These two photographs of the same bird were taken a few hours apart yesterday afternoon:
I was tipped off about this one and spent a few hours last night with a friend examining the bird, examining the location in which it was found and liaising with the police.
I was asked (late last night) by the police if i would return to the woods and recover the heron to my garage (to stop it being predated).
A wildlife crime trained police officer took the bird away today for x-ray, and he and i went to the location the bird was found.
South Yorkshire Police have posted (on Facebook) an appeal for information. Herons are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The x-rays suggest possible bite marks on the bird – but the police statement suggests this might be post-mortem trauma.
I am certain that the bird was shot whilst sitting in a tree. It was found on the floor intact and entirely unmarked except for trauma commensurate with an entry and exit wound to the face.
I sat in the mud with this bird just before midnight last night. I had gently stretched each of its beautiful wings out to check for injuries, examined its bizarre legs, and felt along its disproportionately long neck. Such a beautiful animal. By torchlight i found myself apologising to it for its death. I was so sorry that this modern day mini-Archaeopteryx had (probably) died at the hands of a human having thirty seconds of ‘fun’ with an air-rifle.
I muttered the same old sentences about ‘hoping it was quick and painless’, and ‘it had done nothing wrong’. Somehow in those fifteen or so minutes in the woods it encapsulated where we are with nature and why we don’t deserve it.
* My thanks to those on social media that have offered advice. I have more graphic pictures of the injuries to the bird if any wildlife crime specialists are able to offer considered opinion on the cause of death.
“The squirrel that you kill in jest dies in earnest.”
– Henry David Thoreau