Having lost her husband to cancer last year and then one of her beloved parrots on Father’s Day, bird-lover Allana Shillito needed some joy. In early August, that joy came in the form of a re-homed green and yellow budgie named Summer and her two cockatiel sisters.
Shillito was happy to add to her flock, and by all accounts, the birds were happy with their new home which featured an aviary that was accessed through a window in the kitchen of her Lake Cowichan home.
The birds had good company and plenty of room to roam.
On Saturday, Sept. 1, though, the inquisitive budgie decided to roam a little too far. Summer opted to check out the aviary. No big deal right? Aviaries are for birds after all. But the little budgie had bigger plans. Somehow, Summer managed to crawl through a hole in the mesh of the aviary and scoot between it and the house. When Shillito went to check on her feathered friends 20 minutes later, the budgie was gone.
“Summer hung around the riparian zone for the whole day then took off with a small flock of birds,” Shillito explained. She knew the bird would be OK for a while, anyway.
“The nights were warm and there was plenty of grass and thistle seeds,” she said.
Shillito called the SPCA and then took to the public Lake Cowichan Town Happenings page on Facebook to alert the group of her missing bird. It wasn’t the first time she’s had to alert the neighbours.
While Shillito has a reputation for going places with a bird on her shoulder, she also, unfortunately, has a reputation for losing birds.
“I had a conure go missing a couple years back and it was found in the 100 Houses area,” she noted.
This time was different. This bird was not only new, but very small.
“I was hoping Summer could be found. I was a bit heart sick losing this one. I didn’t feel well about this little one.”
Things weren’t looking good when a man who lived near the marina at Point Ideal said a similar-looking bird had crashed into his window recently and died.
Shillito was disappointed to hear the news but she knew there were actually two budgies on the lam around the lake. She held out hope that hers was still out there.
On the evening of Sept. 4 a fellow from Lakeview Campground found a yellow and green budgie at the campsite.
“He put the bird in an insulated zippered food bag and took it to the only place open: the Best Buy Cold Beer and wine store,” Shillito related.
A seemingly odd choice, but the bird was likely thirsty and perhaps the man was, too.
This is where the story takes a cool turn.
It just so happens Shillito works part-time at that liquor store.
“My co-worker Gerrie phoned me and I zipped down and got her. She was thin and tired with no leg band but the overgrown brown-pink cere (nostrils) and long nails were the same,” she said.
What are the odds of being reunited with your budgie at the beer store? About the same as being reunited with a lost bird at all, I’d say.
Shillito kept Summer quiet for several days then let her out of her cage. The little bird went right over to sit with her two cockatiel sisters (and no doubt to gossip about her epic adventure).
“I think I got the right bird back,” she said. “Summer is still recuperating; not as cheeky as she once was but I am so very grateful to have her back. Losing my husband to cancer last year and one of my parrots on Father’s Day, I couldn’t bear to lose another companion. I really needed this little piece of joy and hope.”