James Smith had just returned to his house in North Arlington Sunday when he happened to look up. There, high above the street, perched on the tiny branches of his hickory tree, looking still and beautiful, was what appeared to be a giant parrot.
How it got there and why it stayed were a mystery to Smith and the band of local bird lovers that soon collected in Smith's front yard. But by yesterday, Smith and the other observers were reasonably convinced that the three-foot long, red, blue and green creature with the white beak was somebody's tropical pet macaw.
Yesterday their four-day effort to lure the bird from its perch at 3923 N. Upland St. turned more desperate with the National Weather Service predicting cold and heavy rain for last night and today.
Their rescue efforts started Sunday when Smith tried calling the National Zoo.
"I called five different numbers," he said. "I just kept getting the runaround."
On Monday, Smith called the Arlington Animal Welfare League. The group told Smith they could do nothing about a macaw 75 or 100 feet up in a tree but referred him to two Arlingtonians who had recently lost birds.
Chrisi Cumpston, who had lost a conure in October, rushed over to the house Monday night, hoping the bird belonged to her. But by evening, the bird had temporarily flown away. So on Tuesday, she returned with a cage and food and for three hours knocked sticks together and called to him.
"He would squawk at me," she said. "He really didn't look like he knew how to get down."
Meanwhile, Ralph Gaeta, who had lost his Bluefront Amazon in June, spent part of Tuesday and Wednesday standing under the hickory tree, frantically trying to whistle loud enough for the bird to respond.
Dorcas Lyon, a landscaper who noticed the macaw Tuesday when she was doing yard maintenance work on Upland Street, called her friend Pat Lengle, a bird aficionado and the two women headed to the house armed with sticks, bells, food and tape recordings of bird calls.
Yesterday morning, Lyon dressed in a fluorescent orange jacket to attract the bird's attention, banged sticks against the tree and shouted, "Come on, baby."
Meanwhile Lengle, wearing special bird gloves and binoculars, held her cassette player toward the sky so her taped bird calls could be heard easily by the stubborn macaw.
Steve Carmody, owner of the Landmark Pet Shop in Burke, said the South American bird sounds like a Greenwing Macaw, and is worth between $1,000 and $2,000.
Yesterday afternoon, the bird flew away again, leaving behind a crowd still worried about its ability to survive the impending cold weather.
"Every once in a while he does leave," Smith said. "I think he has a girlfriend somewhere."
Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney Henry E. Hudson, 38, got the nod yesterday from Sen. Paul Trible (R-Va.) as first choice to succeed Elsie L. Munsell as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Trible also submitted the name of Richmond lawyer Richard Cullen to the Justice Department for the federal prosecutor post, but said, "I have submitted Henry Hudson's name first because he has had more extensive criminal prosecution experience. However, both Henry and Richard are extraordinarily qualified and would serve with great distinction."
Munsell has asked not to be considered for reappointment when her four-year term expires at the end of the month.
Hudson is chairman of a pornography commission established by U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese and is thought to be favored by Meese for the job, which includes overseeing federal prosecutors and civil attorneys in an area extending from Northern Virginia to Richmond and the populous Hampton Roads-Norfolk area.
Justice must conduct background checks on Hudson and Cullen before the president can nominate either of them for Senate confirmation.