Sun, Sea, Sailors and a Shag…
I had a work appointment in Old Portsmouth this morning, and finding myself uncharacteristically early with a bit of time to kill, I settled down on a bench on the ramparts overlooking the harbour and the basin (a kind of canal/moat type thing which is part of the old defences).
It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm (though I wasn’t quite warm enough to join the scantily-clad sunbathers on the beach!!). There were lots of gulls about – black headed, Med and black-backed (never know whether they’re Lesser or Greater) as well as a few starlings and a number of pigeons busy building nests in the holes in the old defence walls. Then in the basin I spotted what I first thought was a black cygnet. When common sense prevailed and I realised it’s still too early in the year for cygnets, I started to wonder whether it might be a cormorant, and got up to have a closer look.
Unfortunately, at that precise moment, HMS GLOUCESTER sailed into port, returning home from her final tour, and was greeted with bagpipes and fireworks which sent every bird in the place shooting off into the sky, including my large black quarry. I have never seen a cormorant fly before, and it was truly a beautiful sight, very graceful. Once the ship had passed, said cormorant did another couple of circuits in the air before landing on top of one of those tall poles that stick out of the sea for no apparent reason.
When I finished my appointment (which was very dull, by the way), I caught a better look at the same bird – or, I suppose, one that looked the same – sitting on another pole a bit closer to the shore. I thought then that it wasn’t quite as big as all the other cormorants I have seen (well, ok, the only other cormorant I have ever seen), but didn’t think too much about it.
On the way home, I met a couple of friends and excitedly told them all about my cormorant experience, to which they both replied “are you sure it wasn’t a shag, ho ho ho…” (they’re both ex-Navy, which explains a lot). But when I got home and looked in the books, I realised that the bird was completely black with no white markings at all, and so I think they were probably right. I experienced my first shag with the whole ship’s company of HMS GLOUCESTER. Who says that birdwatching is boring?