Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

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cormorants ate the one that got away

After I did a spot of office organization and we ate a dose of soup, we headed to McKinney's Towne Lake Park for a nice walk. The day was very warm, well over 70, and the lake was alive with birds. We saw dozens upon dozens of sea gulls, some ducks and geese, and a large number of cormorants.

Cormorants are incredible aquatic fishing birds. The double crested cormorant winters on a lot of Texas lakes. I googled about for a picture to show here. (I didn't find one I liked--so think big black goose-sized bird, with a yellow pointy bill instead of a duck/goose bill). As a result of that search, I read a world of websites about fishing groups across the country calling for cormorant control because the cormorant does its job fishing far too well.

These ecological issues do not lend themselves to snap judgments. In so many states, the deer population is out of control, because people essentially extinguished the local predators. In light of this situation, and the population explosion of deer in some areas,deer control has proven to be arguably desirable. The hunter comes to substitute for all the predators already hunted out. Predator reintroduction will help, but until then, deer control has a purpose. I never hunt, but I don't castigate deer hunters, either (of course, reasonable minds differ).

In Texas, all lakes of any size but one--huge, swampy Caddo Lake--are man-made. So part of the reason we have so much cormorant habitat is that we created a lot of artificial cormorant habitat. People love to fish and boat on lakes, so lakes were built. As the game and fish departments intended to create bass habitat, not cormorant habitat, the resulting cormorant explosion in Texas is one of those ironies of tinkering with nature. Tamper with mother nature, and you may meet a black water bird.

The cormorant, like the heron, the eagle, the Canadian goose, and the pelican, benefitted from the ban on DDT. Those who rail against environmental laws should simply visit any lake or pond in Texas. Tons of fish-eating species driven nearly to extinction by DDT have been rejuvenated by this simple ban. In the case of the double-crested cormorant and the Canadian goose, the numbers of individuals arguably over-populate the habitat.

I go fishing a number of times a year, catching sunfish and throwing them back into the water. I rarely bass fish anymore, except as incidental catch. Indeed, my fishing, as with any damn thing I do, cannot be described in any grandiose terms, because on fresh water I use worms and a plastic bobber, while on salt water I am apt to dangle cut squid near the bottom in hope that a mackerel will bite. So I am not a "sport fishing" guy who worries about catching the perfect bass, nor am I so pleasingly green that I decline to go fishing altogether. I'm just a person of roughly no skills who enjoys watching birds and catching sunfish. I do not know what I am talking about when it comes to these complex issues.

But I must say that in the great debates of life, I am pro-cormorant. I think we need more fishing birds and fewer large bass boats in this world. It's not that I know anything about anything watery--I just know a cool bird when I see it. Cormorants are cool. Why are they cool, you might ask? Well, cool is as cool does, and what could be more cool than standing on stumps in the middle of the water, eyes searching while fishing, looking for all the world like a 70s disco king trolling for companionship? One can see a cormorant at work, and hear some pathetic but trendy Gibb brother (RIP Maurice) singing "Night Fever".

We passed by a tall oak tree standing next to the water today, its leaves having long ago fallen. On the highest branch on that tree, three huge cormorants stood with their wings outspread, drying in the sun. Perhaps they had secret designs upon the catch and release trout that had been released into a section of the little urban park lake. Perhaps they were awfully numerous. But my view of the world that is diversity is important, and bass fishing can accomodate hip cormorant buddies.

Tonight we went to McKinney's San Miguel restaurant for dinner. Now that I am back on a proper eating program, I remember that I eat just about as well without the grease as I did previously. I wish it had not taken me weight gain to remember this lesson, but I learn sometimes by seeing my folly made flesh. As we walked in the parking lot behind the restaurant, a barn owl flew overhead. We see great horned owls from time to time, but we do not see the cute little barn owl so often. Both owls are among the many birds saved by the DDT ban. Thank goodness mouse hunters don't have a lobby, or I'd have to worry about clamors for barn owl control.

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