Pressed gently to my heart, swaddled in my sweater with only her head visible, the young Green Heron’s startling yellow eyes seem to hold ancient understanding of this land. She must be in pain, with two broken legs, but those eyes betray nothing. No hope, no fear, only an intense interest.
injured green heron just before capture. photo credit: Bertie Xavier
I brought my Guyanese friend, Bertie, to the Beaver Pond Forest part of the South March Highlands in Ottawa the morning of our Panel Discussion on Research, Transformation, and Indigenous Societies. Bertie, from rural Guyana, S.A., is his village’s leader (amongst many other roles!). It was important to bring him to this beautiful and vibrant old growth forest which is slated to be cut down by Urbandale and Richcraft to build yet more houses. Bertie has faced similar struggles. I hope his visit will make more connections between North and South to help find ways to protect vital, irreplaceable land like the South March Highlands.
We only have time for the loop around the Beaver Pond (sadly for Bertie, no beaver to be seen). We reach the road and head back towards the parking lot when we notice a small commotion in the forest just off our path. We investigate: it is an injured bird. Bertie identifies it as a kind of heron. At first it seems like a wing injury, then it becomes clear it is the legs.
What to do? Should we intervene? Or let Nature take her course? I struggle with this question. If we don’t help, is it really because “we shouldn’t intervene”, or just because we have a lunch appointment and are looking for an excuse to walk away from a fellow creature in pain?
“She’ll be fine,” offers Bertie. But I don’t think so.
“I think we should catch her. I’m pretty sure there’s a wild bird rescue place.”
“You have things like that here?!”
So Bertie wades further into the bush and grabs the heron, which I wrap into my sweater. It goes so smoothly, you could ALMOST be fooled into thinking we know what we are doing.
The sun shines but the breeze is cool as we walk to the car. I don’t dare take a hand off my charge, so Bertie mans the cell as I try to figure out where to take the heron.
who’s afraid of a little “incredible recoil action”? photo credit: Bertie Xavier
“Hi, we’ve just rescued an injured bird, some kind of heron…”
“OK, where are you?”
“Well, actually, I’m calling for directions so we can bring her…”
“You mean you caught the heron?!”
“Watch the beak, they’ve got incredible recoil action!!!”
I’m not exactly sure what the volunteer means, but it sounds worrisome that only my sweater is between my heart and this “incredible recoil action”. However, her beak is actually facing Bertie, on my left holding the cell to my ear. I warn him, but he’s pretty confident the heron is too injured to “fight up”.
The heron is calm for the 10 minute drive to the Wild Bird Care Centre. Once brought inside, it turns out she is a Green Heron, only the third to be brought into the Centre over the past 5 years. I find out about the policies there: they only rehabilitate if it looks likely the bird can be released back to the Wild. Two broken legs is not good. But the volunteer tells me to call back in a few days. At the very least, our intervention means the heron will get a gentle death.
I call the Centre on 14 Sept, anxious to find out the green heron’s fate.
Good News! The heron is doing well!!! The volunteer thinks the heron will recover in time to be released for the fall migration.
But will she have a home to return to?
It’s up to you. Ottawa City Council votes on 6 October 2010 on whether to save this land. Please tell your City Councillor to vote FOR buying/expropriating the Beaver Pond Forest.
Beaver Pond in the South March Highlands, Kanata, ON. Photo credit Rob Hambly, HamblyPhotography