Narry of the Bog

Driving along a country road yesterday, we spotted a grey heron. We see them occasionally. Big, flappy, ungainly birds- very prehistoric vibe about them. In Ireland they are commonly known as Narry’s of the bog.


It was apparent that Narry was not happy. Ger stopped the car and we watched him for a couple of minutes. He made an attempt to fly off and failed. Just then a dog came bounding down to the road, barking like crazy.  So what to do next? Having stopped the car, we felt involved.

At this point, I should say that I have tried to stop getting involved in situations like this. Ever since I was small, I’ve rescued birds. Recently I connected with a former student flatmate on facebook. We hadn’t met in over thirty years. Apparently, her stand out memory of me is rescuing  a beat up, half dead pigeon that I brought home and attempted to keep alive. I think I made everyone take turns to feed him during the night!  The sad thing is, that despite my best efforts, 90% of the things I rescued died. I console myself with the thought that at least they had a happy death, knowing that someone cared. But, still and all, they ended up dead.

Given my past experience, I  was not disposed to taking Mister Nary dinosaur bird home. Did I mention his beak? It was sword like in it’s proportions. A lethal weapon for spearing fish. Pigeon rescue is easy. Rescuing this Jurassic relic took guts. And that’s where my beloved shone. He picked him up- tucked him under his arm and sat in the passenger seat. As we pulled off, the bird started squawking- raucous, dinosaur like sounds. Very Jurassic.

The grey heron  is approx 1 metre in height. His wing span is 1.6 to 2 metres. Suffice to say, he’s no pigeon. Sitting in the front seat of our car, with his mad, black, haunted eyes, he looked like a crumpled chicken. There was nothing to him under all the feathers.

Funnily enough, the grey heron has been revered in Irish mythology since time immemorial.  There’s a story about two girls, Aoife, daughter of Daelbeth, and Luchra, daughter of Abhartach. Both of them fancied  this guy Illbreac, who was a son of the great Sea God, Manannán mac Lir. Anyway, Manannan preferred Aoife and Luchra wasn’t happy. So what did she do? In a fit of pique, she turned Aoife into a heron. Aoife the heron, flew off and lived to be 200 years old. Manannan was so upset when she finally passed away that he decided to commemorate her in a very special way.

Remember Silence of the Lambs? Manannan would have loved that film.

To honour his lovely Aoife bird, he skinned her and kept all his treasures in a little bag made out of her. Ah, love’s true dream, eh?

When the Christian church hit our shores, somewhere back in the 5th century, it too had some thoughts about the grey heron. The nice thing about the early Christians was that they were very fluid in their interpretation of the way things were. Completely unphased by the strong hold of the indigenous Celtic pantheon, they simply altered some pertinent facts; inserted saints where there were previously gods and goddesses and proceeded to assume absolute control of the hearts and minds of the population.

So, the heron, once sacred to the Triple Goddess, worshipped as the keeper of secrets and shamanic travel, maintained a place in the popular imagination as a fallen sinner. Word was that if you failed to make it to heaven on account of your bad deeds on earth, you might well have to come back to earth as a heron, and this was by way of penance.

But, I digress. Back to the present day and the plight of  Mr Nary.

We came to the conclusion that we should bring him some place where he could recuperate, safe from dogs and cars. Not too far away was a  lake. Ger found a sheltered spot and we left him there. By way of remembrance,  our friend gave Ger a parting gift: a two inch scratch down the side of his face.

Who could blame him? He was freaked out, big time. The wound looks worse than it is. It will heal.  I sincerely hope that Mr Nary will recover and live to fly another day. The younger me would have brought him home and fed him worms and put him a bucket of hay.  Maybe that would have been the right thing to do. I don’t know. It’s tricky with wild things.  The shock of being out of their environment can be too much for them. Many of them don’t survive the trauma.

Anyway we drove off, went home and thought about what had happened.  Being up close to such an ancient, scrawny specimen of life was pretty special, humbling even. I love that about life in the countryside. Those rare, insider moments when you get to experience the natural world in all its diversity. Truly, we live on an amazing planet.





33 thoughts on “Narry of the Bog

  1. Great story and description, I loved this —> “with his mad, black, haunted eyes, he looked like a crumpled chicken.” So good. It is an amazing planet, and I appreciate reading your versions of it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The two of you are quite wonderful in the way you think and the things you do. Mr. Nary would make a lovely character in one of your children’s stories, but leave out the part about his tendency to claw at people’s faces. It will freak out the children, for sure.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Clare. I’ve often seen herons in the distance, but never close up. Think it was Mr Nary’s beak that did the damage- it was enormous. Enough to give children nightmares for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! That is so brave of you. A heron is such a force of nature. We have rescued swans before and I used to help out at a swan sanctuary where it’s the geese you need to watch out for! But it’s so nice to hear that there are other people who never give up hope and who will try against all the odds to rescue a bird or make it more comfortable. I have had my heart broken many times by garden birds I have tried to save – the latest pigeon only last autumn and I cried for 2 days – but I keep trying. Thanks for sharing the crazy story too (Eeeoohh!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment. Your work with the swan sanctuary sounds fascinating. They are such beautiful birds. It is upsetting when rescue birds don’t make it. Sadly, our cat is responsible for a few too many bird deaths for my liking.


  4. What a wonderful post! We have herons here as well, but they are called blue herons. I always watch in wonder as they awkwardly flap their wings to get their heavy bodies up into flight. Dinosaur like, indeed.

    Your way to rescue birds since you were a child shows you have a heart for other creatures, and that is a great thing! And your right, you can’t save them all. I also brought home injured animals and nursed sickly baby chicks as well that our chickens had hatched.

    Hoping that heron made it on his way after the incident.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This made me smile. They do seem to struggle, and for such gorgeous birds, I am still surprised by the awkward take off sequence each time. 🙂


  5. I’m almost jealous that you got so close to a heron. It seems mystical and magical to me. Of course a large scrap isn’t so great, but overall it’s a cool experience. Love your summation of early Christianity: “The nice thing about the early Christians was that they were very fluid in their interpretation of the way things were.” The current crop of Christians could learn a thing or two from the ancestors! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hopping over from Nikki’s Posts of Note. So brave of you to try and help him! 🙂 I hope Ger is doing okay and that your heron friend makes a speedy recovery 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That was so kind of you to rescue that bird. I’ve moved turtles out of roadways and taken baby bunnies to the conservancy where they care for rescue wildlife, but birds with flapping wings and pointy beaks sounds much more intimidating! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much. Rescuing turtles sounds pretty amazing to me! You would never come across them here in Ireland. We do, of course, have rabbits, but thankfully I haven’t come across any in need of help.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There were lots of turtles in Florida, not as many here in Virginia. We once had rabbits nest in our yard and their safety was in peril once the dog discovered the nest. I was very happy there was a place to take them for safety.


  8. What a wonderful story of kindness and caring for all creatures. My daughter is like that, if she sees an injured duck on the road she makes me stop and we make sure it’s off the road, safe etc. I’ve lost track of the number of injured animals she’s helped. 🙂


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