Thursday, September 8, 2011

Melvin Ortez of Newburgh: Lover of Birds

           The Acapulco restaurant in Newburgh, IN     Great people, good food, and what a view!

The pictures in this blog post were taken by me last year.  I thought I'd write something up for the paper.  It wasn't printed so I thought, hey, why not share this story here.

Melvin Ortez, owner of the Acapulco restaurant in Newburgh, Indiana, has always loved animals, especially birds.  As a young child in Honduras he was surrounded by Amazons, Quakers, and other sorts of colorful birds we only see in zoos and pet stores.  Sadly, when Melvin goes back to visit his mother in Honduras now most of those birds have disappeared making their homes away from people.  He feels it is because they are hunted so much.  As a child he remembers taking part in that particular activity too. However, unlike others, he kept the birds he caught.
"Me and my dad and my brother we used to go up to the mountains and catch them when they were babies.  It was a fun thing.  They did it for business.  When I catch a bird, I don't get rid of it.  I fall in love with it and so I had several birds at home.  Green Amazons, Quakers (little green ones-- very beautiful)--now there aren't as many because too many people kill them.  The people that live in the woods kill anything they can to eat.  Some people catch those little birds to sell them.  They used to make their nests close to where people lived, but now you can't find them anymore."

Outside the Acapulco Restaurant in Newburgh there is a large pond with a fountain.  Two beautiful, white swans swim in that pond; people usually notice them first.  However, Melvin, has given other unusual birds a home in that area as well.  The people at the restaurant like to sit out on the deck when the weather is nice to watch the birds as they eat.  Even the workers and the4ir customers at Subway across the pond appreciate the beautiful view.  There are the two beautiful white swans, two Australian Black Swans, two east African Crowned Cranes, and many different kinds of ducks.

We all know that winter will eventually come with its chill and freeze.  Melvin is prepared for that.  Inside his pond he has aerators to keep the water warm--it will not freeze.  He also has a little shed with heat lights for the cranes.

The birds were actually ordered through the mail.  They are sent by express mail.  Express mail goes by plane and that is good because the animals need to reach their destination as soon as possible.  The more time in transit the more likely they will be stressed.  "All animals have to be vaccinated, cleaned, and fed before they are accepted for Express Mail" said Postmaster Catherine Brackmann.  "When the swans arrived, Ms Brackmann said, Melvin Ortez went to the airport because that shipment was delayed a couple hours. “He wanted to get them as soon as possible to feed them and settle them down. Those birds were heavy too. One box had the two white swans, the other four black swans.”

“When the baby crane was little, he was like a big tall chicken. They don’t know how to run away from animals and stuff, so I would have to put him in a crate and take him home every night. He’s big enough now so I don’t have to do that anymore. A predator would have a hard time catching him--- he can run very, very fast. They are tall but the legs are so skinny, they can break their legs running so I won’t try to chase them down unless I have to.”

“I come out here and have a cup of coffee and look out at the birds—relaxes your mind. At nighttime it’s beautiful.”

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