“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
“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
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.”
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