Hi Nick WB,
I must confess to not taking too much notice of Cormorants and generally don't keep records in my notebook concerning this species. I haven't visited the site at all this winter period but recall that Canada Farm Lake used to be a particularly favoured spot for Cormorants to concentrate. I've been present at the site many times at dusk and my recollections are that birds arrive here quite late in the day and I had assumed (wrongly perhaps?) that they also remained there to roost. I certainly don't recall seeing any substantial evening processions of birds heading towards the coast. Perhaps someone who has visited Canada Farm Lake more recently can comment?
Many thanks Steve and Nick,
Canada Farm lake is indeed a favoured spot during the day (as are the Chew Valley lakes). However I normally see Cormorants flying into the Chew valley from the West around 8-8.30 am, depending on the time of year. In the evening, they leave just before dusk.
This last week, I have been filming and recording Starlings and notice a similar patter at Shapwick, with Cormorants leaving singly or in pairs at early dusk and heading West. Nick's suggestion of Durleigh and the Weston Zoyland area make sense, as does another suggestion of Steep Holm by Roger Musgrove on twitter.
Cormorants are a bird I have filmed a great deal over the last year or two and I find their habits are fascinating. Much maligned for their fish consumption, they are intelligent and rather beautiful close up (perhaps in a sinister way?). I am trying to build up further knowledge of the 'English', predominantly coastal population (Carbo Carbo), as most research has been done on the continental incomers to the Eastern Counties, Carbo Sinensis.
Whilst it is usual for up to 20 birds to be present at Durleigh reservoir during the day, as dusk approaches numbers are swelled by birds flying in to roost.Just recently I have counted 47 individuals here.I have noticed that birds seem to arrive from all directions,so are presumably coming from various feeding grounds.Also most individuals seem to arrive singly, not in groups.
The trees at the western end of Durleigh res.seem to act as a communal roost for various species.At the moment c.700 Woodpigeons,75 Stock Doves, 500 Jackdaws,several hundred other corvids and a few Grey Herons are using the site on a nightly basis.
I think a trip down to Durleigh is in order. In some ways, I am surprised that the birds are making the journey to roost in another inland location as both Canada Farm and the Chew Valley offer safe roosts and 'community'
The cormorants were roosting on Canada Lake at the end of December - I don't have my notebook with me but there were well over 100 one evening just after Xmas, with birds arriving from all directions, including from the west.
In previous years, the big roost in this area was a mile or two west of Catcott Lows, on one of the big electricity pylons.
A mid afternoon visit to Catcott Lows car park hide and watching until dusk will, as Dave says, reveal Cormorants in large numbers arriving from all points of the compass, as they have been doing for the last couple of years, birds are now showing breeding plumage, birds from the west are usually following the South Drain eastward then they break off S. East over the Lows to drop into the dead trees in Canada Farm Lake.
I was going to say this is puzzling in view of my observations of the birds flying out of Canada in the evenings last week, but the birds now have breeding patches on, so perhaps they are spending days inland and heading to Durleigh reservoir or Steep Holm for nesting purposes?
Last year I was filming Carbo Sinensis, the European incomers, at Fairburn Ings, Yorkshire and the birds were nesting on the reserve, but flying out during the day to feed.
I'd love to know more about these fascinating birds.
Apologies Alan, our posts crossed
A glance through the pages of the latest County bird report, Somerset Birds 2013, reveals that the previous breeding colony at Noah's Lake, Shapwick Heath NNR, had moved completely to Canada Farm Lake, where 21 nests were observed on March 29th.
Prior to this, before the collapse of most of its water-logged dead trees, the breeding colony on Noah's Lake in 2010 was 25 nesting pairs, which quickly reduced with the loss of suitable nesting trees, the colony moving to Canada Farm Lake.
Regarding roosting, before the loss of the trees at Noah's Lake, large numbers roosted here, 123 in Jan and 115 in Dec 2009, and I personally watched the roost build up during the last hour of daylight on several occasions. Not sure if any proper roosting counts have been done at Canada Farm Lake, but have seen c.60 there an hour before darkness, with birds still arriving, in winter 2013/2014, and the 2013 report shows a count there of 93 in Oct.
A good reminder to check out Canada farm lake for the Cormorant nests in the next few days - along with a planned visit to Steep Holm at the end of the week to see the activity on the Northern cliffs.
A long time since this thread was started but a brief trip out the middle of the Bristol channel answered my own question.
While there are breeding birds at Canada lake and other locations around the Somerset levels, the bulk of local Cormorants arrive in the morning are coastal breeding.
Numerous times, especially in winter, I have seen groups of Cormorants fly out from the Chew Valley lakes as the light starts to fade. They fly out in the direction of Weston Super Mare and while the Canada lake hypothesis was possible, it didn't really make sense.
A trip to Sand bay at the right time of day suggested I might be correct, as the birds head out directly for the two mid-channel islands. In late May, I was fortunate to get a place on the first visits the year to Steepholm (which I can highly recommend for birders). On the Western side of the island, there is a sizeable breeding colony of Cormorants (Carbo carbo, not Carbo sinensis). I estimate flying time to the Chew Valley to be 15-20 minutes making the 'commute' to the rich feeding grounds, with abundant trout, perfectly feasible.