[Tweeters] Cormorants and Queen Anne Parks

Don McVay dmcvay at cmc.net
Mon Dec 28 10:31:55 PST 2009

December 27, 2009, we walked around Queen Anne on a cold clear day. Along the ship canal between 3rd Ave West and the Fremont Bridge we observed the usual several hundred Double-crested Cormorants roosting in the tall Poplar trees on both sides of the canal.

We have reported this phenomenon in previous posts to Tweeters, but since this morning was below freezing, we wondered about aestivation in large birds. The cormorants typically become active shortly after dawn and return to the Poplars before dusk. They roost as high as possible in these 100+ foot poplars on exposed limbs 10-16 hours in the dark with below freezing temperatures, wind, rain and snow blowing down the ship canal.

Response to Hyperthermia is obvious with the spread wing posture for thermoregulation in Cormorants. During colder temperature with no activity we assume that a counter-current mechanisms and some kind of reduced metabolism for facultative hypothermia must exist in the Phalacrocoracidae. They do not seem to huddle for warmth as in some species. Can anyone enlighten us on this phenomenon in this family?

Further along Westlake Avenue we did the Galer Street Hill Climb to Taylor and proceeded to Trolley Hill Park and MacLean Park that are bounded on the West by 5th Avenue North and on the East by Aurora Avenue north overlooking Lake Union on the top of Queen Anne Hill. These two parks are joined together to form 35-acre urban deciduous forest and were formerly part of the Wilcox Farm and the Lake Union Golf Course.

Poplars, Alders and Maples dominate the trail through these two parks with a few conifers. The understory has the typical native species of Snowberry, Sword Ferns, Yews and Shore Pines. Seattle Parks has done a great job eliminating most of the invasive plants: English Ivy, Himalaya Berries, Scotch Broom Butterfly Bush and Laurel.

Birds observed on this short trail:

American Crow
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Steller’s Jay
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned kinglet
Black-capped Chickadee
Band-tailed Pigeon
Song Sparrow
Bewick’s Wren
Winter Wren
American Robin
Northern Flicker
Anna’s hummingbird
Dark-eyed Junco
House Sparrow

Don and Sandi McVay
dmcvay at cmc.net

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