“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary … No, this is not about a raven, but a parakeet who decided to explore the other side of my condo.”
So begins a letter the Kitsap Sun recently received from bird lover Ellen Bankus of Port Orchard. Bankus, who owns a number of birds, went on to describe the mishap of one “no name” parakeet who got out of his cage in the bedroom, made a beeline for the laundry room and somehow got stuck on the floor behind the water heater. The space behind the appliance was so confined, that even the tiny bird could not find a way out.
Bankus called the Port Orchard Police Department. Kind officers came out to her apartment and spent considerable time “exhausting every know way to get him out to no avail,” Bankus wrote. “I finally accepted the verdict that my parakeet was going to ‘rest in peace’ behind the tank.”
If this were one of those old time serial movies, this is where we’d fade to black, leaving Tweety tied to the railroad tracks.
But look, up in the sky. It’s a bird; it’s a plane. No, it’s Port Orchard City Councilman Fred Olin to the rescue.
Bankus called Olin, remembering his militant advocacy for the
city’s Quaker parrots in 2005. This was before my time on the South
Kitsap beat, but apparently Olin’s involvement in city government
sprang from his interest in a group of parrots that had escaped
during transport to a local pet store in 2002 and taken up
residence in a cell phone tower near South Kitsap High School.
(The photo here is courtesy of BrooklynParrots.com, a blog where Steve Baldwin chronicles the life of urban parrots in New York City.)
The council in 2005 OK’d the extension of the tower, but on the advice of the state Department of Fish & Wildlife, required that the tower owner remove the large nest of sticks and trap the birds. The DFW said the birds could cause problems for native wildlife and there were concerns about fire in the tower.
Olin began researching Quaker parrots and found the gregarious birds have a penchant for inhabiting man-man structures. “I know more about parrots than anyone should know,” Olin said, in a recent phone interview. “They come from the highlands of Argentina, which is a moderate climate, so there’s no surprise they can survive here.”
Survive and thrive. Olin estimates at one time there were up to 30 parrots cavorting and entertaining residents in a wide vicinity of the tower. He took it on himself to circulate a petition to save the parrots and allow them to remain free, eventually gathering 1,800 signatures.
“I am not a bird person. I am not a parrot person. I’m just going, ‘It’s not right to do that,'” Olin said.
The outcry about the parrots gathered media attention, with signatures on the online petition coming from 18 foreign countries, 45 states and 61 Washington state communities. The council asked the DFW to reconsider requiring that the parrots be removed.
The DFW pressed its case, however, and attempts to trap and remove the birds went forward in July 2005 … not without resistance from Olin. When sticks from the nest were removed from the tower, they just happened to show up in the back of Olin’s pickup truck, which he planned to park in the area in hopes of providing the birds a new accommodation. None of the birds were captured on the first day.
What wasn’t reported at the time, and what Olin divulged to me is that on the evening of the first capture attempt, he went to the local hardware store and got pounds of millet, which he distributed on rooftops far and wide in the dark of night.
“The next day the trapper came back, there wasn’t a bird in sight. They were all over town,” Olin said, with an audible smirk. Don’t think a smirk can be audible? Trust me, Olin was pleased as punch with himself.
Later, when Clearwire applied to put antennae up on another tower, the council ditched a proposed condition that any nesting birds be removed. Olin was inspired by his civic success to run for city council in 2007. He served 2008 through 2011.
Now back to the parakeet in peril at Bankus’ apartment. Olin sprang into action, making a net out of a mesh orange sack that he fished into the wedge of space behind the water heater. But he was unable to snare the frightened bird. Then Olin got the bright idea to drain the water tank, which he accomplished with a water hose directed off Bankus’ upstairs apartment. The tank empty, Olin was able to move it an inch or so to the side, and “No Name” walked out from behind it as if to say, “What the heck took you so long?”
Bankus now has christened the little, feathery fugitive after his rescuer, “Fred Olin.”