The majesty of birds and my great blue heron

By: Robert Lee - Contributing columnist

I love birds. No, I am not talking about fried chicken — even though, at the moment, the idea of biscuits, gravy and fried chicken sounds real good, since I have stopped eating fried foods. You know how that goes, anything you can’t have is what you want. I’m not alone with those thoughts.

I have to say that I love animals. What God has given mankind is incredible when it comes down to the sights, sounds and colors of the animal world. I don’t care if it hops, flies, runs or slithers across the ground, it is one of God’s creatures that has been given to us for one reason or the other.

The beauty of nature can, at times, be all consuming. Sure, a puppy can bring out the child in all of us. Who would not want to hold and cuddle a puppy? But then again, you will have those who will kill a dog for no reason at all. That’s not much of a human being as far as I’m concerned. Anyone who would harm an animal is heartless with no morals. People who care for animals are more likely to care for their fellow man. They make the world a better place to live in.

If it were not for the wide variety of animals on earth, I don’t know what we would do. Human beings have a need to love more than just each other. It’s just programmed into us. I know some people who take care of their animals better than they do themselves. The expense of taking care of our pets at times is just as expensive as taking care of a human being.

I know that there are people out there who have never owned a pet of any kind. I feel sorry for you. I know that in some cases their parents never allowed them to have a pet as a child. To have a pet that depends on you for everything, for some people, would be overwhelming. That’s why some people never chose to have children. I am not saying that it is a bad thing not to have pets or children, but it is a loss to those who have never had to deal with a screaming child or a whining puppy at 3 in the morning. I think it makes you a better person for giving up as much as you have to for both.

You can tell a lot about a person through how they care for their pets. If you can’t love and care for an animal, then how could you ever love and care about your fellow human beings. I truly do love all animals, but the main gist of my story is about wild animals. That’s not to say that you should ever bring a wild animal into your house as a pet. It’s just that they are so diversified. There are so many types.

To see an American bald eagle soaring on out stretched wings is a sight to be seen. I love the way that they use the heat thermals of the earth to glide to great heights. It appears that there is very little effort on their part. But I also know that they have great strength. The beauty of birds, for me, is seen in all birds. The gracefulness of the swan to the speed of the falcon is all part of the draw for me.

One of the most colorful and smart birds is the ring-necked pheasant. As in most bird species, the male presents the most colorful patterns. This is all about attraction in finding a mate. The female, on the other hand, is drab in color. This is nature’s way of concealment and protecting the female from predators while nesting is taking place.

Years ago, I use to love going on dove hunts. There were several reasons. I knew I would be seeing friends that I had not seen since last year’s hunt. It was also about the barbecued dove and wild rice at the end of the hunt. I also think, at that time, a beer or two was going to be in the picture. The sad part: I was young and dumb.

I don’t care what people hunt and eat because I have done it all in my younger years. For me, when I found out that doves mate for life, I stopped hunting them. I can not and could not kill a dove again. I know for some this does not matter and that’s fine, but to me it does. People do change over time.

Today, I just love to sit and watch birds. That brings us to my great blue heron. I can’t tell you that I have a pet blue heron. I do, kinda, but not like you might think. You see, this bird has been a weekly visitor for well over 10 years. I know some will say they don’t live that long. Want to bet? In the wild they can live as long as 15 years. There is one that was known to have lived for 23 years. At a minimum, my blue heron visits at least twice a week. No, we don’t pal around together, he just comes to eat my fish and play with the dogs. They don’t toss a ball back and fourth or play fetch, but they do play “hide and seek” — or rather, my heron plays the dogs for fools. It looks like he likes it and they do, too.

I don’t care what anybody says, this bird has a sense of humor or it seems that way. He will fly in and land on the inside part of my pond that is fenced in. This is, of course, where the dogs live — and he knows it. He does not land in the water, he walks on the bank toward the house. At these times, he is not there for my fish — he’s there for the dogs. When the dogs see him, of course, the rush is on. With little effort, he jumps up, goes to the other side of the pond and watches the dogs get riled up because they could not catch him.

You would think that it’s all over at that point, but it is not. The game is on. The dogs go back to the house and the heron comes back to the same spot and waits again. There is nothing on the ground that the heron wants; there’s nothing to eat or fool with other than the dogs. I have watched this game take place as many as five times in one 30-minute period. In my mind, this great blue heron is laughing inside at the dogs that he has trained to play his game. If I’m wrong, then I’m wrong — but I don’t think so.

Have you ever been pecked by a heron? I have … didn’t like it at all. Last summer, the heron came by to visit and it went bad for my “Blue Boy.” To keep the dogs out of the pond, I have a hot wire going around it. Somehow, the Heron got one wing over and under the wire. All I know is the bird is flipping out. I had no idea that he was being shocked until I grabbed the bird and got shocked. I cut the power, it didn’t matter. Now I have a pissed off heron on my hands. He was mad. With beak and neck, I was dealing with a 2-foot-long spear. Have you ever been eye-to-eye with a blue heron? They can hurt ya, let me tell you. By the time I got him free, he had pecked me about four times. He stayed away for about a week, but he did come back to play with the dogs. That’s my great blue heron.

Robert Lee is a concerned citizen and U.S. Marine veteran who owns and operates Rockingham Guns and Ammo. His column appears here each Saturday.

Robert Lee

Contributing columnist