Bald recluse spotted in city park by an eagle-eyed Arcadian jogger

October 10, 2004|By Dan Rodricks

THE ARCADIA of ancient Greece was pastoral and isolated, a simple and untroubled place. Some considered it paradise. The Arcadia of Northeast Baltimore isn't bad, either.

It's bordered by Herring Run Park on the south, with Lake Montebello nearby, and - I only mention this because tomorrow's the holiday in his honor - it features the oldest monument to Christopher Columbus in the United States, and one of three in Baltimore. (Did we go overboard for this guy, or what? And Italians love to give props to Columbus when it was the Spanish, for cryin' out loud, who gave the guy his ships and his funding. Italians believed the world was pizza-flat; they laughed Columbus right off the map. But they always come out and claim him the second Monday of October. It gives me agita.)

But anyway ... about Arcadia. It's a city neighborhood, and 37-year-old Rob Mayes, who grew up there and still lives there, calls it "lovely" and "rustic." This Arcadian is an avid bird watcher and jogger, but wait! Don't let that keep you from reading on. Mayes spotted something the other day that you just don't expect to see in an urban ZIP code - and I'm not talking about the Bush campaign bus. I'm talking about something even more foreign to cities.

This happened Friday morning.

"As I jogged south across the Harford Road Bridge over Herring Run, I could hear the shrieks of a hawk," Mayes reports. "I turned left at Chesterfield Avenue and jogged under the Father Jack Hooper archway down the bike path into the park. The cries of the hawk grew louder and so frequent that I began to believe I was hearing more than one bird.

"As I passed the baseball diamonds and soccer fields, and neared the wooded area halfway to Belair Road, the sun fell behind the trees and I was able to spot two red-tailed hawks flying in short circling patterns in and out of the tops of some trees and screaming relentlessly.

"[They] reminded me of how crows will taunt hawks in territorial fights. As I jogged closer to the scene, I could hear some crows joining in and I began to wonder what was going on. Perhaps the hawks and crows were fighting over a dead animal.

"When I got about 50 yards from the chaos, the source of the birds' torment finally appeared. A very large bird dropped into a glide out of the top of a tall, dead sycamore among several healthy oak trees [and flew] along the edge of the woods right towards me. The wingspan was much larger than that of the red-tailed hawks or that of turkey vultures.

"As the crows followed this bird and swooped at its back, the large bird glided upward into some rays of sunlight that revealed its white head and white tail. I knew immediately that it was a bald eagle."

An endangered species in recovery in Baltimore, and maybe living idyllically in Arcadia.

I spy Mayberry tactics

After planting a Bloodhound Tracking Device (Model BH-800) on Thomas Head's car - only to have Head discover the gadget, remove it from under the rear bumper and keep it for a few days - the Harford County Sheriff's Office finally got its $3,000 toy back. Must be how Barney felt when Andy returned his bullet. Know what I mean, Goob?

According to court documents, this all started last month when Harford County crime-busters supposedly got an anonymous tip that a certain green 1999 Lexus, driven by Head, had been used to transport controlled dangerous substances, and these substances allegedly had been stashed in concealed compartments within the vehicle. A detective stopped the Lexus and took a look in the trunk. A police dog sniffed around. Soon other deputies - wearing ski masks, apparently to disguise their identities - arrived on the scene, jumped in the Lexus and drove it away.

Carpe car! The Lexus had been seized.

Armed with a warrant, deputies searched the vehicle again- and found nothing.

The sheriff's office returned the vehicle to Head two days later, the tracking device secretly in place. Apparently, the sheriff's staff believed Head was up to something sinister and they wanted to keep a high-tech eye on the guy.

According to James Rhodes, his Baltimore attorney, Head was concerned about the condition of the vehicle after it had been in the law's hands, so he took it to a mechanic for a once-over. While the Lexus was on a lift, the mechanic noticed unusual wires leading to a little black box under the rear. He pointed it out to Head, a 29-year-old Edgewood resident who works at the counter of an auto parts store. This was no catalytic converter. This was spy gear.

The men removed the bug, and Head played finders-keepers for a few days.

Harford County followed with demands that the Bloodhound be returned. This came in a personal phone call to Rhodes, from the Harford County state's attorney, Joseph Cassilly, who, Rhodes said, suggested that keeping the tracking device constituted theft. One day last week, Rhodes walked into his downtown office and found a Harford County captain and deputy, and two Baltimore police officers - and the captain with a warrant to search Rhodes' office for the device.

Rhodes thinks the search warrant for his office was unnecessary because he had agreed to return the tracking device in a phone call with the Harford captain the day before.

All the captain had to do was drop by at a convenient time, Rhodes says.

And he would have been happy to give Barney his bullet.

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