Blue heron rescued on Little Androscoggin

Residents of Barker Mill Arms in Auburn help Game Warden Rick Stone rescue an injured great blue heron from the Little Androscoggin River on Wednesday afternoon.  The residents called Stone after noticing the creature's wing was apparently injured.
Photo courtesy of Richard Porfe/Sun Journal
Residents of Barker Mill Arms in Auburn help Game Warden Rick Stone rescue an injured great blue heron from the Little Androscoggin River on Wednesday afternoon. The residents called Stone after noticing the creature's wing was apparently injured.
Posted Aug. 25, 2011, at 5:42 a.m.
Last modified Aug. 25, 2011, at 7:39 a.m.

It pays to have friends. Even if you’re a bird.

Residents of Barker Mill Arms on Wednesday got help for a great blue heron that had been acting strangely along the Little Androscoggin River. It was an easy observation to make: Each summer for many years, they’ve been watching the bird prowling for food along the river. On Wednesday, the heron wasn’t acting like itself.

“It was obviously injured,” said Richard J. Profenno, a resident at Barker Arms. “One of its wings was down. It was just hanging around.”

The heron dines on small fish and reptiles. Without mobility, it has little chance to swoop in and surprise prey. No prey, no food and it’s goodbye heron.

“I love animals too much to let something like that go,” said Rosemarie Welton, also a Barker Mill Arms resident.

Welton had noticed weeks ago that the heron was acting funny. She called state police and was told to shoo the heron and to not give it food.

On Wednesday, the heron looked no better. It was clear the bird had suffered a broken wing, Welton said. She called for help once more and this time got it in the form of Game Warden Rick Stone, a veteran of rescuing animals of all shapes and sizes.

What high-tech gadgetry did Stone produce to capture the heron?

A net.

“A big net,” Profenno said. “I thought for sure he’d be chasing that bird up and down the river. But it just hopped around and he got it.”

On the river banks, the people of Barker Mill Arms watched with concern. When Stone climbed back up the steep embankment, they helped move the bird from the net and into a box designed to house it during the journey to Avian Haven, a bird rehabilitation center in Freedom.

“They’re going to take care of him,” Welton said. “They’ll fix his wing and then let him go.”

The heron is not the only bird that gets attention at Barker Mill Arms. Others, like the king fisher, the osprey and the occasional eagle will make their way to the Little Androscoggin at certain times of year. Profenno and his neighbors watch them and take photographs from an unobtrusive distance. The blue heron, with its long neck and spindly legs, makes a particularly good subject.

“I try to get a picture of it every year,” Profenno said.

Welton, too. She has all kinds of pictures of the various birds that make their way to the Little Androscoggin. She’s hoping the heron will be back next summer. Until then, she’ll be keeping track of the bird’s progress at avianhaven.org.

“I’ll be watching,” Welton said.

To see more from the Sun Journal, visit sunjournal.com.

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