Night owl James has a hoot with feathery new friend

Joseph Bulmer

Local DJ has his feathers ruffled by unannounced flying visit

PEOPLE living in old cottages are no strangers to hearing things that go bump in the night.

But an unnerving scratching sound coming from a living room chimney caused more of a puzzle than a panic for local DJ James Chapple.

On closer inspection, James was amazed to discover a tawny owl firmly wedged in the flue for his woodburner at his Bickington home.

After a two-hour struggle with tools and sharp talons, the former radio presenter-turned lorry driver was able to safely free the trapped bird and alert local wildlife rescuers.

“I heard all this scratching and thought ‘what was that’,” said James.

“I had a look and could see these big claws hanging down and I thought it was an eagle or hawk at first. We had a sparrow hawk in the back garden a few weeks ago so I thought it was that.

“I phoned the RSPCA and told them I had a hawk stuck up my chimney and they thought it was a prank call – they thought I’d said ‘horse’.”

James was able to remove part of the flue and, using heavy duty work gloves, carefully guided the bird down to safety.

“It was clawing and pinching me and covered in black soot, and it was only when I managed to get it out that I realised it was an owl.

“I cleaned it up as best I could and phoned the RSPCA back to tell them what happened. They told me to feed the bird some water mixed with sugar, keep it covered in a wicker basket, and they’d pick it up in the morning.

“The owl looked a bit limp to start with but we sat down together to watch a bit of Corrie and it seemed to perk up a bit,” he joked.

The Gazette is pleased to report that the owl survived the ordeal and is being looked after by the RSPCA.