Friday, August 9, 2019

Possible Black-crowned Night Heron and Cormorants at Cheyenne's Holliday Park

The Mystery Bird at Cheyenne, Wyoming's Holliday Park. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I was photographing Cormorants at Cheyenne, Wyoming's Holliday Park when a woman walking behind me called out, "Hey, look what's beside you!" I turned to my right and just a few feet away I spotted this bird. I have never seen one before.

The woman stopped walking and told me she thought it resembled a penguin, and I agreed. We both stood and watched the bird in awe for a few minutes as it slowly turned its head to look at us. I suspected it was preparing to leave. I carefully took a picture, trying not to disturb it. I wanted it to stay as long as possible I wanted to "see" it more than photograph it so I could try and identify it later, but I am still trying to identify this bird!

Although blurry, it is my hope that this photo of the bird in flight might help in its identification. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

I believe it may be a Black-crowned Night Heron, but then again, this would be highly unlikely as according to Wyoming's wildlife resources and other bird pages the Black-crowned Night Heron is rarely seen in Wyoming. And yet, it does look very much like the photos online. These birds are found in many parts of the world, but some of the sources I found said they are rarely seen in Wyoming, while others said they are seen everywhere! 

A bit fuzzy due to distance, but this is a damselfly. The difference between a dragonfly and a damselfly is damselflies close their wings and dragonflies keep them spread open. They also have very different head shapes. Damselflies often resemble robots in my opinion. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

After it flew past me it circled the lake at Holliday Park then returned to perch on some rocks on the opposite side of the lake from me. It didn't seem to be in a big hurry to leave, so I suspect it may live there, or it may have been hunting. These birds sit very still at the edge of the water to search for prey and I did notice an unusual number of dragonflies and damselflies. I tried to photograph them, but couldn't get close enough because of the large rocks on the bank. 

Mute Swans at Veteran's Park in Greeley, Colorado. (Yes, they're real!) Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I've photographed birds that seemed "out of place" before and sometimes, when you ask for help online, you will receive strange replies. I photographed a pair of swans in Greeley, Colorado once and two women who live in Colorado wrote to accuse me of faking the photographs because "Swans are never seen in Greeley!" And yet, they were there in 2018, enjoyed for a brief time by nearby residents before they moved on. 

Perhaps this was a rare sighting of a Black-crowned Night Heron. Or maybe I have misidentified the bird and it is a more common and still spectacular local resident. Regardless, if you have any suggestions or identification information on the featured bird in the top photo, please leave a comment! I would love to hear from you! 

Cormorants at Cheyenne's Holliday Park. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I wasn't at the park with camera in hand to photograph the mystery bird. In fact, I was taking photos for nearly half an hour before I was told it was there. I was actually driving past the park when I noticed a large group of Cormorants sitting on a floating device in the center of the lake. They were too far away for "perfect" photos with the camera I had with me, but close enough for identification. I recognized them immediately because I've only seen them once before, again in Greeley, Colorado, at the same park where I photographed the swans. 

Cormorant taking off at Holliday Park in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I first learned about Cormorants when I photographed them from the movie Master and Commander: Far Side of the World. In the film, the doctor is constantly trying to find the opportunity to capture a rare, flightless Cormorant on the Gallapagos Islands. The birds I photographed in Cheyenne were skilled flyers! 

Cormorant at Holliday Park in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Believe it or not, there are 40 species of birds known as Cormorants. They have a wing span of three feet and range in size from 18 inches to 40 inches. They use their tails to prop themselves up, have hooked bills, and I've seen them perching on the very top branches of trees, so those webbed feet must be rather powerful! 

Cormorant in flight in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Cormorants are both freshwater and seawater birds and are found all the way up into Alaska and Quebec in North America. They are not monogamous. The male builds a nest then puts on quite a show to attract females. They do migrate and are considered endangered in the State of Wisconsin due to the use of DDT. 

I have no idea why I haven't seen them more often. They're hard to miss. They are a bit goofy-looking! Those who fish for their livelihood would notice their presence because they are considered a good luck charm. 

Sad as this sounds, many states allow people to shoot Cormorants if they are feeding on private lakes and ponds. You probably know what I have to say about that by now--if you don't want the wildlife, don't build the pond! Set out food and water and they will come. Shooting God's beautiful creatures for trying to stay alive is just wrong. If we limit our world to only allow the "pretty creatures" we will destroy that same world. 

A family of ducks at the park. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

There was also a family of ducks at the park, which oddly included babies of two different age groups. Perhaps this is common in Wyoming where the weather changes rapidly, spring is skipped completely, and summer is just a few months (we had our last snow in June). 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

This one doesn't appear to be as young as its siblings, nor does it appear to be an adult. And the young ones seemed small considering the time of year. But I can never resist taking pictures of ducks! Interesting note: At Holliday Park they have signs all over (and all over the City of Cheyenne, Wyoming website) warning people not to feed the ducks or geese. Wise advice.