Teacher’s pet: Wayward bird reunited with Auburn school class

Lovebird returned after ad placed in Journal classified section
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The happy chirping sounds were a sure sign that George, the lost-and-found lovebird, was back Thursday where he belonged.

George, a high-energy, peach-faced lovebird with a penchant for perching on people, had been brought to Auburn’s Alta Vista Community Charter School six months ago by teacher Tim Tomlin. The bird quickly became a beloved resident of Room 10 - where Tomlin teaches 9 and 10-year-olds in a split third- and fourth-grade class.

But the chirping that punctuated classroom life was silenced after George flew off Tomlin’s shoulder as he walked outside with the bird. Tomlin said he wasn’t initially concerned because George, as lovebirds do, would fly away and then return.

“I was walking from the office and I guess George decided to go on a field trip,” Tomlin said.

Tomlin, who breeds lovebirds, brought in George’s brothers and sisters from home and put them in cages around the Lincoln Way campus in an effort to lure the lost bird back.

By early this week, with the bird gone since April 10, the school’s concern grew enough to make a call to place a “lost” classified ad with the Journal.

Unbeknownst to the school, George had adopted Auburn resident Peter van Beckum, who lives about a mile away in the Robie Point area of Auburn.

And van Beckum was ritually scanning the Journal’s classifieds for a possible clue that could reunite a bird that he was growing very fond of with its owner.

“It found me,” van Beckum said. “I was outside watering flowers on my porch and it landed on my hand.”

Van Beckum, who has never owned a bird, was initially startled and then charmed by the evening encounter on April 10. George dug gently into his shirt as he walked to a neighbor’s to ask for a photo of his new feathered friend. The neighbor had some wild-bird seed and George - van Beckum dubbed it Buddy - tucked into the seeds and grains with gusto.

Concerned about possibly injuring the bird if it was left to fly around his apartment, van Beckum bought a cage and then some toys. But those purchases came with a realization that the bird’s visit was likely to be only temporary.

“I knew someone was missing it,” van Beckum said.

On Tuesday, van Beckum found the “lost” ad for George from the school.

On Wednesday, van Beckum was the honoree at a general assembly for students and presented with a “hero” award for his efforts to reunite Tomlin and his class with George. Buddy - or George - was back home.

William Al Mujadidi, 9, said that everyone was sad in Mr. Tomlin’s class when George flew the coop. But there were no tears.

“We figured we’d find George - it’s usually in the trees,” Al Mujadidi said. As the days without George began to extend into a week, the class didn’t lose hope, he said.

Students were glad to see the way things turned out, Al Mujadidi said.

“He’s our class pet but we also felt sad for Mr.Tomlin,” he said. “We were really happy.”

Tomlin said that he has made a standing offer to give van Beckum one of the lovebirds he has at home.

And van Beckum said he may take Tomlin up on the offer, if he has permission to have a bird at his apartment.

“And that one I will name Buddy,” van Beckum said.