The Sunday before last as I walked to the river I saw a cormorant overhead flying eastwards. They are sinister looking things and I’ve never admired them. Mind you, I don’t hate them with the passion some folk do.

I can’t think when I first saw one, but it is likely to have been inland because trips to the coast were rare when I was growing up.

From my earliest days I recall that there was a cormorant on Noggin the Nog that went by the name of Graculus.

This appears to be an historic name for the genus, or at least for a genus. Graculus perspicallatus (syn. Phalacrocorax perspicillatus), the Spectacled, or Pallas’s Cormorant is an extinct bird that lived on Bering Island in the Bering Sea. Perhaps it was this icy ancient avian that gave the cartoon cormorant its name.

But it may be more complicated that that. Graculus is Latin for jackdaw, is somehow linked to starlings and is the Specific epithet for the Alpine, or Yellow-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus).

There’s obviously a story as to why Noggin’s bird had its name, but I hesitate to try and find it – it’s the sort of thing you go looking for on the internet, only to find after some hours submersed in the ephemeral trivia of vintage TV, that you have not found what you were looking for, but have emerged with a far greater amount of (pointless) knowledge about long-gone kids’ telly programmes than you had at the time you were actually watching them.

I haven’t seen a cormorant for ages, though not as long as it’s been since I’ve watched Noggin the Nog. So, it seemed like a coincidence that I came across this three days later in an old book of comic & curious verse:.

The Common Cormorant.

The common cormorant or shag

Lays eggs inside a paper bag.

The reason you will see no doubt

It is to keep the lightning out.

But what these unobservant birds

Have never noticed is that herds

Of wandering bears may come with buns

And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.

Anon

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