My Mom Helped Me Rescue a Great Blue Heron

My mom and I have a lot in common – we enjoy the same pastimes such as reading, going to the farmers market, and spending time at the park. We also both share a love for wildlife and will often go birdwatching together. We know where the local vultures like to roost, and where you’re most likely to see a bald eagle.
During my time at the Wildlife Center, I have enjoyed sharing as many of my experiences with my mom as possible. That might be in the form of sharing stories of new patients we received that day, updating her on a patient’s condition, or sometimes even releasing animals together. Recently, I got to share one of the most special experiences of all with her – rescuing her favorite bird, a Great Blue Heron.
While Wildlife Center staff are rarely able to come out and perform rescues ourselves, on my days off from work I occasionally assist in local rescues. One sunny Saturday afternoon while I was spending time with my mom, I received a call from my fellow front desk coordinator, Grace – there was an injured Great Blue Heron in need of rescue. The heron was still mobile, but one of its wings was hanging down and it was unable to fly.  After confirming the location and details, I turned to my mom and asked,
“Do you want to rescue a great blue heron with me?”
“Yes!” was her immediate and enthusiastic response.
When we arrived at the rescue location, it was a serene property with a groundhog running along in the bright green grass and two Bald Eagles flying overhead, their white tail feathers flashing in the sunlight.
As the property owner led us in, we immediately spotted the heron along the bank of a large river. The property owner, my mom, and I set up our strategy quickly - we would each approach the heron from different angles, effectively cornering it. Once cornered, one of us would use a net or towel to contain the heron and place it in a plastic tub for transport to the Center.
As each of us closed in on the heron, it made its way into the water in an attempt to escape us - in its eyes, we were predators attempting to hurt it. We backed off momentarily to prevent the heron from struggling farther out into the deeper water, and luck was on our side - it began making its way to the shallower, rocky water surrounding the boathouse.
My mom and I slowly advanced, each approaching from opposite sides to corner the heron against the back wall of the building. The rocks made for difficult footing, and the heron floundered in the water. My mom jumped into action - using a net, she quickly pinned the heron to immobilize it. Earlier, I had reminded her numerous times of the most important safety factor when handling a great blue heron - always have control of the beak! Remembering this, she deftly scooped up the heron, confidently gathering it safely into her arms.
I have been involved in many rescues over the past year, but this one was different. My mom has for years loved Great Blue Herons and has a print of one hanging in her room. It seemed especially symbolic for our first rescue together to be this elegant bird that means so much to my family. Whenever my mom, sister, and I see a Great Blue Heron in the wild, we take it as a good omen - it felt like we were paying that gift back by rescuing this one.
My mother has shaped who I am - in every endeavor I’ve pursued, my mom has been my biggest supporter. She is the mom who was at every soccer game, the mom who cheered me on when I graduated college, and the mom who encouraged me to apply to a rehab externship at the Wildlife Center, then to a job at the front desk. All I’ve hoped for is to be a reflection of the woman she is - a woman who is compassionate, thoughtful, and selfless. When she successfully rescued this heron, I felt the pride of sharing what I’d learned with her. It was gratifying to take all that she had given me over the course of my life and use that to guide her through something new, and in the process, rescue an animal from continued suffering. At risk of sounding dramatic, the moment felt sacred - a moment between a girl, her mom, and a bird.
I feel intense gratitude for the woman who has led me here, who taught me how to pursue my goals, and whose unwavering encouragement has made me who I am today. This Mother’s Day, I’m grateful for the woman who unquestioningly jumps into water with me to rescue wildlife, and I’m especially grateful to be her daughter.
-- Paige Pettry, Front-desk Coordinator