A great blue heron tests the waters of Kalamalka Lake. (Carla Hunt photo)

LETTER: Vernon’s Great Blue Heron a gift

To the editor:

These big birds belong to nature, as does all wildlife. We are not meant to bring them any harm. They are not ours to possess.

Vernon’s Great Blue Herons are for everyone to enjoy.

Being the property owner of the herons’ annual nesting site requires a lot of love, physical labour and personal expense. Civic taxes, liability coverage, surveillance costs and weed control are necessary for achieving a positive outcome here. Our family takes these responsibilities seriously. I write annual reports which are essential for doing comparisons from one year to the next.

We are grateful for the much needed emotional support we continue to receive. We do not take it for granted now and have never taken it for granted in the past.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created multiple challenges for humanity. Vernon’s Great Blue Heron Colony experiences natural challenges each and every day. Incidents which occur in the heronry are in the “raw.” They range from truly sad (chicks being eaten by eagles, nests blowing down, etc.) to up-lifting joys (herons returning to build/renovate nests, chicks first poking their heads above their shelters, parents’ feeding routines, “chicksters” scrapping over who receives the most, juveniles doing wing-exercises, etc.).

Eagles devouring chicks is harsh. Hawks harassing the colony, causing nests to be vacated at vulnerable times, is very upsetting to witness. Assorted egg thieves cause damage. When nests full of newly-hatched off-spring are tossed to the ground in a sudden gale, it is tragic. Watching a juvenile, incapable of fledging, take a fatal fall, makes a bystander feel helpless.

Siblicide is a sad tale, too. When an adult with a nest full of chicks dies, the mate left to cope with its growing, hungry, feathered-family struggles to keep up. Young in that situation wait hours between feedings, and that tugs at one’s heart-strings.

On July 1, 2016, a beautiful adult heron, with three bullet holes in it, was left at Vernon Heronry’s front gate…a wicked act by a cruel person. There are humans who stand-up for environmental causes. More are needed. Often it is the uninformed few who cause problems for these innocent creatures, sometimes, unintentionally.

By observing the Great Blue Heron from a respectful distance with binoculars, we can learn a great deal.

Each and every heron is unique in behaviour, despite attire which makes them hard to tell apart. These birds find little privacy in their high-rise Cottonwood nests, until after foliage fills-in. When they are in natural spaces, at ground level, they often respond as though they feel threatened. Searching for food/nest-needs, while guarding against danger, increases tension evident by their body language.

Herons notice every move we make; but wearing dark clothing when we are watching them makes us less visible. We can enjoy observing these iconic birds’ habits, their graceful aerobatic displays and their many comical family antics. It is a privilege to catch a glimpse into their world, while serenely benefitting ourselves.

The Mission Statement of Vernon Heronry Protection Society: We will do our best, as much as humanly possible, to provide continuation of environmental safe-guards, for protection of Vernon Heronry’s habitat.We will promote educational awareness to assist with helping the Great Blue Heron’s survival, for future generations.

Rita Bos,

Senior Director, Vernon Heronry Protection Society

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