The fact the wet heron chick kept turning around looking for the sprinkler water to come back was a welcome sight at the Vernon rookery off 20th Street for Rita Bos.
The senior director of the Vernon Heronry Protection Society was feeling quite relieved at the sight of a happy heron as opposed to what had been noticed by her and others last week: herons falling out of trees due to the unprecedented heat wave which brought extreme temperatures.
“People had brought in pools of water, there were hoses and a sprinkler was going,” said Bos of rescuers who sprang into action when word of the popular birds’ plight was posted to social media. “I saw one chick the first time and it was loving the sprinkler. I saw it a few days later and it had a little more energy, was preening itself and looking around.”
A total of 35 birds were rescued, 21 of which were sent to the Warren Peace Bunny Sanctuary in Lake Country to be rehabilitated, and three were sent to the Kamloops Wildlife Centre.
It’s believed as many as 13 herons died. Bos said she’s been told 12 birds did not survive. She said she saw one dead chick with an adult pacing around the body. The adult, said Bos, then died on top of the young one.
That, said Bos, prompted people into action and for her, thank God they did.
“Everybody realizes what those people (rescuers) did, they did their best to run water hoses and put in the pools. That probably saved a few birds,” said Bos.
It’s hard to say how many herons are in the rookery in 2021.
Bos and fellow society member Jane Weixl have been watching the trees and doing the count, but the herons arrived in staggered periods this year, which Bos believes is likely due to storms from the south. So in the beginning, the count was made difficult.
“When they arrive, you can see everything, but then the trees start to fill in with leaves, and after mating happens, the females hunker down in the nest,” said Bos. “It’s a deep nest and you can hardly see the birds. They stay there a lot and as they stand, they’ll rotate the eggs. We keep looking with binoculars to make sure we’re seeing something like a tail feather of a head popping up.
“It’s really difficult to get an accurate count.”
Bos said the count was still not finished before the heat wave hit.