By Barbara A. Schmitz, EAA 188059
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh’s Lost and Found has reunited many convention visitors with things like lost cameras, wallets, and cell phones. But on Friday night, July 30, they made their most interesting return ever: a male pet cockatiel named Martha.
Owner Kate Holsworth of Oshkosh had gotten home from work at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and, as she came inside, Martha, her nearly 1-year-old pet cockatiel, flew to her shoulder as he usually does. However, when Kate noticed a package outside, she put him on top of his cage and opened the door to retrieve the box.
“He was out the door like a shot,” she said. She spent that night and early next morning calling and looking for him in the midst of the storm. When she tried calling him again the next morning, she saw him sitting in a nearby tree, about 30 feet high, but he refused to fly down. That was the last time she saw Martha.
Kate put alerts online, in places like Facebook and Lost Birds of Wisconsin, and continued driving and biking around her neighborhood, calling for the bird. But by Friday, she was starting to give up hope that Martha would be found.
However, on mid-afternoon on Friday, Jerry and Susan LaRoche, of Waukesha, Wisconsin, were sitting outside their camper in Paul’s Woods within Camp Scholler when they got a surprise visitor. A bird landed on their picnic table.
“Years ago we had a little parakeet, so we just started talking to it softly,” Jerry said. “I put my finger out and he walked over to us, hopped on my finger, and went up my arm a little bit before it went back down.”
But then his wife, Susan, put out her finger. “He hoped on her finger, climbed up her arm to her shoulder, and just snuggled in and shut its eyes,” Jerry said. “It was obvious he felt very comfortable there, and he stayed there for about 45 minutes. I truly feel it was intervention that the little bird knew where to go to get help.”
Their son called Lost and Found to see if anyone had lost a bird, and Chairman Gary Sternberg, EAA 811075, got involved. With help from security, they went to the campsite where they found the cockatiel still snuggled on Susan’s shoulder. He put the bird in a box and took him back to their building.
Next, he asked the air show to announce that a bird had been found, thinking someone on the grounds had lost the bird. In the meantime, Gary said it was obvious the bird was hungry, so he went out and got him some food. “He ate for one and a half hours straight,” he said.
Then about 9 or 10 p.m., Lost and Found got a phone call from Kate. Someone at Friday’s air show had heard the announcement, saw her online posting, and called her.
Even though it was late, Gary contacted security to let them know a woman would be driving in to pick up her bird, and she was escorted to the Lost and Found building.
Both Martha and Kate were happy to be reunited. “The bird went on her finger, climbed up her arm to her cheek, and started snuggling there,” Gary said.
Gary said returning the bird to its owner was truly a group effort. “We always put in the extra effort when there’s something like this,” he said. “I don’t know how that bird made it nearly five miles, through a storm, to the AirVenture grounds, and didn’t suffer a bird strike or get hit by a propeller. He must have known the approach coming into Oshkosh,” he said, laughing.
Kate said she couldn’t thank EAA enough for all its help in reuniting her and Martha. “I can’t believe the love and support they gave,” she said. “The Lost and Found crew is amazing.”