The close relationship between one man and a seagull he helped to save has become a talking point for dog walkers on Instow Beach.

Chirpy the black-headed gull looks for John Sumner on Instow Beach each morning and will come right up to him for his dog biscuit treat. Picture: Joanne BellChirpy the black-headed gull looks for John Sumner on Instow Beach each morning and will come right up to him for his dog biscuit treat. Picture: Joanne Bell

John Sumner and 'Chirpy' obviously have a strong bond - every morning when John walks his Westie Jack, Chirpy is straight over to greet him, but will not let anyone else even come close.

The West Yelland man saved the black-headed gull's life a dozen years ago and christened it 'Chirpy' and the bird has clearly not forgotten him.

John said of their first encounter: "I saw him screaming and shouting above my head in agony and I did not know what to do.

"The next day he came around me again and tried to land, but was screaming in pain. I did not think he would live, his leg was completely broken."

Unsure what else he could do, John began feeding the bird dog biscuits he took on their walk for Jack.

Amazingly, within three weeks Chirpy's leg seemed to have healed, albeit a bit crooked, and he was back to his old self.

And he hasn't forgotten the dog biscuits either - when John arrives at the beach Chirpy is the first one to greet him, with the odd chirping sound that has given him his name.

John believes Chirpy could be as much as 20 years old - the maximum age recorded is understood to be 32 years.

Chirpy the black-headed gull has a distinctive chirp and a crooked leg. Picture: Jim BellChirpy the black-headed gull has a distinctive chirp and a crooked leg. Picture: Jim Bell

John added: "He comes right up to me, he gets so close. He won't go to anybody else but me, so he has got some sort of relationship with me.

"In March he will go off and do his natural thing and then September he is back with me as normal after they have done their nesting.

"There's not that many black-headed gulls on Instow Beach, if there was more than 20 I'd be surprised. He encourages the rest to come over but he is the only one that comes close to me and he will just stay there and hover.

"People aghast when I tell them, they can't believe a seagull would come back like that. It makes you wonder what kind of world we actually are in - do they know more than we think they know?"

Chirpy the black-headed gull looks for John Sumner on Instow Beach each morning and will come right up to him for his dog biscuit treat. Picture: Jim BellChirpy the black-headed gull looks for John Sumner on Instow Beach each morning and will come right up to him for his dog biscuit treat. Picture: Jim Bell