I’ve been researching shags at the moment. Oh okay, I’ve only said this for childish comedic effect. To puzzled non Brits who may be scratching their heads, a ‘shag’ is a slang phrase for making the beast with two backs, rumpy pumpy, hiding the sausage. Have I made myself clearer? But it’s also a member of the family of cormorants.
My interest is aesthetic. I think that an image of one of these birds might be stunning subject matter for a mosaic. However I have found out a little more from an ornithological perspective which I thought I’d share. If you’d prefer more sensible advice pop over to the RSPB website.
There are two species of cormorants in the UK, the shag (giggle!) and the helpfully named ‘cormorant’. While the shag is less common overall, and is indeed on the red list of bird species, I think that it might be the type that I often see popping up near me during my wild swims. Ooh, I don’t think that I’ve mentioned that I got a new wetsuit for Christmas from Hot Stuff. Accordingly to my beloved partner ones for ‘fat girls’ are as rare as rocking horse droppings at the moment, due to those supply chain issues. So I was pretty amazed that he sourced it. It was a lovely surprise. My old one is held together with neoprene glue and is on its last legs. The risk of popping out has increased proportionally with mince pie consumption.
I digress. Let’s get back to the difference between a shag and a cormorant. Well, it seems to be a bit tricky to tell unless you are an avid birder. Both look a bit prehistoric, have mainly black plumage and dive down to the depths doing goodness knows what for impressive lengths of time. Each species also do that cute thing where they hold their wings out to dry. The shag is smaller than the cormorant and mainly lives on the coast whereas its bigger cousin is more inclined to live inland. It has a smaller beak, a less angular head and a crest and different plumage. The general consensus seems to be that it’s prettier, if you’re into that type of thing.
‘So what’s the one in the picture, Lovely Grey?’ you might be asking. I still haven’t got a clue but I’ll hazard a guess that it’s a common and garden cormorant. By coincidence, after I’d written this post to schedule ahead I spied this lot down at the harbour.