling tide,
Nor the shrimp, black grouper, mutton snapper,
Nor the school of some obscure and dull sub-species.
It matters not if they are large or small.
From my well-sited pedestal I spot them all.

You’ll see me motionless, beak tucked in feathers,
Apparently asleep, balancing against the wind,
Oblivious to rain, even to infrequent hurricanes.
Or standing there, alert, attentive,
Holding my wings as in a silent prayer or yoga stretch,
Making my body limber, tractile, flexible.
This is my preparation. Limbs alert. Pulse upraised.
Speed is of the essence.

Then, like a bullet, I am gone,
Straight as an arrow, headed for my prey.
Eyes shut, wings in, a light “plop”,
Barely a ripple on the glassy sea,
And I am below the surface,
The ultimate amphibian: walking, swimming, flying,
It is all the same to me.
Got it! Gulp! and Gone!

I return to the surface and rise into the air
Towards my eyrie, unconcerned, replete.
All in a day’s work, a fact of Nature,
A moment in time, a snack, my third today.
Humans stroll by and spare me not a glance.
They lie there briefly at the jetty’s end
In a hammock slung between two posts.
Curious. Is this the only rest they give themselves all day?

What do I think about as I do my daily cormorant thing?
Well, weather foremost, other types of bird;
That young, sleek cormorant nestling on the roost close by;
Sea temperature and time of day;
Movements of shoals, the proximity of dolphins, tuna, shark;
Passing humans, forever making noise;
Boats, tides, the moon and local currents;
The evening rising of sea creatures great and small.

Study a thesaurus and you will find
The word “cormorant ” listed under gluttony, desire.
A shocking calumny this. I strenuously protest.
This is exhausting work - - flying, diving, swimming.
The ibis pecks around all day; the seagull simply flies.
We cormorants expend great energy and need more fuel,
Yet only graze the oceans round about,
Taking only what we need for comfort and survival.
Hah! Humans! They talk about greed?

For birds of meagre brain these matters keep us fidgety,
Even stressed at times.
Which is why you will see me, frustrated,
Leap into the air, fluttered and flustered,
Grumbling about the world and our environment,
Anxious about declining numbers, fewer fish,
Human litter, plastic junk and oil-anointed seas.
The life of a cormorant! What ’s to become of us?

November 2008