Epic Great Blue Heron Rescue Redux

Great Blue Heron lands a large fish - babsjeheron © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron lands a large fish – babsjeheron

If i could talk to the animals – just imagine it,
speaking with a Chimp in chimpanzee!
Imagine talking to a Tiger, or chatting with a Cheetah –
what a neat achievement that would be!

If i could talk to the animals, learn their languages –
maybe take an animal degree…
I’d study Elephant and Eagle, Buffalo and Beagle,
Alligator, Guinea Pig and Flea!

[first bridge] I would converse in Polar Bear and Python,
and I would curse in fluent Kangaroo.
If people asked me, “can you speak Rhinoceros?”
I’d say, “of course-eros!

Can’t you?”

If I Could Talk To The Animals by Leslie Bricusse
Doctor Doolittle

Raise your hand if you talk to the animals.

Now raise your other hand if the animals talk to you.

You over there – put your other hand up, too. You and you, too.

Animals communicate with humans in many ways, some oral and others non-verbal.

Who doesn’t know what a dog’s growl portends? Or the sweet purring of a tabby cat? Frequent readers of this blog may recall my stories of Great Blue Herons’ greetings: arrrh and goooh, and their guttural frawhnk of alarm.

And as for the non-verbal, animal body language can be very telling. What is a cat saying with ears flattened back and tail swishing from side to side? Or a dog wagging its tail so enthusiastically that its entire rump is wagging, too? Readers of earlier posts here may recall learning that a Heron standing in a ramrod-straight posture, with neck fully extended and head held high, is a Heron on high alert.

Today’s post is the true story of an heroic Great Blue Heron rescue capped off by the Heron communicating with her rescuer, saying “thank you” in an unmistakable way.

When I posted about the rescue earlier this year, Wayne of Tofino Photography suggested that I send the hero a photo of the beautiful rescued Great Blue Heron.

That was easier said than done – I had met him only once years ago in a taxi and didn’t know his name or how to reach him. All I knew was that he was an avid Bass-fishing aficionado, a retired police officer, and part time taxi driver in town.

This was shaping up to be a needle in a haystack quest.

I took a chance and reached out to the owner of the taxi company. A few weeks went by before she called me back, curious about the story. I explained about the heroic rescue and that I wanted to thank him. A couple more weeks went by before I heard back – she found him by going back more than ten years in the records. She said she spoke with him and he remembered that day very clearly.

Fast forward many more weeks until this past Sunday morning, when my phone rang. It was a call from the fisherman hero. His name is Dennis.

We had a lovely, warm chat. It warmed my heart to hear Dennis retell his experience: the day after the Heron rescue, he went fishing again in the same cove and discovered that the Heron was gone, she wasn’t on the shore where he had placed her the day before.

And then a Great Blue Heron flew low and slow right across his bow, nearly touching his shoulder. Dennis told me he was convinced it was the Heron’s way of acknowledging him, thanking him. And I agree.

Hearing Dennis tell his story again brought tears to my eyes.

I want to again thank Dennis for rescuing my favorite Heron from certain death. How many other boaters on the water would bother with an entangled bird I wonder?

I want to thank the excellent wildlife photographer and videographer Wayne for encouraging me to find and thank fisherman hero Dennis. Please visit Tofino Photography to see outstanding photos of Eagles, Bears, Orcas and more.

And I want to thank Joanne of Tommy’s Taxi for caring enough about the story I had told to dig through ten years of records to find, and connect me with, Dennis, the hero of the tale below. How many busy company owners would take the time to do that kind of research?

Young Osprey perched amid pinecones.

Young Osprey perched amid pinecones – babsjeheron

When the fire alarm sounds grew ominously closer, I was photographing an immature Osprey nestled high up amongst the pinecone clusters just down the channel and around the bend from the boathouse. 

Quickly, I stashed the camera below deck and paddled rapidly back to the dock. Judging from the black billowing smoke, it seemed possible that the boathouse was the scene of the fire, and I was concerned for the dockhands there. 

I arrived at the dock and discovered a van engulfed in flames just at the moment the driver escaped through the back door. The sirens from the fire trucks were getting louder as they grew closer, but the firemen weren’t yet on the scene. 


  © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com) Van fully engulfed in flames on road next to boathouse on Columbus Day weekend.

Van fully engulfed in flames on the road next to the boathouse – babsjeheron

A speeding motorboat swerved in alongside me and the driver launched himself over the bow and hit the water running like a military commando, dashing toward the vehicle, taking charge of the scene. It was a striking action scene like something from a film.

