Distant Cormorants

Today I went up to the hide in Savages Spinney. It looks over the inlet where many birds take shelter. Looking south there is a small spit of land which juts out into the water from the western shore, right now it is a more extensive sand bank, revealed by the low level of the reservoir. Here the cormorants gather in considerable numbers. They love being together. It’s too far away for a photo but I could see the birds quite well with some modest field glasses. Enough for some scribbly notes.


I made a slightly bigger sketch at home. I love the way sit with their wings outspread, preening or with heads titled skywards as if expecting
something to happen. A few gulls had joined them.


Distant Cormorants A4 sketchbook

One bird was standing on its own, right at the end, gazing out over the water.




The tiny sketches are not much more than squiggles and dots but you get the idea! I am very fond of cormorants. 🙂

Cormorant Sketches

There are quite a few cormorants on the reservoir here. Sometimes I see them skimming the surface of the water, soaring up high into the air, sitting on the outlet towers or, at Perry, perched on the breakwater by the boats. This is where I found them this week.

I am hoping to make a drawing/print/painting of a cormorant or two for Beautiful Beasts and wanted to get to know the shapes a bit better. There were about 6, two young ones and two wing drying adults and a couple swimming around.
You can’t get very close to them, they are very shy, so it’s really a case of watching and making rough sketches.
They do, however, stay quite still on the breakwater drying their wings or snoozing.


A4 Sketchbook: First sketches of cormorants on the breakwater (with a couple of bouncing jackdaws at the bottom of the page).


A4 Sketchbook: More very quick sketches of the wing drying while they were still on the breakwater.

Some of them were still there when I left.  Others took to the water before flying off. They make quite a bit of noise when they take off and I love the big flapping wings and the big trailing feet


The quickest and probably the best sketch A5 sketchbook


A5 sketchbook colour note.

The breakwater is orangy red. which makes an interesting contrast.

More cormorants to come.

Cormorant Island, Paxton Pits … and Graculus.

I LOVE cormorants! Always have, always will.

What is it about them..with their strange snaky necks and shaggy black wings?
We had a walk in Paxton Pits on Saturday and there on a little island in the middle of one of the ponds were maybe a dozen cormorants.

“Ahhhh” I said, as I always do when I see a cormorant,  “Graculus!”
For that is surely where my cormorant love started, as a little girl watching in complete rapture, the gentle, beloved tales from the North,

where the black rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long, the men of the Northlands tell a tale. They tell of Noggin, Prince of the Nogs. ”and the regal great green bird Graculus. “I am Graculus, royal bird of the Land of Nog. Guide and protector of Noggin, Prince of the Nogs”


graculus bw

Early black and white Graculus

noggin and graculus

And with Noggin off to find the Ice Dragon…

Remembering these lovely stories by Oliver Postgate made in stop motion animation by Smallfilms is being wrapped in warm blankets in front of a blazing fire with hot cocoa and everything that was wonderful and safe and magical about childhood.

If you want to see them again, hear that haunting bassoon music and those gentle soothing voices just go to Youtube and listen to the wonderful opening to Noggin the Nog. Ahhh….


It was my first visit to Paxton Pits Nature Reserve and it was fascinating. So much to see and so far to walk and all for free. How very lucky we are in the UK to have these places.

I read that these are mostly the gloriously named Phalacrocorax carbo carbo Cormorants. And yes, there were bees, lots of them, but I just had to sketch the cormorants this time.

Paxton Pits Cormorants

paxton corm island     cormorants paxton

Sketches, pen and ink ..10 x 8”

On my walk today I saw…

At last sun and warmth has returned. I had to go out. So I took a walk around a small pond which feeds into the main lake here and I remembered my camera.

Round the Pond We have had lots of rain and the water levels are high. Tiny fish and a million tadpoles have made a temporary home of  submerged grass and dollarweed. (Tadpole bottom right)


Lovely shells of the fresh water apple snails are washed up.

snail.sm jpg

The grackles are grackling… as only grackles can.

The redwing blackbirds are for once letting me actually get a picture of their red flashed wings, but when I try to get one in flight….. I get this ..
redwing bbd sm     redwing feet

Coots and moorhens are dabbling, the big stately wood stork circled overhead before coming to join an egret for some fishing.

woodstork 4     woodstork 3


On one of the nest platforms by the big lake an osprey has settled with a fish in its talons.

osprey sm

On another, two cormorants are surveying their domain.

corms sm

There is a beautiful spicebush swallowtail basking in the sun.

clouded green

Also by the main lake today I see the bald eagles, which for me is a bit of a “wow!”. They may be making a nest in one of these pines.  Two people I have spoken to recently said they had seen them tearing off branches and flying backwards and forward from the trees. No 1 eagle….

bald e1

and 5 trees down the path,  no 2 eagle….

bald 2

They are big birds, this is a long shot of the tree with no 2  sitting on the second to top tier of branches on the left.


I think its quite something to see a bald eagle right in the middle of Orlando.

More Bees!
Every living thing is enjoying the sun, including me and the bees!!
Sorry .. you just can’t get away from the bees entirely. A few more wild flowers are struggling up now and there is a patch of this pretty little thing on the grass bank near the shoreline.
It is Narrowleaf blue-eyed grass  Sisyrinchium angustifolium, easily overlooked, but with the most beautiful flower structure and a lovely ultramarine blue  In the centre of each blossom is a small patch of yellow.

The style, which is long, is tipped by a  three-cleft stigma. Little tiny bees laden with pollen, which I think are probably Halicitid bees of some kind,  land on the flower and at  first seem to feed on the pollen from the top of the stigma then climb right on top, balancing on the point and thereby transferring pollen to their legs.
It is comical to watch they shake the flower vigorously, and look like spinning plates on sticks.


bee4      bee2

I may send a photo up to Buglife for an identification, but they are probably not good enough quality. Shame I can’t draw one of these for the exhibition.

Maybe my next exhibition will be USA bees..