Shell Shocked: My new friend
It was a sickening sight. The poor little cormorant had landed in my backyard somehow. It was feeble and drained of energy. It walked slowly and then came to a complete stop. I filled a bowl with fresh water and went out to it. I put the bowl in front of him but he wouldn’t drink.
If it feared humans it didn’t seem to have the strength to either walk away or fly. It stood there staring into my face. We bonded but I felt helpless. I had no idea what to do. So I called CROW. I reported a sick cormorant. The person who answered the phone was obviously used to receiving such calls. That’s what CROW does. She asked me if I could wrap the bird in a towel and bring it over. I told her I couldn’t do that. I worried that I would pick the bird up incorrectly and hurt it even more. As it was I had no idea what was wrong with it.
She went to Plan B. She said she’d get one of CROW’s volunteers to come over and bring the cormorant to the CROW emergency room. I kept the bird company while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. I tried warbling to see if I would get a response. I tried singing “Bye Bye Blackbird” but I think I made the cormorant worse. So I shut up and waited, hoping that my physical presence would bolster the bird’s spirits.
It wasn’t an ambulance that arrived about 15 minutes later. It was an old Chevy and an elderly man with a net got out. He introduced himself as a CROW volunteer and gingerly placed the cormorant in the net. There was no resistance. He thanked me for my concern and said that CROW would do everything it could to restore the bird to good health. I asked him if he made emergency rounds for sick wildlife often and he said he did. He said his greatest joy was to help shepherd sickly wildlife to CROW in enough time for good health and a return to natural habitats to be restored.
I called CROW later that day to get an update on the status of the cormorant. I was told that it was touch and go and that it was possibly a case of red tide. My little friend and I had bonded and now I wished it a full recovery and a long fulfilling life in “Ding” Darling. I called CROW again two days later and learned that the cormorant didn’t make it. It had left this earthly life, hopefully for a far, far better place. I felt as if I had lost a member of my family. My meeting with the cormorant wasn’t a long one but I could swear that we had bonded and understood each other. The look in its eyes had told me that it knew it might not make it but was touched nonetheless by its new friendship with me.
I wondered who this frail and almost lifeless cormorant had left behind. I read that the cormorant mating season begins around April 1 and that nests are built shortly thereafter. Had this cormorant mated before its illness began? Does it leave behind a new generation of cormorants? Is it male or female?
And why was it all alone in my backyard? And how did it get there? So many questions. Goodbye, my cormorant. I don’t know the average age span of your species but I hope you had a good life flying around ‘Ding” Darling, hunting for fish in its waterways and raising a family. I will think of you and remember how you singled out my property to spend your final days born free. Thank you.
-Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is usually offered with a smile. But not this week.