|A family of herons seen on top of a tree within Đinh Thị Trí's bird sanctuary in the northern province of Hà Tĩnh. — Photo vtcnews.vn|
HÀ TĨNH — A woman in the northern province of Hà Tĩnh has used her home as a sanctuary for cò cói (Chinese pond heron) for the last 60 years.
"This land, where my home is built on, was passed down to me from my grandfather. Nobody remembers when the birds made it their home but I've been taking care of them for almost 60 years," said Đinh Thị Trí, 77.
Trí used to work as a primary school teacher. After she retired in 1991 her full-time job has been to provide and protect the species of heron commonly found in East Asia.
"They would come here to build nest during February of the year in the lunar calendar. Around the end of April, the peak of their mating season, they would come in their thousands. A female could lay three to five eggs two or three times at this time," she said.
"The parents would leave early in the morning to find nourishment and come back at noon to feed the babies. That's when they would make the most noise," said Trí as she erected a fence to stop children in the neighbourhood from sneaking in.
The bird sanctuary is a 3,000 square metre patch of land with trees as tall as 15 metres high, which are the birds' favourites to build nests. It takes half a century for the trees to grow this tall, according to Trí.
"There are 15-20 nests on a tree like this," she said as pointing to one.
"The birds almost never fight among themselves. They'd try to warn others by making a lot of noise if they sensed danger," she said.
Trí said some years the birds came late.
"They like a warm spring. When it's cold, they tend to come late. Extreme weather have been more frequent in recent years, I worry one day they would stop coming," she added.
She said there used to be other birds who used to nest on her land but now there is only cò cói.
"Two years ago, we were hit by a big storm. Even the big trees fell down. It broke my heart to see the baby birds all scattered on the ground in the morning," Trí said.
Trí and her sons looked for the injured birds and the abandoned babies and tried to nurse them back to health before releasing them back to nature.
"Some people shoot them with air guns. They frighten the parent birds. Some of them never made it back to their babies and many of them starved to death. If they keep it up I fear one day there will be no birds around," she said. — VNS