Grebe-ous bodily harm? I’m not convinced. Calling all bird-fanciers… #england #canal #narrowboat

No, not that one, that’s a garden ornament and an owl (and it makes me think of Detective Columbo every time that I see it). I wonder if I could cobble together some sort of tatty old mackintosh for it to wear to complete the look?

The mystery bird is the one below…


Generally, if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck then it probablyย is a duck.

However, I am not so sure about this one.

It dived like a grebe, but… it was very large, very black (almost all over) and doesn’t match anything on my “Identifying Enemy Birds” wall-chart. I call it a grebe because it dived like one, disappearing under the water for a worryingly long period, and surfacing thirty yards and more away from its point of entry. It did this several times moving up the canal, and then it flew back in the direction from whence it had come. The take-off manoeuvre involved a lot of flying just above the water before finally gaining altitude.

The little devil certainly has the polarised vision (or some such) of under-water hunters, since he could see me right through my one-way windows. At one point he walked up the towpath alongside the Cardinal, but as soon as I moved to take a better photograph he was having none of it, gave me the avian bras d’honneur and took his leave.

Height, displaying as he was in the top photo? I’d guess at 60cms, with an extended sing-span of maybe 90cms. A sizeable beastie.

No obvious call.

He spent ten minutes on the towpath extending and flapping his wings as though to dry them, but surely a diving bird wouldn’t need to “dry” his wings?

Apologies for the quality of the photographs, but this was as close as the wee compact could get me, through glass and without moving (so as not to disturb him again).


Any and all ideas on a post-card please.

What the hecky-heckย is it?


Ian H.


  1. It is definitely a Cormorant. They are found near water not necessarily the sea. I have seen quite a lot of them recently and I know that they reside in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens where there is a lot of water. They sit with their wings ‘suspended’ and are then said to be hanging out their wings to dry.

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    1. That ties up with his standing about posing and flapping his wings, that was really odd behaviour I hadn’t seen before – mostly because I haven’t seen or noticed a cormorant before! By ‘eck, we get all types along the canal – just waiting for the hippos and the flamingos now… ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. I think you’re almost certainly correct, an off-pasture cormorant mayhap. I suppose that the weather and winds of late might have taken him away from his usual neighbourhood. ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. It’s like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom where you live. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I’m afraid I have no idea what kind of animal that is, but I’m leaning heavily in the large aquatic bird direction. Helpful, aren’t I?
    I used to identify a bird once. Well. I think I identified it. It’s hard to feel certain about it. But they do have an identifier wizard that is probably helpful.

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    1. Thanks for that, I’ve just now been through their wizard a couple of times, but I can’t pin it down. The clincher seems to be the almost totally black colouration and the size. He must have been out of his usual territory. If only I could have just knocked on the window and said ‘Please do excuse me, but are you…?’ ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Definitely more black plumage and a good, solid head and beak, although I couldn’t get close enough to look for the “hooked” end of the beak. I think that you chaps are probably right, and cormorant it was. ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. Fine photography and looking like the said creature is aware of your presence and is flirting with the camera! Not in the ‘know your birds’ catalogue led me to wonder if birds can cross the re
    productive divide, clearly weakening impervious gene. Any obvious clicking noises of the underwater drone type?

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    1. I think that the wee beastie was keeping a weather eye in my direction at all times, well aware that where there are long, narrow boats, there are people… Convincing consensus seems to be a cormorant, although he’d need to be out of his usual neighbourhood to be here. Not unheard of, I would imagine.


  4. Did you ‘fiddle’ with the pictures, making them resemble a water color painting? Because they look like that. So beautiful…

    “Grebe” Somehow, that word, has such a lovely, English sound to it. To me, that is….

    Do not know much of anything about birds, so I am of no help to you, there.

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    1. These photos were at the extreme end of mhy compact camera’s zoom-ability – the bird was wise to my every move, so I didn’t dare venture outside otherwise he would have been scared away and stopped from doing whatever it was that he seemed to need to do with the wing-flapping thing.

      Grebe is a gorgeous word, isn’t it? Some words just don’t have the right shape or colour or feel to match their subject, but “Grebe” is a good one! ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. Cormorant it looks like, maybe one that was off-course or just exploring in-land. It was just too big to be the usual grebe things that I see around here. ๐Ÿ™‚


        1. That’ll be the beastie then, I was initially discounting them because of the coastal preference, but they’re probably as confused as has been our weather and winds!


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