Another beautiful day in paradise. It's extra hot and the beaches are already packed. The tide was going out and the shoreline was quickly starting to get exposed making it inviting for the shorebirds to come and see if they can grab some tasty treats. When the tide goes down at the San Elijo Lagoon, the shoreline becomes a busy hunting place for shorebirds feeding on the exposed mudflats or diving birds taking advantage of shallow waters to use their perfected hunting tactics to scare up some tasty meals. One Osprey appeared to only to get a good morning dip instead of a meal.
As I walk past the visitor center, I notice an Osprey circling and it is getting ready to dive. Oh my, I'm going to miss the one shot I have been waiting to catch... the Osprey's moment of entrance into the water!
From where I was standing the point of impact will be blocked by the railing of the viewing deck. All I can do now is make a run for the observation deck and hope to capture the moment when the Osprey comes to the surface, maybe he will have a fish.
By the time I reach the deck to view the Osprey's impact zone, all there is to be observed is the splash.
The Osprey is underwater quite a while, maybe he caught something but couldn't hang on to it. He comes up empty taloned. But it must feel refreshing on a hot summer morning.
As the tide keeps going out, the water recedes more leaving the main part of the tide channel mostly exposed and the water only a few feet deep. At this stage of low tide the activity in and around the water sometimes becomes intense with birds taking advantage of the shallows to grab some nice fish passing through the tide channel. A Double-crested Cormorant has arrived in the exact spot that the Osprey had been diving for his meal just a short while ago. He spots something and appears to chase it running on water.
Hunting by sight...
Going for the chase.
Snorkeling. Probably scaring the fish out of hiding.
The chase is on and quite a commotion is going on underwater. The Cormorant has not surfaced yet!
He finally comes up and he has himself a nice big breakfast: California Halibut, Paralichthys californicus.
The fish is fighting and the Cormorant uses his beak like combination vice and claw hammer. He pierces the fish in its vitals.
Keeps biting in the area of the gills and head.
Now positions the fish for swallowing.
We get a good look at the beautiful young halibut that he has captured.
Ripping through his gills with the sharp point of his beak.
Chomping and gripping with his vice-like beak he takes the fight out of the prey fish.
Now for the swallow.
Neck stretched to use the gravity to his advantage as the fish slowly goes down the Cormorant's throat.
The Cormorant gulps and forces the fish into his mouth.
Getting the wide part of the fish to pass his mouth opening is the most difficult part but once he can close his mouth over it, he can use all the neck muscles to keep pushing the fish towards his crop.
And we can see the fish passing his mouth opening down to his crop.
The Cormorant is really working his neck muscles and compressing the fish to move it further towards his stomach.
Oh... this must be very uncomfortable!
Yup, I would say this is really really uncomfortable! LOL... he looks more like a cobra snake that just swallowed a pig.
The Cormorant keeps working his neck muscles to move the fish down to his digesting area.
He struggles a bit more, twisting and turning his body.
He rests for a few moments maybe getting some liquid down his throat to push his prey further down. Soon he swims away following the tide channel north to a quiet place probably to digest this nice size meal he just devoured.
During all the activity of the Cormorant this little Black-necked Stilt flies in to investigate the mudflats.
He pokes around a few minutes but seems anxious about being in such an exposed area all by himself. Stretches and appears to want to fly.
I get a nice pose and we get to see that the black feathering on his back has a beautiful iridescence .