Thursday 9 January 2014

A Sculpin and Two Shags

On 5 January 2014 I was parked on the South Side Road by the mouth of St. John's harbour. I was scanning for a Red-throated Loon that had gone on the missing list since a great west wind two days previous. Great Cormorants are a standard feature during the winter in St. John's harbour. I noticed one nearby was playing with a fish. A large fish.  I got the camera ready for the classic shot of a cormorant throwing its head back and letting a fish slide down its gullet. But the fish was a sculpin.  Cormorants are experts at swallowing sculpins down spines and all but this big? 

The adult Great Cormorant played with the fish for more than ten minutes.

The fish was more than it could handle.

The bright colours help identify the fish as a Four-horned Sculpin.

The fish would not go down side ways, right side up or upside down.

Then without warning an immature Great Cormorant popped upright underneath the adult with the fish. The fish changed hands so quickly it was not until I reviewed the photos that I realized the original cormorant had lost the fish. 
The young cormorant wasted no time getting the thorny fish down.  Did it hurt?


  1. Neat! Excellent photos of an intriguing sequence.
    Thanks for posting these and your other reports..
    Jack C.
    Port Republic, NJ

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  3. Amazing pics Bruce - easy to forget what a colorful fish sculpin can be!

  4. Amazing captures and blog here! I initially noticed your "Comorants and Sculpin" shot.

    Wow that looks like a big/spiky and real beautiful (I can't help but pity it some!) caught between two hungry mouths! So in the end the young bird really managed to win the three-way battle and gulp that entire thing down (that long/skinny neck!) okay?? Does the fish put up a good fight, if eaten, does the unlucky prey get swallowed wriggling all they way as well?!



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