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West Dunbartonshire has two main waterways - the Clyde and the Leven. The former is also the area's coastline as it becomes the Firth of Clyde and from there, the Atlantic. These, these together with various reservoirs, present great environments for water birds such as these. 

Both cormorants and shags are large, dark water birds. They are very similar, but the shag is found along the coast north of here and only very occassionally in inland waters. You are unlikely to see one in West Dunbartonshire. What you are very likely to see is a cormorant, usually alone, perched on a log or rock outcrop, wings held out to warm and dry them. 

While simply known to most of us as the "cormorant" to differentiate from other species found elsewhere it can be identified as the ‘Great cormorant’ or ‘Atlantic great cormorant’. It is the largest of all living cormorant species in Europe. However, a rarer, but an increasingly frequent visitor to Scotland is the continental great cormorant or sub-species Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis.

CORMORANTS : Phalacrocorax carbo carbo

They are quite large birds. What appears to be two different species is the slightly different colouration between the fully adult and the younger ones. The adults are black all over and the younger ones have a whitish or pale grey front. 

They are excellent divers, hunting for fish below the surface. This efficiency has meant they are disliked by fishermen. When resting they can be found perched on logs or rock outcrops, sometimes with their wings outstretched to dry and warm them.

They usually nest on cliff ledges, although sometimes also in large trees near expanses of water. While usually seen alone in our local waters, they may gather in large numbers. 

A pair of cormorants hunt for breakfast in the fast flowing water below the Leven barrage in September. Blink and they have disappeared.

You may notice that one is slightly lighter in colour than the other. This is indicative of it being younger.

You will usually see cormorants sitting on logs or rock faces. This young one decided to perch high up on a dead tree above the Leven, possibly to keep some distance from walkers on the towpath.

RSPB : https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/cormorant/

SCOTTISH WILDLIFE TRUST : https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/species/cormorant/

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