It was a tweet rather than a twit twit twoo that alerted The Chronicle to the unusual river rescue of an eagle owl known as ‘Tufty’.
That’s after Grosvenor Rowing Club’s Twitter feed revealed the good deeds of unflappable coach Phil Hill and driver Paul Turner who were aboard the motor launch on Sunday morning when they spotted splashing in the Dee close to the bank opposite The Meadows.
Further investigations revealed a large owl, caught up in ivy growing on a wall at the water’s edge, being mobbed by a murder of crows.
Phil, an accomplished rower and vice chairman of the club, freed his feathered friend and called those wise people at the RSPCA who reunited the beautiful creature with his grateful owner in nearby Handbridge.
Rescuer Phil, facilities manager at Christleton High School, said: “There was splashing going on in the water and all these crows were attacking the area. I thought, what’s going on?
“A brown wing kept appearing from the water. I thought that’s quite a big bird. We went over there and realised it was an owl tangled in the ivy and the crows were attacking, presumably as a defence against a potential predator.”
Luckily, Phil, 50, from Christleton, was wearing heavy duty gloves and managed to capture the bird which, by this stage, was ‘pretty stunned’. The owl was taken back to the rowing club and put in a dark storage bin to keep him calm until the RSPCA arrived. The quick-thinking inspector remembered an eagle owl had been missing from an aviary in Handbridge for the past three months. She was right and now the bird is safely back home with owner Phil Jones.
Phil is grateful to the men’s efforts after assuming the owl, known by neighbours as ‘Tufty’, was ‘a gonner’ because the five-year-old cannot fend for himself, being an ex-display bird from Windsor Castle.
He told The Chronicle there had been several previous sightings including at The Meadows and Chester Business Park.
He said: “Some do-gooder let him out of the aviary in February or March and he hadn’t returned until now. He’s not in great shape. He was 12llbs flying weight and now he’s less than three or four pounds.”
Phil said eagle owls, which are found in Europe and Asia, cannot normally be found in the wild in the UK. Each wing had a four-feet span and the talons were as big as an adult hand. He believes Tufty, who is now feasting on chopped up liver, will soon recover from his time on the run.