Hector the Great Blue Heron ©
Who-o-osh!The huge blue bird swooped near the shallow water and the next time Perry looked, he saw it standing motionless like a giant statue. His heart hammered with excitement. His friend, the great blue heron, was still here! At least he was almost sure it was the same bird he got to know so well last summer. There was something about the way the heron dipped his head to turn and look at Perry that told the boy this was Hector. He'd always called the big blue bird Hector. The name just seemed to fit.
Perry smiled and whispered earnestly: "I'm back, Hector. I'll get Dad to row over and we'll sit and watch you fish just like we did last year." At that moment, the big bird took off and soared into the sky. It was the most exciting thing to see, thought Perry, and it was what had attracted him to Hector in the first place. From the cottage, Perry could see the heron fly effortlessly across the lake and return each sunrise and sunset. He was fascinated by how broad the wings were and he loved the deep honk of the bird's call. There were a few other shyer herons in the marsh but Perry had become friendly with only Hector.
Most herons and other birds in the wild never stay still when people come near. But Hector always did. Perry and his dad could row quite close to the bird and he wouldn't even stir. Then Perry was able to study the long legs, long neck, long bill and short tail of his favourite bird. He couldn't see the four long, spreading toes because Hector was always wading in the water. He just sat, mesmerized, listening to the pond sounds on a hot summer day, sometimes being lucky enough to watch Hector catch a fish or frog for his lunch.
One evening as the sun burned a red spot near the horizon, some nearby cottagers came to talk to Perry's father. Perry could hear them talking as he watched the minnows in the lake dart in different directions. "Lots of mosquitoes. . . nuisance. . . spraying doesn't help... drain the marsh and we'll get rid of their breeding grounds." Perry drew a great blue heron in the sand with a stick while he listened. He was always drawing herons-he did on his Christmas cards and whenever he had a chance at school. He often went to the library for more
pictures of herons. He just loved them, especially Hector.
Now he saw the neighbours talking closer to one another. Their words sounded like buzzing, just like mosquitoes. That was a good idea. Drain the marsh and get rid of the mosquitoes. They were always biting and
bothering him whenever he watched Hector. Then Perry's mind began to churn. He frowned. He remembered studying at school about a drained marsh and how everything that lived there disappeared, like the water lilies, the turtles, the frogs and---it suddenly hit him---Hector!
The visitors were leaving. As soon as they had gone down the path to their own cottages, Perry raced up to his father. "They aren't really going to drain the marsh are they?" he asked breathlessly. "What about my bird, what about Hector?"
Perry's father looked at him for a very long time. "l never thought about your great blue heron," he finally said. "But we can't stop plans for one bird, Perry."
"But he's a special bird, you know that, Dad," pleaded Perry. "l just love to watch Hector."
His father smiled wistfully and said, "l know son, I know. But let's just wait and see what really happens. People talk a lot and draining the marsh costs money."
"But we can't just wait and see. lt's too important. We've got to tell everybody what's going to happen to Hector and all the other birds and things that live in the marsh."
Perry was getting more and more excited and worried. He couldn't believe that Hector's home might be destroyed.
"Wait a minute," said his father. "We may not be able to convince everyone to save the marsh, but I know someone who just may be able to help us."
"Really, Dad? Who is it? What are you going to do?" Perry watched eagerly as his father crossed to the telephone. "I think a call to the Conservation Authority might do us some good."
Later that evening, while the loon called across the lake and the crickets chirped in the tall grass outside the cottage, Perry worked steadily with his pencils and paper. On each page he drew a great blue heron and printed "Please save my home." He added an invitation to all the cottagers in the area to come to a special meeting and then he signed his name.
The next morning as he watched Hector leisurely soar across the water, Perry almost forgot the problem of the marsh. But then he remembered his mission and tore down the path to the other cottages to deliver his notices.
Just as he slipped the last notice into the door of the last cottage along the lane, he saw the Conservation Authority van drive up.
It was the ranger coming to give the cottagers more information about marshes. At the meeting that afternoon on their large front porch, Perry and his father, along with all their neighbours, learned about draining a marsh. They learned, too, about how important a marsh is as a source of drinking water and food for all sorts of animals in the area, not just mosquitoes. If the marsh went, so would the wildlife that depended on it. Most important of all, they learned that scientists still don't know enough about the balance of nature to know what might happen many years from now if people make too many changes today.
When the meeting was over and everyone had left, Perry and his father still weren't sure whether or not their neighbours would drain the marsh. But at least, the cottagers had agreed to think twice before deciding.
For days, Perry waited for word about the marsh, but nothing happened. At night, he dreamed that Hector flew far away and it was only the next morning, when he saw the heron wading in the water, that he was positive his bird was still in his home.
Time passed and his fear of losing Hector increased. He watched his heron more closely now and as often as possible.
One morning his father came home from a nearby cottage and winked at Perry. "l think we did it!" he said.
Just then a huge shadow passed silently over them. As he looked up, Perry heard the familiar deep honk of his flying friend. "I think," he grinned, "Hector is saying thanks."