The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 29, 2000

A Great Blue Heron Rescue

When the Mosquito heard of Ruth Toscano's experience with a Great Blue Heron, we asked her to write an article about it.

A few weeks ago, about 6:15 p.m. I backed my car out of the garage and started up the driveway. I wasn't very far from my front door when I saw what appeared to be a very large bird with a very long beak and a prehistoric look standing on the driveway. As I got closer it became obvious to me that it was a Blue Heron. I tried to shoo it away with my voice, but it wouldn't budge. My instincts told me to leave it alone and go out the other side of the driveway. (I was in a convertible with the top down.) About an hour later I returned and thought for sure it would have flown away. Well, it hadn't; it was still standing in the same spot.

As I approached the bird on foot, it turned, stumbled, and tried to run. Then I noticed one wing was hanging at an angle. At this point I called birder Don Stokes and the police for some advice. Stokes told me it was probably a juvenile out of the nest for the first time, lost and looking for fish or rodents. If it was still there in the morning, it was probably injured or sick.

Well, the next morning when I went out at 7:00 a.m. it was still there, but much closer to my front door. I went back inside and called the Massachusetts Audubon Society at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. They told me to call Barbara Boris who is a federally licensed wildlife rehab expert. I called her and left a message. Within 15 minutes she returned my call. After I explained my situation, she said "Don't go near it. They move like lightning and their beak is like a spear gun. They will go for your eyes. I'm on my way over."

I went back outside and waited at a safe distance as the heron drank from a puddle. Two crows were also watching.

Boris arrived very quickly and I felt a lot more at ease. After acknowledging my presence, she put on a large pair of goggles and leather gloves and carried a long stick with a loop at the end. Without hesitating and talking in a very quiet and soothing tone, she approached the heron. He in turn dove into the under-brush next to my running brook. She went in right after him. I heard a few squawks and out of the brush she came with this enormous bird tucked under her arm holding his beak with her fingers. She walked up to the front yard and laid him on the grass to examine him. He didn't struggle. Then she put him into a kennel carrier in the back of her SUV.

Boris called Tufts Medical Center from her cell phone and advised them she was on her way with a very weak and badly dehydrated Blue Heron. She very quickly asked me a few questions and filled out a report that I signed, then she left for Tufts located in Grafton, about an hour's drive.

I wish I could say there was a happy ending to this event, but there wasn't. Boris informed me that the bird had died two hours after arrival. The bird was subdued, but he was badly dehydrated and in shock. He was a juvenile, probably hatched this past spring either in April or May, and more than likely became separated from the flock and didn't know how to feed himself. He became land-locked on my property and literally starved to death. Herons are quiet birds and make very little sound. He was probably there for at least a week before I saw him.

Blue Herons are long-legged wading birds, and with the many wetlands in Carlisle there will probably be more of these "fishermen in flight" gone astray or injured in some way. If you come across a heron that is injured do not approach it. They can be very dangerous and will go for your head, specifically your eyes. It is against the law to capture any migratory bird i.e. herons, hawks, owls, etc.

In the case of my heron, his wing was not broken, but he may have flown into a tree because there was a two inch-long by 1/4 inch-thick piece of wood lodged in his wing. This would not have restricted his flight, since his legs were fine. Herons can take off from an almost upright position, I simply found him to late. I wish I had noticed him sooner and maybe the outcome could have been different. If you need help with a similar situation, please contact Barbara Boris at 1-781-272-5224.

· Scott Simpson of Judy Farm Road was the architect for a remodeled suburban Boston kitchen built in the 1905 Colonial Style house that belongs to Nobel Prize physicist Sheldon Glashow and his wife Joan G. This great kitchen was featured in the November issue of Traditional Home Magazine.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito