A Siege of Herons: Connie Sobchak ponders the similarities between a heronry and a shopping mall

On the way to the Tsawwassen Ferry, as I inspect the trees at the base of the hill, I feel transported to a world where pterodactyls still fly in the skies: a colony of great blue herons live there.

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It’s hard to look at a heron without thinking of ancient times: their gangly legs, their immense beaks; their red rimmed yellow eyes-and then there’s the loud rasping call and the outlandishly precarious perches in their colonies. All seem better suited to a Jurassic world than to the urban landscape they inhabit across from BC’s newest mega mall. But there they are, building nests and mating and generally settling in for a spring of raising chicks just as they’ve always done.

Just up the highway from the heronry, part of Tsawwassen Mills Mall, squats the Bass Pro store. So far, I’ve not visited because it is so immense I feel I would need a solid afternoon just to wander its aisles-by myself, thank you, anyway. There are thirty foot motor boats in that store and aquariums with all manner of fresh and saltwater fish. There is a restaurant and a bowling alley; there are First Nations artifacts and stuffed animals; there are flashlights and fleece pants and rows and rows of fishing tackle. Everything you might possibly need to survive and thrive in the great outdoors can be found in that shop.

Across the street in the heronry, mates pass branches to each other to fortify their nests. This too is an immense place; everything a heron might possibly need to survive and thrive in the great outdoors can be found in those trees and in the ocean lapping at either side of the peninsula. I don’t know how long they’ve nested in that area but herons commonly inhabit the same spot for several years and often return after an absence if the trees remain. For people living nearby a colony of herons is not always such a pleasant thing-the whitewash in the trees stinks; they squawk. Another collective noun for a colony of herons is a siege as in a plague or an annoyance or a vexation.

As a birder and a mall shopper both sides of the highway are intriguing to me. Quite possibly the people living near the mall use more loaded terms than urban sprawl to describe the shopping centre across the street. How ironic though, that words with connotations of invasion are used to depict the herons and that words with connotations of killing time and lazing about are used for malls. Someday soon, I’ll spend my morning at the heronry, gawking at the great blue herons and marvelling at their persistence. At lunch, I’ll emerge from the underbrush and cross the busy highway to enter a world that is decorated to look like the one I just came from.

Photo by Gary Sobchak

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