Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Local woman on quest to find Nemo


To many, the phrase likely conjures up images of a plucky clownfish caught up in an animated underwater adventure, but for Santa Barbara resident Patty Berns-Golas, “Finding Nemo” has taken on a whole new meaning in the last few weeks.
It’s been exactly 35 days since her lilac-crowned Amazon parrot — dubbed Nemo when he joined the family 28 years ago — disappeared from her yard near Mission Canyon and Foothill roads.

“The last thing I saw was his little chubby body flying over my rooftop,” she said.
The green parrot, topped with a blue-and-red head, commonly sat outside the window of her home office, eating fruit on a cherimoya tree.
On the day he disappeared, Nemo was startled from that tree by a large group of mourning doves, which had taken to the air en masse after a screen door slammed nearby.
“He was due for a clipping,” Berns-Golas said, explaining that she regularly kept his feathers trimmed. “He’s fully feathered, he’s fully flighted now.”
Since launching her search on Sept. 9, she has witnessed an upswell of support from her friends and neighbors. Spurred on by posters hung throughout the neighborhood, folks have been calling in with Nemo sightings and asking for updates on the search effort.
Berns-Golas suspects her feathered friend might have spent his first night in a neighbor’s yard. The resident there said she had noticed a beautiful parrot sitting in her tree all night and didn’t know it was a missing pet until reading a flier the next day.
A day later, Nemo was spotted in another nearby backyard, grazing on the ground. More reports started trickling in as the word spread throughout the community.
A woman noticed fruit on her apple tree, one of the parrot’s favorite meals, had been raided. A man thought he heard parrot-like sounds coming from his back patio in Mission Canyon.
“A lot of people are very kind to me and they all say, we are going to try to find him,” Berns-Golas said. “It makes me feel so good when people tell me, “I’m gonna cover this area, Patty.’”
On a recent weekend, she emailed friends about an organized search in the afternoon hours before the sun dipped below the horizon. Expecting a handful of folks to show, Berns-Golas got a surprise when 30 people appeared at her doorstep, joined by neighbors who noticed the gathering.
Armed with binoculars, fruit and buttered popcorn — another Nemo delicacy — the group combed a one-mile radius around the home but turned up empty. Nonetheless, Berns-Golas said the support is keeping her spirits up.
“They’re not too busy to do something nice for me,” she said. “I just really love my family and friends and neighbors.”
Although 28 years might seem like a long time to own a pet, Berns-Golas said Amazon parrots have a lifespan between 50 and 100 years, calling Nemo a “spunky” youngster.
In fact, he fought off a pair of Jack Russell terriers that got into the backyard a few years ago, she said, lying on his back and clawing away at the canines. She even had to pry his beak open after he snagged the front leg of one of the terriers.
“I think he’s a survivor,” she said.
While she has no doubts about his ability to hold his own in the relative wild of Mission Canyon, Berns-Golas is concerned about the approaching winter and each sunset is becoming a distressing event.
“I think if it was his choice, he would be back,” she said, explaining that in addition to the connection they share, the parrot also has a girlfriend waiting at home, a tiny yellow parakeet.
“They love each other,” she said. “They sit together in the tree and preen each other.”
To those in the neighborhood near Mission Canyon and Foothill roads, Berns-Golas urged them to call her with any sightings of Nemo at 403-9619 or email her at
She also recommended calling his name, as he loves to answer back — his favorite line is “What do you think you’re doing?” In addition to apples and buttered popcorn, he goes wild for figs and enjoys taking showers in sprinklers.
“I’m willing to accept that I may never see him again,” Berns-Golas said. “But if there’s a chance that he’s sitting in someone’s yard just trying to survive, I want to give it my best effort to find him. … He’s like a son to me.”

1 comment:

katie hatch- sb said...

nemo sighting!
tuesday october 21st, 6:25pm
north of foothill by about 1 block on san roque road