Tiny Cormorants, Tinier Kingfishers


Am I the only one who wakes up on the plane at the end of a transoceanic flight completely, entirely, thoroughly, almost irretrievably discombobulated?

I stumbled out of the Venice airport this morning fully disoriented. Happily, the time it took me to walk the ever-widening circles required to find the car rental area was also the opportunity for the first of the day’s many score pygmy cormorants to fly over — and with that I was on my ornitho-feet again, reminded that I hadn’t landed just anywhere in Old Europe, but was on, indeed in, the Adriatic Sea.


I spent the day re-familiarizing myself with the area and the birds, and even got to witness two common kingfisher behaviors I never had before. I suspect that neither is rare, but it’s unusual that I get to linger over this bird, so often just an electric-blue flash and a nails-on-the-chalkboard squeak as it darts past on its way to one end or the other of its necessarily linear territory.

Today, though, I watched two different individuals hunting the “lagoon” at Lio Piccolo, a tiny insular peninsula or peninsular island with a single road so narrow that I could swear a time or two I was propelled merely by the rotation of the axles.


In any event, my slow progress was a chance to watch one kingfisher actually hovering over the water for a couple of seconds; it was less skilled than so many of the larger aquatic alcedinids are, but I was still impressed, especially since this was the first time I think I’d ever seen the species treading air at all.


Not long thereafter, I was more surprised to see a blue dot on a distant telephone wire: a common kingfisher, hunting from a perch far higher and far more exposed than I would ever have expected. Twice the little blue dart flicked its way down to the water, but twice it came up empty, no doubt to the amusement of the great cormorants hulking on the wires and poles around it.

A nice start to what is sure to be an exciting tour!