The firemen soon arrived and doused the flames in the van and the utility pole, and Alex and Jason had the boathouse under control – the electrical system was toast due to the burned utility lines, but no fire damage otherwise.

It was the last day of the season for the boathouse that year, and so I slipped back down the channel for a final circuit of the lake, a final good bye to the Great Blue Herons for the season – always a poignant afternoon for me.

Fast forward nearly a year. New England was experiencing one of its blistering July heat waves, so hot I took a taxi to the lake rather than walking there with all my gear. 

The cab driver and I got to talking as people are sometimes wont to do in taxis, and he started to tell me about his bass fishing tournaments and then about the time he was at the lake and there was a fire.

Great Blue Heron fishing near the reeds and pickerel weed - babsjeheron    © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron fishing near the reeds and pickerel weed – babsjeheron

I took a closer look at his cab photo then and realized that he was the speedboat commando who had pulled alongside me the day of the fire. Just to be sure, I asked him to describe his boat, and it was the exact boat I had seen that October day, and he confirmed that he had indeed dashed out of the boat to assist in the rescue. As it turns out, he was a retired police officer, so that sort of action in the face of a fire was ingrained by his training and experience.

We marveled a bit at the coincidence of having witnessed the fire together that day, and I mentioned that I had spent the rest of my time there that day photographing and saying goodbye to the Herons for the year.

And what the taxi driver Dennis told me next made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

After I had gone in for the day, and after he was done assisting with the fire, he went back out fishing on the lake, and headed into the small cove between the two tunnels. There are a couple of semi-submerged pines laying on the surface, where there is often good fishing.

Great blue heron fishing with a feather as bait.

Great Blue Heron shaking a Seagull feather. She is standing on the same partly-submerged pine log where she had been tangled in fishing line – babsjeheron

That day, however, he came across a Great Blue Heron caught in fishing line on one of the pine logs. The line was caught in the Heron’s wing and foot, and the Heron was struggling and obviously very weakened by the time he got there.

Dennis idled his boat, and pulled up as near to the Heron on the pine as possible, and got out of the boat. He cut the tangled line, freeing the Heron, but the Heron was too weak to take off, it was too weak to even lift its head.

He then picked up the Heron, and took it to the shore. He laid it down on the ground and cradled it, placing its head and neck in a good position so it could breathe easier.

Dennis stayed with the Heron as long as he could, but had to leave before the boat ramp access closed for the day.

The next day, he went back to check on the Heron.

It was gone, not on the ground where he had placed it.

He went about his fishing for a while.

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron preening two years after her rescue – babsjeheron

At one point – I don’t remember how long he had been out by then – a Great Blue Heron flew low and slow right across his bow, nearly touching his shoulder.

They don’t do that, you know.

Dennis was convinced it was the Heron’s way of acknowledging him, thanking him.

And I agree.
In the taxi the following July as Dennis told me his tale, he showed me the photos he had taken with his cell phone of the Heron, while she was entangled on the pine log and then on the shore.

If I had them, I’d share them here. Since I don’t, I’ve posted four of my own photos here of the same Great Blue Heron he saved that day.

What a magnificent creature she is.

And what a hero Dennis is.


Cee Neuner and the creative and inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya all encourage the community of photographers and writers. Please click the links below to see the beautiful offerings from these wonderful photographers.

The focus for this week’s Lens Artist challenge hosted by guest host Lindy is “Follow Your Bliss.” Frequent readers here should have little doubt that the Great Blue Herons bring me bliss


Thanks to Cee for her Hunt for joy. I don’t know if this challenge is still on, but I really like the idea of searching for joy. This Heron has brought great joy.
From guest host Lindy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 175: Follow Your Bliss .
From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 175: Follow Your Bliss .
From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 175: Follow Your Bliss .

From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 175: Follow Your Bliss .

From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 175: Follow Your Bliss.


Folks, now that some areas are opening back up, please consider supporting your local Arts communities – whether music, theater, crafts, visual arts venues, and others. All have been impacted over the past year and a half and they need your love more than ever.

Natick Center Cultural District logo

Natick Center Cultural District


The Natick Center Cultural District is situated in a friendly, classic New England town hosting a vibrant, contemporary fusion of art, culture and business. Learn more!


My brick & mortar presence in Massachusetts dates back to 2009 in several local venues/galleries.

Please watch this space for news of my upcoming Winter 2022 gallery show.

TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
Natick Town Hall
Five Crows Gallery in Natick
Audubon Sanctuary

Be a fly on the wall! Please CLICK HERE to see the Great Blue Herons gracing the gallery walls.


Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

May the Muse be with you.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2003-2021 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick

Posted on November 23, 2021, in # Lens-Artists, ardea herodias, Birds, Fishing, Great Blue Heron, Heron, Inspiration, Nature, Photo Essay, Photography, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 68 Comments.

  1. What great post. I loved all of these stories. .I know animals speak to us. No doubt about it.

    • Thanks so much, Anne. I’m pleased that you appreciated this story and I have no doubt that Biasini and you have marvelous conversations together! Horses speak volumes with their ears alone. Best, Babsje

  2. Well Babsje, I don’t think anyone who knows you would be surprised at knowing your bliss is among the beautiful herons! I remember the story well and was so glad to hear your efforts paid off in reaching out to the heron rescuer.

    • Many thanks for the kind remarks Tina. Yes, I’m guilty of being passionate about the Herons. It was amazing to finally speak with the hero of the Heron rescue – it brought back so many memories from that day, and so much joy. We could have talked for hours I think. And the two photos of the rescued Heron have a place of honor in his home. Best, Babsje

  3. What a wonderful story. In some ways it doesn’t surprise me — at least, when it comes to the ways birds have of communicating with us. Other animals do it, too. I once had a mother raccoon bring two of her babies up a tree to my second floor apartment, one at a time. She’s bring one, scratch at my balcony door, pick the baby up in her mouth so I could admire it, and then make her way back down the tree. It was an amazing experience — which my cat didn’t fully appreciate, as she cowered in a corner of the dining room.

  4. Raising both my hands and once again to salute such a beautiful post! Loved the story and your wonderful images… once again! Happy Tuesday, my dear Babsje! xo

  5. I love this story, all the connections human and avian!

  6. Amazing captures of these beautiful birds! I love the Osprey image especially!!

    • Many thanks, Amy! I’m glad you like the Osprey. There’s something about that photo – do you see the sheer abundance of pine cones? I have read that in some years the pine trees put out a huge number of pine cones. I don’t know if that is a fact but when I took that Osprey photo all of the pines were heavily-laden with cones. Best, Babsje

  7. A beautiful story with a happy ending – and of course we communicate with each other. Every animal in my house ever – and those are many – I have had a close and special contact with. And forest birds I talk to, sing to and call down from the trees, when I am alone. They are not that keen when my dogs are with me.
    Thank you for a lovely post!

  8. What a beautiful, heartwarming story!

    • Hi Susan, I’m so glad your appreciate this one, many thanks for your kind words. Btw I enjoyed your own post yesterday from the Jane Goodall newsletter. Best, Babsje

  9. What an amazing story! I’m so glad that all turned out well.

  10. Love this story. I like to think most folks would try to help an animal in distress, especially birds. They always seem so fragile. And yes, of course, my dogs, cats, and I have frequent conversations.

    • I’m so pleased that you like this happy rescue story, thanks for your thoughtful comment. Do you suppose your dogs and cats communicate with each other when you’re not around? I think you’re right that most people would want to help wildlife in distress. In the case of this Heron, she was entangled on a semi-submerged log and coming to her aid would involve exiting a boat, entering water about 4 feet deep and then lifting the Heron. I’m not sure I could have managed that from my kayak, myself, but would have been willing to try. After all, there are stories of people lifting cars to rescue someone trapped underneath. Strength comes when needed! Thanks again, Best, Babsje

  11. Very compelling stories Babsje! I contend that animals have a 6th sense. We used to but because of our domestication,It has almost disappeared.
    This 6th sense helps a animal survive. They can “feel” other animals. Animals do not understand our language but they can understand what the person is feeling when they talk.
    Also,very happy Dennis contacted you! Everything is right as rain!

    • Hi Wayne. Thank you very much for your great comment – good observation about the 6th sense and animal communications. We get a glimmer of that sixth sense when those little hairs on the nape of our necks stand on end in the face of certain situations. And our intuition could maybe also be a sort of sixth sense, too. Thank you again for your part in giving the story a happy ending. It was you who encouraged me to reach out to the then-unnamed taxi driver fisherman. I hope it was ok that I linked to your site. Best, Babsje

  12. I love a happy ever after. Fantastic stories, Babje.

  13. A beautiful rescue story and a wonderful happy ending, Babsje. I’m glad you identified the hero of the heron rescue. Like Jo, I love a happy ending!

  14. Fascinating story, Babsje. There is no doubt in my mind that the heron was thanking her rescuer. Birds are incredibly bright and able to identify individual humans. Thank you for taking this opportunity to share the story and the beautiful photos with us!

