About a year ago we had an unexpected visitor. He was tall, dark and handsome. He was a blue heron. We had never seen such a large bird in our backyard, so we were curious about him. I often observed a blue heron wading in a nearby creek, so I was excited to see it up close. Then, it dawned on us. This big fella was coming to eat our fish! We have a small pond in the back yard with about 80 gold fish ranging in length from 2 to 8 inches. “Go away!” I shouted, only after I had snapped a couple of photos of this beautiful predator.
Over the next couple of weeks, we realized that we had become a regular stop for our long-legged visitor. A couple of times I caught him gracefully stepping out of our pond. I feared that all the fish were gone. And, my fears seemed justified. Before our daily visitor came, whenever we approached the edge of the pond, dozens of fish would come slurping up to the surface in anticipation of food. Now when we approached there was complete stillness, and all we could see were the maple leaves that covered the bottom of the pond. This was not a good sign.
As the weather got colder, the visits from the big bird became less frequent and we were able to see that most of the fish still lived happily under the temporary safety of the ice. But, a few weeks ago, our blue heron came back. We developed a daily ritual. We would spot him through one of the windows and run out hollering. He would flap his huge wings and slowly rise over the rooftop of a neighbor’s house. Friday, when I was out for my run, I saw him flying through the neighborhood, and he was headed in our direction. I almost turned around but just accepted that he will fish in our pond whenever we’re not home.
How could we keep this bird away from our yard? And, what happened to his natural food source that he was now forced to forage in dangerous environments where there are people, dogs, cats and cars? We thought about some kind of motion alarm but were really at a loss for what we could do.
Today, right as we were finishing breakfast, we spotted our feathered stalker roaming through the yard. My husband ran out, yelling. This time, rather than flying off, the bird awkwardly flapped his wings and ran towards the farthest point in the yard. He was injured. My husband continued to shoo him from a distance and the bird simply found a spot to hide in, behind a tree next to the fence. His behavior was quite troubling and indicated that he was seriously hurt. Our mission changed entirely. Now, instead of shooing him, we were concerned for his health and well-being.
We called several places and found out that animal control will come if the animal poses a danger to humans. We also found out that the wildlife rescue league will help with information and contacts but you have to transport the animal to a clinic or a rehabilitator. Before I had time to digest the information, my husband went outside and in less than twenty seconds, had the bird pinned down and was inspecting its injured wing. The bird was bleeding and the wing bone was broken. I found a box, punched a few holes in it, and we prepared the bird for transport. But to where? The poor bird looked terrified and it was clear that he was in pain.
We didn’t know where to take him and waited to hear back from our nearest wildlife rehabilitator. I also called our vet who told us to call wildlife rescue and advised that we don’t catch the bird. I didn’t volunteer to the person on the phone that we already had. The phone rang and it was the rehabilitator. She could not take him but told us to call the Pender Vet Clinic. When I told her that we had the bird ready for transport, she was surprised. She told us that they were dangerous and could poke an eye out with their strong beak, and that handlers wear masks for this reason. I looked at my husband in disbelief. I told him that he was my hero and thanked God he was not hurt.
We handed our injured buddy over to the good people at Pender. We signed away our rights and responsibilities so we will not know if the bird is going to be okay or if he was euthanized. But, we worry about the blue heron who was just doing what blue herons do – fish. We worry that something has happened to his natural habitat and that he has to risk life and wing just to get his sustenance. We worry that more wildlife will crash with humanlife, and not survive.
Every year we’ve lived in our house, we’ve had an animal visitor. Badgers, raccoons, mallard ducks, a bat, – even a coyote has come through here, but only as casual passerby’s. But, our beautiful blue heron has left an impression because he came regularly. Does the future restrict wildlife to zoos and preserves? Will we even have wildlife in the future? I think about my role in this blue heron’s fate. Our man-made fish pond, that beautifies our home and raises its buyer appeal, also creates a danger to wild water fowl and brings them to unfamiliar territory, where they can be injured or killed. We don’t know how the blue heron was injured but perhaps it would not have happened if we didn’t have a fish pond. I pray that our blue heron friend will survive and return to its natural habitat.
PS. To donate to the Wildlife Rescue League, a nonprofit organization, which was very helpful to us and our blue heron friend, go to: http://www.wildliferescueleague.org/
Also, to find out more about thePenderVetCenter, where they kindly took the injured blue heron, go to http://www.pendervet.com/pender-exotics-veterinary-centre.html