Those were my initial thoughts upon catching a glimpse of a large black-feathered and white-breasted mystery creature from across the pond. I entered the narrow opening through the shrubby growth that surrounds Niles Pond and inched my way closer to the sleeping bird, when up popped its head. Naturally not a penguin, it looked like some sort of cormorant, just not the ones we see on a daily basis on the shores of Cape Ann.
I later learned it was a Great Cormorant. As you can see from the photo below, in the early morning light and from a distance, its not hard to imagine a penguin.
With its white-feathered breast, this one is a juvenile. Great Cormorants, although widespread in much of the Old World, are generally only found in North America along the Atlantic Coast. Great Cormorants are described as heavy-bodied seabirds and larger than the usually seen Double-crested Cormorant. I watched him depart, his take-off was heavy and clumsy, but perhaps that was because he had awoken only moments earlier.
Compare the Double-crested Cormorant (above photo). Massing in great numbers as they fly along the Annisquam and Essex Rivers at this time of year, the Double-crested Cormorants are ubiquitous. They are a true North American species and breed, winter over, and migrate along the shores of Cape Ann.