  15. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a heron in action before. They are always standing elegantly, observing their surroundings. All the photos are amazing. And so many great stories. Thank you Babsje!

    • Hi Sandra. You raise a good point: the stereotypical Great Blue Heron is indeed standing serenely alongside some picturesque reeds at water’s edge. So often when in that pose, they are actually subtly fishing using their toes beneath the surface to stir up fishes. Thanks for your great observation. I’m glad you like the stories and photos too. Best, Babsje

  16. Beautiful, heartwarming account and the fact that the hero has been found. Long live!

  17. Wow, what a story Babsje. It shows that it is a small world and everyday there is someone doing something heroic. I’m so glad he was able to save the heron and stay with him for a while.

    • Hi Anne. I’m so pleased that you appreciate this story. Thanks very much for your thoughtful comment. You’re right – there are heroes amongst us, and they rise to the occasion when needed. Best, Babsje

  18. I love that osprey. Excellent!

    • Many thanks John. I’m glad you like the Osprey. I have never before or since seen so many pinecones on that tree. It was a bumper crop year and they framed the young Osprey nicely. Best, Babsje

  19. Nice of Dennis the fisherman to untangle her. And, also nice of the heron to allow herself to be untangled. Wildlife rarely accepts rescue.

    PS – Sent an email.

    • Many thanks David! You’re right that sometimes wildlife rebuffs attempts by humans at rescuing them. In this case, the Heron was too weak to even lift her head, so I don’t think she had the strength to object to Dennis’ handling her – for which I’m very grateful! Best, Babsje

  20. This is a great story, well told by you. I love coincidences like the one that made it possible for you to tell this story. And no doubt we all appreciate acts of kindness like Dennis’.May herons and humans continue to coexist peacefully!

    • Hi! Thank you very much for your thoughtful observations, they mean a lot. I love what you say about peaceable co-existence and agree whole heartedly. Best, Babsje

      • 🙂 My pleasure…we have hundreds of GB herons here, with a rookery that holds as many as 700 nests, so they are constant companions, companions that I never, ever get tired of. Yesterday we were stopped at the corner of a busy highway with a very wet drainage ditch alongside it. It was already dark and the black silhouette of a heron was barely visible as it flew over the car and landed next to the ditch. Why it wanted to look for food beside a busy highway after dark is beyond me, but who are we to question? 😉

        • 700 nests?? Be still my heart. That is heavenly. And yes, who are we to question. Interstate 90 aka the Mass Turnpike bisects my lake. Some of my favorite Herons have been seen along the shore a mere 15 yards down an embankment from the roar of traffic. It doesn’t phase them apparently. Go figure.

          • Yes! Go figure. There are Navy growlers that fly here from time to time – there’s a Navy base on a nearby island – and it always amazes me that the birds just go about their business as if nothing is happening, while I’m covering my ears.https://www.skagitlandtrust.org/properties/heronry.aspx

            • Thanks so much for that link. It is impressive that those people donated their land expressly to protect the Heron rookery! Those are my kind of people. Also it’s interesting that your Herons are unfazed by the Navy fly-bys from the nearby base. Coincidentally, my lake has an Army based located on the southern peninsula – nicknamed Natick Labs, it deals with “soldier systems” such as the food science behind MREs, those Meals Ready to Eat. The base juts out into prime Heron watching territory and I’m always aware of being watched on their surveillance cams when I’m out alongside binocs in hand, but nobody has bothered to stop me yet. Happy. Again I’m impressed by the generosity of spirit by the folks caring for your rookery!

              • Once in a great while there’s an opportunity to do volunteer work in the rookery, pulling invasives & planting natives. MRE’s, yes, I know them! My son was in the Marines and gave us some. 😉 They know they have no reason to bother you!

                • I think you’re right that they know they don’t need to bother about me kayaking their periphery. And very cool that you have been able to volunteer at the rookery. Our rookery is on an island in a reservoir with no human access at all, ever. Watching the industrious Herons through binocs is the only viewing possible and that is “enough” to see the roughly 70 occupied nests – that number pales in comparison to your 700. The jury is still out on MREs but I think it is encouraging that they are trying to make food a little bit more of a “culinary experience” for military folks. 😊

  21. What a great story! Yes, I agree that the low flying heron was doing a flyby thank you.

    • Many thanks for your lovely comment! Wildlife to human communication happens when least expected. What a joy that Dennis could rescue that beautiful Heron. Best, Babsje

  1. Pingback: Beautiful Herons and Friends: There are No Wrong Answers | Babsje Heron

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