The Intrepid Cormorant of Mel Tor Pool
Stef, Honey and I wander up past Sharrah towards Mel Tor Pools. As we pick our way through the undergrowth, Stef exclaims and points: ‘Look! A Cormorant!’ I’m slightly confused, thinking she must mean a Heron…She sees my disbelieving look and tells me she’s wearing her contacts. I look again, and perched on a rock in mid-stream is indeed a rather handsome Cormorant. He throws a few poses as we creep up on him, cameras at the ready, and begins to vibrate his throat and exercise his impressive hooked beak. Stef tells me about her friend who had his hand badly lacerated by a Cormorant while swimming wearing a wetsuit; the bird probably mistook it for a fish. She puts her hands in her pockets.
We check our Cormorant over; although they do come inland, I’ve never seen one this far from the coast. He doesn’t look unwell or injured and is apparently sunbathing. These birds look black in the sea, but here I can pick out his beautiful grey and tan plumage, his orange 1960s lipstick, and the fish-scale markings on his wings. Eventually, having worked his way through his full repertoire of model postures and improbable yogic neck-manoeuvres, and had his photo taken from every angle, he flies casually upstream.
We dump our kit on the bank and wade across the river in swimsuits and bare feet. The water is pretty heavy and Honey struggles to stay away from the cascade so I have to keep grabbing her. We make it across and scramble up to the main pools over squidgy leaf-mould, occasionally stopping to remove a holly leaf from a foot. The water is unfortunately too high so we climb back and shoot down the long pool with the current. Our Cormorant, who I think I shall name Livingstone, is again perched on his rock; as we approach he flies off, downstream this time. I swim back over with Honey and keep nudging her upstream so she makes it safely to the bank.
We stop to play at Sharrah on the way down, of course. A couple of Yellow-Banded Dragonflies swoop overhead, bright against the blue sky. On the far bank where the gorge rises sheer above the river is a small grotto where water still pours after the recent rain. It drips from the hanging vegetation, while light splays from the river’s surface and reflects in dancing ripples on the wet rock. ‘Beautiful Desmoiselle’ damselflies scoot above the glowing amber water in the sunlight, metallic turquoise wings flashing. A yellow wagtail bobs on a rock nearby.