Sweet Pea and Me - 27 East


Residence / 2062942

Sweet Pea and Me

Number of images 3 Photos
A week later I went to visit.  As soon as I stuck my hand out Sweet Pea climbed onto my finger as we reunited.  Did she recognize me?

A week later I went to visit. As soon as I stuck my hand out Sweet Pea climbed onto my finger as we reunited. Did she recognize me? ANDREW MESSINGER

Home sweet home, Sweet Pea and I meet again a week after her frigid ordeal. ANDREW MESSINGER

Home sweet home, Sweet Pea and I meet again a week after her frigid ordeal. ANDREW MESSINGER

It was two weeks before Christmas on a cold snowy night when this tropical South American bird appeared on the Hampton Gardener's windowsill.  She'd just been indoors a few minutes when this picture was taken.  ANDREW MESSINGER

It was two weeks before Christmas on a cold snowy night when this tropical South American bird appeared on the Hampton Gardener's windowsill. She'd just been indoors a few minutes when this picture was taken. ANDREW MESSINGER


Hampton Gardener®

  • Publication: Residence
  • Published on: Dec 22, 2022
  • Columnist: Andrew Messinger

It was two weeks before Christmas and all through the house not a thing was stirring, not even a mouse. Well, there’s the squirrel in the wall on the second floor, but it’s been quiet recently.

The snow had been falling all day turning the brown gardens and lawn a wonderful wintery white as inch upon inch the glorious insulation fell. As much as I hate winter it was totally beautiful and yet another sign that this gardener was about to enter hibernation.

Something was freaking out the dog though. I didn’t hear or see anything, but she thought she did and it was off to the dark bathroom where she always found security. Five minutes later she was out again and stretched out in front of the blazing fire.

Again she thought she heard something and again she was off to the bathroom. I looked outside and no tracks in the snow, no signs of animals lurking. No rabbits, no deer and no raccoons, just the constant feather-light flakes of snow adding to the accumulation and covering our tracks from earlier in the day.

Esme again returned to the living room and again got comfy in front of the fire. She moved to the side as I added a few more logs. She stretched so her entire body faced the fire as she liked being heated to a medium rare. I laid on the floor beside her delighting in the hot rays of the fire warming my old and aching back. We were both in heaven but separate ones, I’m sure.

Tap, tap, tap. This time I heard it and again Esme responded with a speedy scoot to the bathroom. Tap, tap, tap again. I looked out each of the three windows behind the wood stove and all I saw was snow. I waited and no sounds. About 30 seconds later I heard it again, tap, tap, tap, but this time on the far window. I moved around the wood stove then peered out the window. I looked left, looked right and I looked up and down. Nothing. Not a thing that could or would go tap, tap, tap.

I turned and walked away, but this time the dog had had it. She decided to just stay in the bathroom sans the fire. I was about to sit in my chair and then, just as before, tap, tap, tap. But this time — this time — I saw something moving on the window sill. A small object on the sill was moving slightly so I got up, walked over and was stymied by what I saw.

At first it looked like a blue jay or maybe it was a small pigeon, as they roosted on the roof of the Colonial Inn up the street and in the cupola of the Wellington a couple of houses away. Tap, tap, tap again, and I suddenly realized that this bird was causing the commotion as it tapped at the window. When it saw me it became more insistent pacing back and forth on the snowy sill, tapping away. It was about 28 degrees out, after 9 in the evening, and it had been snowing since late in the morning. Tap, tap, tap, with its head rubbing against the glass, its body lightly covered in snow and its feathers clearly ruffled in the chilled air.

I went upstairs where my wife was working in her office and I said, “Shelley, you have to come down stairs and see this right away”. Of course when we went to the windows there was no bird and no tapping so I had to tell her what I had seen. She was, hmm, dubious. Then from the kitchen window a few feet away we heard it again, tap, tap, tap. She looked on the sill and exclaimed what I already knew, it was a parrot.

