LAWN-GONE FLAMINGO BACK AFTER 14,000 MILE JOURNEY

Athens, Ga. -- Dennis McDaniel, a 26-year-old aspiring photographer admitted to (Gerald) Stalker last weekend that he was the one who swiped the lawn ornament (a pink plastic flamingo), took it on a 14,000 mile trip and mailed Stalker pictures of the bird in front of the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls and more than a dozen other landmarks.

"I'm glad he had a sense of humor about it," McDaniel said Monday. Stalker, an Athens newspaper carrier, was mystified in October when he began receiving the pictures along with letters from the bird, addressed to "Home Family" and signed "Phil." He insisted he didn't know who was behind the prank.

McDaniel said he and a friend came up with the joke just before he left for Oregon, where he was to join his father for a trip across the country after graduating from photography school.

"It was sort of a graduation trip," he said. "The idea to take Phil was sort of a last-minute thing." They picked Stalker's flamingo at random, he said.

Along the way, McDaniel and his father took pictures of Phil in front of Old Faithful, Mount Rushmore, the U.S. Capitol, the Hollywood sign, Bourbon Street in New Orleans and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

At the Grand Canyon, they almost lost the bird, the younger McDaniel said. "We had him set up on the rail, and he just fell over. We caught him at the last possible moment."

Last week, McDaniel returned from his trip and put Phil back on its perch in front of Stalker's home. The bird had a tiny suitcase taped to its neck. Inside were a map of its travels, toiletries, snacks, a pen and 22 cents.

The prankster said he always intended to return Phil and meet its owner.

"I really didn't do this for attention," he said. "The one thing I do regret is if all the attention has inconvenienced Mr. Stalker. I hope his life can get back to normal now."