Cormorant – 1894

Phalacrocorax carbo – A common resident.

There are nesting stations at various places on the coast, on Ramsey and Skomer Islands, &c. There are some twenty to thirty pair of Cormorants about Lydstep Head, near Tenby, as Mr. C. Jefferys informs us; a colony nests on trees at Slebech ; and some Herons that nested at Poyntz Castle on St. Bride’s Bay, were driven from their nests upon the cliffs by Cormorants, who took possession of them for themselves. The nesting places of the Cormorants emit an abominable stench from putrid fish remains, and are not delightful to linger near.

In the summer-time, when the streams are low and clear, numerous Cormorants come inland, and work great havoc among the trout; and we always regarded it as an evil omen when we saw one or two of them heading up our valley. It is almost impossible to approach these poachers, as there is generally a sentinel perched on some tree by the river-side, while one or two others are working the adjoining pools. When fishing we would occasionally come upon a Cormorant so gorged with trout as to be unable to fly. One day we ran back for a gun to do execution on the caitiff, but just as we were approaching within range he uttered an unearthly cry, and vomiting his spoils, made off heavily on wing.

Cormorants are often entangled and caught in fishing nets, and the birds of the year, with their white breasts, are considered by the fishermen to belong to another species, and have been sent to us as great rarities. A Cormorant, a short time since, was picked up dead, near Tenby, with an oyster clinging to and closing its mandibles. The bird was stuffed with the oyster, and is now at Bath. We have received the following particulars of this strange occurrence from Mr. C. Jefferys, of Tenby : — 

CORMORANT CAUGHT BY AN OYSTER.  “On August 22nd, 1892, the sea being somewhat rough for that time of year, the man in charge of the bathing-machines on the North Sands, Tenby, saw some 300 to 400 yards from shore, something dark which kept appearing and disappearing between the waves. Being unable to make out what it really was, and at first thinking it might be one of the bathers in danger, he took a boat and went out. Before reaching the object he saw it was a large bird, that appeared to be using every effort to rise from the water, and yet was unable to do so, its head being held down by some unseen weight. With a little trouble he secured the bird, and brought it to shore alive. It proved to be an adult Cormorant, weighing between 7 1/2 and 7 3/4 lbs., and attached to its lower mandible was a large oyster; which was afterwards found to weigh between 9 and 10 oz.

When the bird was brought me it was dead, but the oyster was still attached. It held to about an inch of the lower mandible, which in the bird’s fearful struggles to get free had broken off short, the only attachment between it and the bird being the skin of the throat, which had twisted up like a piece of catgut. The Cormorant, when diving for food, must have seized the open oyster, which closed on the bill. The bird was buoyant enough to bring the oyster to the surface, but was unable to rise from the water, and must eventually have been drowned, as it could with difficulty keep its head above the surface. Mr. A. K. Cunninghame, of Bath, who was on the shore at the time, purchased the bird from the man who obtained it, and brought it to me to set up.”

Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands

More about the Cormorant in Pembrokeshire