Something about writing these Atlantis recaps makes me want to write about Hēraklēs. It might be a need to redeem the man from myth after his on-screen counterpart Hercules is done with him. So it's time for another labour from ancient Hellas' greatest hero: Hēraklēs.

The last time we met up with Hēraklēs, he had just used a river to clean some very dirty stables--for a reward, no less. Because of the contract for pay, king Eurystheus refuses to count the labour towards Hēraklēs' ten (well, eleven at that point) labours, and to make matters worse, king Augeias with whom Herakles had the contract, refuses to pay Hēraklēs for his efforts. To be fair, the river Alpheius did do all the work.

What follows next is one of the easiest labours for Hēraklēs--but only because of divine intervention. Eurystheus has been called upon to remove a huge flock of birds covering the waters of the Stymphalus, there they are hiding from wolves, it seems. Pausanias, in his 'Description of Greece' describes the birds that came to be known as the Stymphalian Birds:

"The Arabian desert breeds among other wild creatures birds called Stymphalian, which are quite as savage against men as lions or leopards. These fly against those who come to hunt them, wounding and killing them with their beaks. All armour of bronze or iron that men wear is pierced by the birds; but if they weave a garment of thick cork, the beaks of the Stymphalian birds are caught in the cork garment, just as the wings of small birds stick in bird-lime. These birds are of the size of a crane, and are like the ibis, but their beaks are more powerful, and not crooked like that of the ibis. Whether the modern Arabian birds with the same name as the old Arcadian birds are also of the same breed, I do not know. But if there have been from all time Stymphalian birds, just as there have been hawks and eagles, I should call these birds of Arabian origin, and a section of them might have flown on some occasion to Arcadia and reached Stymphalus. Originally they would be called by the Arabians, not Stymphalian, but by another name. But the fame of Heracles, and the superiority of the Greek over the foreigner, has resulted in the birds of the Arabian desert being called Stymphalian even in modern times." [8.22.4]
Naturally, Hēraklēs gets the job. When he reaches the waters, even he is mystified on how he is going to get thousands upon thousands of birds to line up for his arrows; these birds in many of the stories are not only equipped with hard beaks, but some accounts even have them shoot out their feathers like arrows. There are two versions of the story, with variances upon these. The most deity-centered is from Apollodorus' 'Library':

"[W]hen Hercules was at a loss how to drive the birds from the wood, Athena gave him brazen castanets, which she had received from Hephaestus. By clashing these on a certain mountain that overhung the lake, he scared the birds. They could not abide the sound, but fluttered up in a fright, and in that way Hercules shot them."

Others, however, do not include the rattle at all, or do not mention Athena. In some versions, the birds are only scared off. Two examples; Pausanias in his 'Description of Greece':

"There is a story current about the water of the Stymphalus, that at one time man-eating birds bred on it, which Heracles is said to have shot down. Peisander of Camira, however, says that Heracles did not kill the birds, but drove them away with the noise of rattles." [8.22.4]

...and Diodorus in his 'Library of History':

"Now it was not possible to master the animals by force because of the exceptional multitude of them, and so the deed called for ingenuity in cleverly discovering some device. Consequently he fashioned a bronze rattle whereby he made a terrible noise and frightened the animals away, and furthermore, by maintaining a continual din, he easily forced them to abandon their siege of the place and cleansed the lake of them." [4.13.2]

Regardless of the actual details, Hēraklēs wraps up the job easily, and is now half way though his labours: six down, six to go. I can make one guarantee: the next labour will not be so easy: slay the Cretan Bull; a bull who has no intention of staying down.