Covid-19 cases are escalating. The country is politically polarized. Heavy, wet snow covered the town the day before Halloween.
Is there a good-news story anywhere?
Well, down at the end of South Road, some intrepid neighbors successfully rescued an anonymous pet parakeet from the inhospitable outdoors. The enterprise, which unfolded over days on social media like a Netflix series, inspired perfect strangers to drive to the scene and ask questions like, “Do you have enough millet?”
“I’m not even that fond of parakeets,” admitted Patty Dahlgren, whose property was the center of the action, culminating with the rescue on Saturday. “I’m an opossum person myself, but saving this little bird became wonderful. I’ve talked to people all across town.”
Barbara Anderson, Dahlgren’s neighbor, said she first spotted “a glimpse of green” back on October 22. Meanwhile, Renee O’Donnell on Fayette Road, who already cares for two parakeets rescued from the wild, learned of the bird on social media.
“I knew I had to get the bird or it would die. The first day I was out there for four or five hours,” she recounted. “Then it was between three and six hours a day. It just became, ‘When do you stop once you’ve done this much?’ I just kept going.”
Dahlgren entered the story early last week. “I got a text from Barb and she said there’s a woman hanging around, but don’t worry – she is trying to catch a parakeet that got loose.” Dahlgren’s version of the chronicle covers the last four days and sounds like a monologue for a late-night television comedy.
“I have a lot of bamboo and Barbara feeds the birds so we started watching. And then I saw this tiny, brilliantly-colored red-green-yellow parakeet, hanging out with a mob of sparrows,” she related. “The bird seemed to have attached itself to a flock of sparrows,” O’Donnell agreed. “A para-sparrow,” Anderson offered.
It rained off and on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and the parakeet was hanging around Dahlgren’s place. The women tried some creative strategies. For example, Dahlgren said, “I made a sort of blind, sitting under a giant green plastic poncho with a big pile of seed and a net. We tried everything – different kinds of nets, different types of birdseed.”
Meanwhile, her friend Jennifer Boles “dropped off the Taj Mahal of birdcages, with a heated perch and swings and mirrors and a light for warmth.” The parakeet, she noted, “didn’t want anything to do with that.”
Anderson and O’Donnell, Dahlgren said, were on the scene for hours, much of that time seated on the ground. “I did a lot of watching – I almost froze yesterday,” Anderson commented on Saturday. “I can’t believe what a tough little bird this is,” O’Donnell added. “We were all very shocked that she made it this far.”
Overnight Friday into Saturday, the temperature dropped below 20 and it began to snow. Upon awakening, Dahlgren said, “I was so sure we would have a Popsicle parakeet.”
“I happened to see a glimpse of green this morning. Then I saw her feeding on the ground,” Anderson recounted. “I texted Renee and Patty.”
Dahlgren’s husband Stephen then tried something right out of the Roadrunner-Wile E. Coyote cartoon handbook. Dahlgren said he drilled a hole in a backyard tree limb, “propped up a fishing net over a big pile of seed, and ran a string up to the kitchen window where he could see the pile.”
The only thing missing was an “Acme” label on the contraption.
But unlike the cartoon, it actually worked – eventually.
“We caught three starlings. We caught a chipmunk,” Dahlgren laughed. “Every time the trap fell, we had to run out and check, then wait for the birds to settle again. Finally, I heard Stephen yell, ‘I got it.’”
Dahlgren went out to the trap to retrieve the bird. She said, “I didn’t know they bite. I tried to put my hands around him so I wouldn’t hurt his wings. The bird was biting really hard. We got the bird into the cage; he got water and seed.”
“I like birds. We had them frequently when I was a child,” O’Donnell said. she named the parakeet (it’s a female) Perdita. “I name all of my birds after characters from Shakespeare,” she laughed. Perdita is one of the heroines in “A Winter’s Tale.”
Perdita’s cage is in the same room with the other two parakeets, in a larger single cage. “They’re talking to her. She seems comfortable,” O’Donnell said.
Dahlgren was triumphant. “It has been a tough 2020—and this was such a nice ending.”
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at email@example.com, or 781-983-1763
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