STOREY’S BEACH—Four weeks after limping to a stop in front of a passing cyclist, a young heron was released back into the wild Friday after a four-week stay with the Mountain Avian Rescue Society in Courtenay.
Veronika Valentova was surprised by the bird while riding her bike near the pavilion behind one of the ballfields at Beaver Harbour Park June 15.
“All of a sudden this bird left out of the bushes and passed three or four feet in front of me,” said Valentova. “I stopped and watched, then realized he was injured and was probably a baby bird that fell out of a tree or something.”
Valentova called the Conservation Officer Service, who said they would try to put her in touch with somebody closer to her area.
“They were not able to find anyone, so they asked if we were able to catch the bird and send him on a plane to the rescue centre in Courtenay.”
Valentova called her husband, Mike Andre, who helped her collect the bird and place it in a box. With the next flight out not until the following day, and concerned about the bird’s viability until then, the couple called MARS and asked if they could meet halfway down then highway to hand over the bird.
After a short negotiation, the couple drove to Sayward, where the heron was transferred. On Wednesday, the centre called them back saying the bird was flying and ready to be returned home, and the drive to Sayward was repeated on Friday morning for the pickup.
Andre and Valentova went straight to Storey’s Beach to release it. Parking in the lot between the ballfield No. 3 and the waterfront park, Andre removed a plastic tote with a sheet of cardboard taped over the top, walked it onto the ballfield and placed it on the ground behind second base.
“They wanted us to release him as close to where we found him as possible,” he said. “But I don’t want to release him right beside the road.”
For a long second after Andre pulled back the cardboard nothing happened. Then a narrow head with a long beak popped up for a look around, and immediately afterward the heron flapped its way out of the tote trailed by a pair of long, dangling legs.
Initially the bird appeared headed toward the tall trees beyond first base and the road behind it, but it veered left and fluttered into right field before coming to a stop and examining its surroundings.
With several cars parked at the nearby waterfront and more driving up and down the road, Andre and Valentova hoped to get the bird away from human activity. The bird seemed content to walk, so the couple circled around to steer it toward the ballfield entrances on either side of the backstop behind home plate.
After walking along the first base line, the bird detoured through the dugout before eventually being coaxed out of the field and into the parking lot. Andre continued pressing the heron, which first flew a short distance onto the grass of the park, then, apparently getting comfortable with its wings, sailed the entire length of the park before landing near the trees beyond the curling arena.
Valentova proclaimed it a happy ending, while Andre expressed cautious optimism.
“I’m hoping he can get himself into a safe place before the dogs come,” he said.