Sunday, January 24, 2016

How to hold a heron and not get pecked

This story does not have a happy ending, so those with a sensitive nature might like to leave and watch this instead.

It begins with me walking along the Thames embankment, one of those bits where it has built high of stones, with at the bottom a short beach of gravel visible at low tide.

One this day and time there was only a metre or two of beach left dry while the tide was rushing in, and on this stony ground stood a woman. Now as many people each year get caught out by the rising waters I poked my head over the railings to see if she knew her peril.

It was then that I saw the heron, and her stick. She had grabbed the heron with the metal loop on its end and had pulled the bird towards her, and then she grabbed it.

Now there are stories (usually in the Mail) of the Queen's swan's being poached and barbecued, but it was immediately clear that was different, and not because it was a different species, but because she was wearing an RSPCA jacket.

Keeping a careful hold on the heron she made her way back to the ladder needed to climb the shear wall up to safety and the Thames path. But with one hand for the bird and another for the pole there were no hands spare to hold on.

So she called up to the passing stranger (that's me) to help out and of course I said yes and took the pole from her and placed it on the ground, ready to assist further.

At the top there was a difficult bit to get over the railings and even with the hand free from pole she couldn't work out how to get herself and the heron over the top. So it was my time to hold on the heron while she made the final part of the ascent.

On her instructions, I reached over the railings and put the first most important hand gently around the heron's neck, to make sure it didn't turn and peck me. It watched me, mostly quietly, its little eye fixed. I wasn't sure about the other hand, so put it lower down the neck by the body. Quickly I lifted it up and then placed it on the ground so it held its weight while I just kept it in place.

The RSPCA woman climbed over and I was happy to let her reclaim her heron so I could hear the story.

Alas the poor heron had broken its wing and been spotted by a member of the public and alerted the RSPCA. Now it was on land I could see the wing was not neatly closed on the body but stuck open, though the animal was making no noise.

What could be done? I asked. Alas nothing, I was told. All they could do was put the animal out of its misery more humanly than drowning in cold river water.

So with a brief thanks from her and a good luck from me we parted.

I tried to comfort myself with the thought that the Thames is so flourishing that there are no shortages of herons, we can afford to lose one.

But it was a shame that the only heron I have encountered up close was under such sad circumstances.


my2fish said...

JP, that's a shame they couldn't do something for the wing.

JP said...

I'd heard of this situation before: there's not much the RSPCA can do when presented with a badly damaged wing, which is very sad.

Anonymous said...

Sad indeed

bonnie said...

Very sad!

Kat said...

Glad you noticed and were there to help! Do they have any idea what might have happened to it's wing?

JP said...

No, though it might have been an accident with a passing boat, alas.