WAXAHACHIE

When Jim Bush checked his mail on Tuesday, he was stunned to see a sickly great blue heron. Luckily, Bush is an avid naturist and knew precisely what to do.

“I think it’s important that we help wildlife anytime we can,” Bush advocated. “This is really a stressful time for wildlife as the weather changes. With less and less green space and more and more housing taking over habitat for wildlife, it’s important to save what wildlife we can.”

Bush walked downhill from his house on Cantrell Street in Waxahachie to the mailbox and, out of the corner of his eye, saw "this big bird, and I kind of did a double-take. I knew that was out of the ordinary.”

Bush admitted he has admired herons all of his life but never had the opportunity to appreciate one up close.

“It was interesting being that close to one, especially holding one,” Bush explained. “They are so large, but they are very lightweight when you pick one up. It was kind of surprising.”

The bird appeared clumsy as it hobbled, unlike a healthy bird. It stayed on the property for about 30 minutes and eventually huddled next to a tree. At that time, Bush knew the blue heron needed medical attention or else it could potentially become prey.

His immediate reaction was to call the National Audubon Society, which he referenced as the “the best-known bird organization in the world.” Currently, Bush and his wife, Sandra, are enrolled in a Texas Master Naturalist class and have participated in field trips to two National Audubon Society facilities. An individual with the Audubon then referred Bush to the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Hutchins, about 30 miles away.

He initially thought a professional would be sent to scoop up the bird and transport it. Instead, Bush was tasked with apprehending the bird himself.

Bush was a little doubtful that he would be able to pull off the catch since he was unsure about the extent of the injury and the potential mobility of the bird. He then disclosed that this was not the first relocation he has been part of. From time to time, Bush has found himself moving snakes — even rattlesnakes.

He was advised to throw a towel over the beak. In his first attempt, the bird scurried off to some nearby shrubbery. With a bedspread, Bush managed to toss it around the bird but missed the head. The bird made its first noise as it attempted to peck in defense.

“When I picked it up it tried to peck me in the face. I was dodging it,” Bush elaborated. “Fortunately, Sandra [his wife] was there with a beach towel. And she put the towel over its head.”

The bird was placed in a large cardboard box that a printer was shipped in and then covered with a towel during the transport. On the car ride to the rehabilitation center, the bird did not make a single sound or movement.

Once Bush and Sandra arrived at the rehabilitation facility, the workers carefully examined the bird, force-fed it some fish and administered an antibiotic injection. The initial report reflected the bird was in “alright” condition and no injuries were found.

Founder of Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Kathy Rogers, inspected the bird and concluded it was a young, female great blue heron that must have hatched this past spring.

“It was very skinny, so whatever was wrong with it, it had been sick for a while,” Rogers recalled. “It had just gotten so weak that when the cold — see, a bird’s body temperature is between 102 and 106 degrees, and when they get sick, their body temperature drops and that can kill them before anything.”

Rogers stressed the importance of warming a bird if nothing else.

After the initial check-up, staff kept the bird warm, fed it and administered fluids. Unfortunately, the efforts of Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center staff were not enough, as the bird died Thursday.

“Anytime anyone cares enough to bring a bird in, even if they die, they have died warm and safe, and not terrorized by predators or eaten by ants,” Rogers explained. “So I always greatly appreciate anyone who makes an effort and tries to save a creature. Most of the time we are able to save them, so it’s worth the effort anyway, even if it looks hopeless.”

Rogers shared that in May and June, the height of baby season, the center sees about 50 birds a day. After September, the birds enter migration season. At this time, Rogers treats about 10 birds a day.

“We don’t charge for our services,” Rogers mentioned. “We do ask for a donation whether that be a bag of bird seed, some Kleenex or bleach. It doesn’t have to be money, but a donation of some sort would be nice and appreciated.”

Last year, HEB in Waxahachie donated $500 and an additional $250 in HEB gift cards to the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center after the group rescued and eventually released a hawk that had made its home inside the store for the better part of five days, according to a previous Daily Light report.

The Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is open 365 days a year from 9 a.m.— 4 p.m. and is located at 1430 E. Cleveland Rd. in Hutchins.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450