Low Rider

My little vacation has come to an end and back to work I go.  Don’t feel too sorry for me, I basically have 4 days of work left before I close the books on this year.  Thankfully, I’ll be able to look forward to a much better year as this one I’d just as soon forget altogether.  We’ll be heading back down to Texas sometime in the first couple of months in hopes of getting the first part of the new year off on the right foot.  Knowing how much content those trips add to the photography queue, figured I’d try my best to pop some of the previous Texas finds off the queue – some of those still need proper IDs and need some final validation from Ron (those damn Terns all look alike from afar).  Fortunately, today’s featured feathered friend was easy to classify.

Double-Crested Cormorant found on Galveston Island, Texas December 2016

This rather smug looking  waterbird was found while visiting Galveston Island State Park back in December 2016 (Yes B in the UK I am still waaaay behind ha).  While exploring the trails and shorelines for Clapper Rails, I came upon this Cormorant hanging out in the packed sand.  Not being up on my Cormorant game, I initially ID’d it as a female knowing the rest of the Cormorants that I’ve photographed were splendored in much darker to all black feathering (link here).  At the time it wasn’t obvious whether this specimen was the standard Double-Crested variety or the Neotropic which I had previously photographed in the same place (link here).

Double-Crested Cormorant found on Galveston Island, Texas December 2016

Hit the jump to read more about my education on this particular species.

That is the beauty of being a photographer that likes taking pictures of birds or maybe that is a birder that happens to like photography.  The age old quandary that continually emerges whenever someone comes up to Ron and I while out in the field.  All too often curiosity will get the better of them resulting in the probing question “are you a birder or a photographer?”.  When I brought this up during my blogging speeches at the local Audubon Society and the Peoria Photography Club I quickly followed with “there is a strong feeling there is a right and wrong answer that likely varies depending on who we might be talking to” – hint, I always listen to see if I can hear a tone change between the word birder and photographer. Ron has a perfect answer – [he] probably takes better photographs than your average birder and likely knows more about birds than your standard photographer.

Double-Crested Cormorant found on Galveston Island, Texas December 2016

Wow, somehow I wandered off track.  My English teacher would have rapped my knuckles with a ruler – shudder.  Where was I… oh, yes, the beauty of taking photographs of the specimens is I can give them further study back in the digital darkroom fully stocked with reference materials.  I can also zoom into detail should the need arise like in this particular case.  Thanks to this additional look, I was able to confirm this is a juvenile as opposed to a straight gender delineation (it could still be a female or a male, just not an adult).  The brown feathering gives the age away, but still needed to get the species ID’d.  A bit more digging revealed the distinguishing characteristics.  First off, the Double-Crested has a shorter tail than the Neotropics.  This doesn’t help you without having experienced both relative sizes – definitely looked on the small side compared to my Neotropic shots.  The next key indicator is the white/buff coloring on the neck which puts it in the Double bucket.  The other remaining telltale sign is the feathering between the eye and the upper bill.  Doubles will display featherless yellow skin where the Neotropic has feathering.

Double-Crested Cormorant found on Galveston Island, Texas December 2016

So, after all that I can confidently state this specimen is a self-assured juvenile Double-Crested Cormorant.  Also happens to be some of my better all-around shots of the Double so I will not have to keep referencing back to those softer shots I linked to earlier.  Yikes, out of shots.  To close out with an educational tidbit beyond the ID method, these birds are what I call low riders.  Like Loons, they are low to the water as they cruise looking for food.  Their backs will just break the waterline which will give the illusion their neck is not attached to the body. Maybe a giant version of this bird led to the Loch Ness mystery.  If you are wondering about the double crest, that is only visible on breeding adults – basically a double row of white (sometimes black) stringlike feathers on the side of the head.

That’s a wrap folks.  Need to go relax before hitting the grind again…or get my workout out of the way..or go for a run… or work on next year’s Halloween animations… or work on IDing birds… or check something off my “honey-do: list…or…wow, when did my days get so full hehehe!

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