Damien Enright has just had a book published, The Kindness of Place ( Gill & Macmillan) in which he tells the story of the day-to-day and then week-to-week rearing of a grey heron which his family took it into care and reared in as a wild bird. The chapter is called The Heron Diaries. Soon after it could fly, it left to roost with other herons, possibly its parents and siblings, but it still returns most days for a free lunch of bycatch supplied by one of the trawlers fishing out of Courtmacsherry.
He took the narrative from regular mentions he made of the bird in a column he writes every Monday in the Irish Examiner.
In March 2011, he received a phone call from a neighbour to say she'd found a young heron on the forest floor. He and his family went to see if there was anything they could do to save it from cats, dog or foxes ( it was very young and the parents wouldn't feed it on the ground — in the event it seem it was many weeks before it could fly) First they phoned a local tree surgeon to ask him to put it back in the nest but he was in the midlands and wouldn't be back for a week. They had no alternative but to take the bird home, where they fed it on razorfish (intended as a starter for dinner guests that evening). It gobbled these up with great gusto.
In the months following, they reared it on an open balcony, protected from foxes — at one stage, when Damien and wife were going away, their son took it to his university digs in Galway where it lived on a balcony overlooking the dock in the city centre. A couple of weeks later, back, once more, on its familiar west Cork balcony, it began practising wing flapping and then soared off one day.
The story goes on. On day an interloper, possibly a sibling, arrived but was seen off fairly quickly. Then, there was its flying practice and 'tai-chi' wing-stretching on the roof, and its grooming using the powder-down from its breast. One day, when it was a few months old, it suddenly grabbed a rat out of the reeds by the garden pond, systematically drowned it, and then quaffed it back. Pure instinct — herons drown mammals, and with big fish, they take them out of the water so that they'll 'drown' in the air.
The Heron Diaries is the title of the chapter. The Kindness of Place is the name of the book.