Here at Seasons Above the Bay, we’ve always been for the birds. Without really acknowledging it, it seems to have been one of our themes from the beginning. For one thing, we’ve been surrounded by birdsong from the day we stepped into our garden, just 2 years ago.
Oh, how it struck me then! Memory took me back to childhood, and there I was, standing in a long ago garden. That whole first summer, I spent watching. And listening. I was mesmerized by the feeling that I’d been taken backwards in time.
The next summer, we became acutely aware of a different sound. A primordial sound, if you’ve never heard it. It was the sound of herons, nesting safely in a preserve about 100 meters away from our property. We never saw the nestlings, but the parents of those little critters were run ragged, from morning til night. At first, we were rather startled by the sight of what appeared to be swooping teradactyls, relentlessly fetching for their clacking offspring. We’ve learned that this goes on for months. Those baby herons have a good thing going, and they take every advantage of it.
What we didn’t expect was a surprise visit. I mean, we’re good with drop ins. Visitors seem to reach us at all hours. But when one of them casually asked, ‘Why do you have a heron in your front yard?’, I admit it: I was startled. Looking outside, I saw one of my neighbors signalling me wildly. ‘You’ve got a heron in your front yard,’ she pronounced as I peeked my head out the door.
The strange thing was that we realized we’d been misleading these herons all along. Didn’t we have a lovely effigy, in stained glass, just where that heron could spot it? Didn’t we have heron art, clearly visible from the front room window? All of this flashed through my mind as I went in search of the heron.
And there he was, lurking in the bushes, attempting invisibility. Poor fellow, he was clearly out of his depth, not to mention his nest. From his scuttling about, I could see that he was uninjured. What were we to do?
I tracked him for a bit, and noted the critical expression on his face, as he observed the decor, visible from the bedroom window, as he peered into our most exclusive suite. ‘Like you could do better,’ I muttered, self-consciously, as I watched him move away.
From there, Harry (as I suddenly realized I had named him) was off. He was going to do a full trek of the property, and inevitably, that meant he would encounter cats. Two cats. The chase was on.
Returning to the house momentarily, I knew the meeting of species had occurred when the most god-awful caterwauling rent the air. Alfredo, our orange, pint sized mighty mouser had crossed Harry’s path and was delighted with what he saw. Harry, on the other hand, saw an opportunity to begin kicking furry butt, and he set about it. There was something just and right about the result: one cat down.
It was then that we clearly knew we needed help. A call to our next door neighbors, more than checked out in the ways of both herons and injured or displaced wildlife, was made. I kept tracking Harry, and Harry kept trekking the property.
Meanwhile, keeping one eye on Harry, I couldn’t help but notice the madcap scene of our neighbors, creeping along the fenceline while brandishing flowing sheets in outstretched arms. Looking, as they did, more like errant trick or treaters than bird rescuers, I shook my head at the possibilities. I’d seen Harry’s work…. Poor Harry. Could this end well?
Meanwhile, Lucky, our second cat, having witnessed his brother’s inglorious and atypical trouncing, watched in dumbstruck terror as suddenly, Harry began approaching him from what he’d assumed was a well placed hiding spot. Not so much. Do you have any idea how well herons can see? I felt like a powerless mother, desperately egging on a hopelessly plump 5 year old in a Sports Day footrace, already lost. ‘For god’s sake, Lucky, RUN!!’ I shrieked from the sidelines. Lucky, meanwhile, eyes the size of saucers and a look of abject terror freezing his features, could do nothing to save himself. I noted, proudly, that at the very last second, he actually covered his eyes…….
It was, I admit, a collective breath that was caught, as Lucky lived to see another day. Choosing to pass him by, Harry was off once more. Now to the rose garden, over to the hedge, he weaved and dodged to his heart’s delight. There wasn’t a square inch of the property he didn’t cover, in his bid for freedom. By this time, five grown adults were scrambling to bring this caper to a good end. With sheets outstretched, many an attempt was made to safely cover little Harry’s head, for though he appeared fully grown, it was then we really understood the tenderness of his age. Poor Harry. Though he managed to resist our efforts, try as he might, his gallumphing leaps, and frenetic flapping were all in vain. No flight was achieved. And in the end, behind a hedging cedar, it all ceased as it had begun. Darkness had brought peace to Harry.
Did you know that all birds will stop struggling if their heads are concealed? The darkness seems to end the panic and they relax and allow themselves to be rescued. Harry went gently, into that good night.
After a series of phone calls, arrangements were made to transport Harry to nearby Crofton. Good neighbor, Kerrie, did the driving. From there, Harry received his first boat ride over to Salt Spring Island, where a peaceful rescue and recovery process could begin. Not a bad end for a curious heron.