Who you callin’ bird brain

Waking up to a dreary December morning, still half asleep, stumbling out to fill the bird feeders. I shocked a great blue heron into flight. It had been a motionless giant by the pond just moments before. Now, berating me with it’s harsh squawks as it flew onto a neighbour’s roof. It was definitely the highlight of birds visiting to feed that day, except sadly there was no feed for him.

  • Jan. 20, 2011 9:00 a.m.
A hungry heron hovers over the fish pond.

A hungry heron hovers over the fish pond.

Waking up to a dreary December morning, still half asleep, stumbling out to fill the bird feeders. I shocked a great blue heron into flight. It had been a motionless giant by the pond just moments before. Now, berating me with it’s harsh squawks as it flew onto a neighbour’s roof. It was definitely the highlight of birds visiting to feed that day, except sadly there was no feed for him.

Barely indoors, grabbing a steamy cup of black coffee, I wandered to the indoor comfort of our living room window to enjoy the various thrush, towhees, juncos, warblers, and multiple species of sparrows invading the premises to feed, only to be quickly scattered by Mr. Jiggs, our neighbourly cat who has a fetish for birds. Happily Mr. Jiggs was unsuccessful. Mr. Jiggs has always understood my feelings about his feeding forays knowing that I could develop a taste for barbequed cat. Catching a glimpse of me, he quickly bolted from the premises.

It wasn’t long before all the fair feathered friends returned accompanied by the motionless giant of the shallows, the great blue heron. In a way I felt sorry for the heron. The pond had been designed by experts to be impenetrable to raccoons, cats, and herons. He could only wander about the pond in an effort to figure how to get at the fish.

The following morning saw ice on the pond with our prehistoric Airbus standing on the ice, looking down at the fish. I hated bothering him, but the other birds needed their daily rations. We went through the same squawking as the morning before, but it was still a pleasant surprise.

By midday the ice had melted and the heron remained viewing the fish, by late day a bit of concern crept in as the heron had been with us for 2 days without feeding. After 8 years a heron had finally discovered the pond, and this heron would starve due to a pond designed by experts to be heron-proof. It was a bird brain versus the high-tech expertise of man.

By day three the heron remained vigilant by the pond. You know the routine, fill feeders and squawking. Except, this time, I wandered over to the pond to check up on the fish. Much to my chagrin our first and largest koi was gone. Panic set in. It was off to the hardware store to build a chicken wire hatch to place over the pond. Before the hatch could be installed a second fish was snatched while I was at the store. So much for the experts.

As for Mr. Jiggs, he likes picking on small birds, but where was he to deal with the heron? You know the saying. The enemy of my enemy, must be my friend. The wire hatch has worked, and Mr. Jiggs did finally chase the heron, who returned for a last visit, a tad bit late. Barbequed cat is still on the menu. Now if he had protected the fish, maybe, just maybe you could forgive the odd foray, and barbequed cat would be taken off the menu.

Lawrence Woodall is a longtime naturalist who lives in Port Hardy.

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