Offshore, a slate-grey curtain of rain merges with the squalling ocean, surging right to left before veering shore ward. Out there near the blurred horizon, a distant ant-line of tiny flickering shapes appears and disappears over the spray-strewn rollers. A wavy formation of oncoming birds gradually resolves from the storm.
Flying perilously low over the water, they are obscured by a violently crashing breaker before miraculously cresting the next towering swell. There is something profoundly heroic about this dark squadron of cormorants, stoically returning to land after a day of foraging, a day spent exposed to the warring sea. Just before they make landfall, a searchlight of sun probes through the scudding clouds and smudges a watery rainbow across the sky, a fitting tribute to their safe return. Close now, their wings pumping powerfully in rhythmical symmetry, they pull in behind their leader, finally bringing them home. The formation endures an awkward transition as it flutters to the ground, each bird stumbling and pitching on arrival.
Almost before they are still, another skein of heroes hammers home over the coast, followed by more, each settling behind the other in an ongoing sequence of clumsy landings. Night is approaching and the cormorants form a spreading fluid swarm of straining bodies; a bulging black stain, big enough to blot out most of the sandspit at the river’s mouth.