This is one we’ve been waiting for … one of those mega-rarities that we KNEW was going to happen someday, yet dared not dream about. A GRAY HERON has landed! (Our one previous record was of a bird found moribund on a beach in 1996 – it later succumbed at a rehab centre. Another bird arrived live onboard a ship in 2002, after landing there north of the Azores – two others had died enroute.)
A “Great Blue Heron” was reported in Little Heart’s Ease on Saturday – a very early date for any heron in Newfoundland, and especially on the northeast coast. Fortunately, Bruce Mactavish was on the receiving end of that report, and alarm bells started going off in his head. It was only ~10 days ago that he had sent me an email about the “killer winds from Iceland” … and we knew that some early Gray Herons has begun showing up there. Could it be?!?!?
Bruce Mactavish, Ken Knowles and John Wells set out early Sunday morning to check it out. I stayed home (very close to the phone), keeping some family commitments. But when Bruce called to say they had found the bird and were “99.99% sure” it was a Gray Heron … well, let’s just say I broke the news to my VERY understanding wife, helped her get the kids ready for an outing, spread the news and (finally!) hit the road. Two hours later, Paul Linegar and I were on the spot, looking hard … we KNEW it had to be there, but it was playing hard to get. After 30+ minutes, it flew in and landed on the ice. We had good looks for the next 15 minutes as it flew around the estuary and fed along the ice edge – allowing us good looks at all the important field marks – including the all white thighs and leading edge of the wing (both rufous in Great Blue Herons). KILLER!!
The heron then flew off and disappeared, only to be found tucked inconspicuously against the shore on the opposite side of the water. And that’s where it stayed for the next hour and half until we left. As can be expected after a long trans-Atlantic flight (only to find itself in the cold, icy Newfoundland of early March), this Gray Heron looks and acts a bit exhausted. Nevertheless – it was a beautiful bird and an awesome experience. Let’s hope it sticks around for a while!!!