She said what I’d known for several minutes, “It wants to come in, open the window!” The dog was already in a state, and the image of a bird flying around the house was not something I was entertaining. “What can we use for a cage?” was her next question. I had just put a large, raccoon-sized Havahart trap back in the barn, and she went out to get it. Now, how in the world would we get this parrot into the trap? That was the easy part.

The back porch is right outside the kitchen so we both put jackets on, she grabbed the trap and we went out on the porch. The parrot heard us and immediately flew from the windowsill onto my shoulder. Shelley put her arm out and the parrot walked from my shoulder onto her outstretched arm then right into the trap as if it knew what we had in mind. Lickety-split into the warm kitchen.

The poor bird was clearly cold and began preening itself as we contemplated our next moves. The bird was amazing from the get go. When I put a finger through the cage mesh it nuzzled my finger and let me pet it from head to tail. We put water in the trap, and it immediately drank. We then moved on to some food — and it ate. Not wild about banana but it did really, really like cantaloupe.

The parrot was about a foot long, beak to tail, and while mostly green it also had gray and some yellow. We tried to figure out just what it was, but the curl in its beak made the ID confusing. It turned out to be a green-cheeked conure, native to South America. At this point, though, that didn’t matter. Warming up the bird and making it comfortable was the goal of the moment.

What we had was a South American parrot that was clearly a pet and was just as clearly very intelligent and very affectionate. My head was swirling with thoughts of how this bird might change my life (like, what would I do with it when I came back downstate?) and not least of which was, what do you do with a parrot? Esme stayed in the bathroom unamused.

We made some calls and sent some texts to friends for help and advice. A wildlife rehabilitator lives a quarter of a mile away but didn’t respond, and it looked like our first job was simply to get the parrot warm and through the night. Every time we’d walk out of the kitchen it would screech. Later on, when we went to cover the trap for the night, it would screech. What would we call it? Where would it live? Could we find the owner?

I went to bed while Shelley stayed up reading about parrots. Eventually the bird seemed to warm up, and we were just utterly amazed that this bird settled in like a family member. Hours later Shelley covered the cage and went to bed. The dog came out of the bathroom and back to her spot in front of the fire.

First thing in the morning I head downstairs to the kitchen and uncover the cage. The parrot was awake and eating bird seed from the selection of seeds, nuts and corn fragments that Shelley had found in the basement where I keep my bird foods. No more ruffled feathers, and it seemed quite at home.

I put the dog on her leash and took her out for her morning constitutional. A few houses away I ran into the woman who had been renting the top floor of a nearby house and I asked her if she knew anyone local who had lost a parrot?

“Oh my God!” she screamed. “That’s Sweet Pea. She got out of the Colonial yesterday afternoon and they’ve been looking everywhere for her. Hang on, let me call Heather.”

Five minutes later, Heather Witty was in our kitchen reunited with Sweat Pea. She couldn’t believe her luck, and the tale of how this wonderful parrot, who she said shouldn’t be at temperatures below 65 degrees, had survived. Apparently, she was quite used to flying in and out of the Colonial Inn during warmer weather and went out the front door not knowing it was winter, let alone snowing. She’d been out in the snow for close to six hours.

Sweet Pea was reunited with Heather, her daughter and Heather’s father. Sweet Pea seems to be fine, though Heather tells me she spent two days in front of a heater. Everyone in the hamlet is talking about the “Christmas miracle.” A mitzvah for sure.

We felt so incredibly blessed with our meeting Sweet Pea and being able to get her back to her home of four years. Clearly this was all meant to be. Sweet peas are one of my favorite flowers. And now, my favorite parrot.

Happy holidays to you all and of course, keep growing.

Garden Notes

If you have a Christmas tree and it’s the live, cut type, it needs water. Ours (a blue spruce about 7 feet tall) was brought into the house late last week. First, the bottom few inches of trunk are removed to expose live tissue that can still absorb water. Then the water is added to the stand’s reservoir. As a guide, our tree seems to use about a quart of water in 24 hours. Keeping your tree watered makes it last much longer and reduces the chance of the tree being a fire hazard.

Keep your Poinsettias well-watered, but your holiday cacti should dry out before watering again.

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