A TAWNY owl gave a fright to a pair of plumbers called out to investigate a bird stuck in a chimney.
The Southwater-based team from Grigg and Co had expected to find a blackbird or thrush, so were stunned to discover the huge owl trapped behind a gas fire at the home in Roffey.
They were even more astounded when they were called to an identical problem just two days later, this time in Henfield.
Service engineer Stuart Eastland, 21, from Badgers Close, Horsham, said the first bird had been trapped for four or five days when the home owners called asking for help. He went along with colleague Kris Hazard.
“We disconnected the gas fire and moved it forward inch by inch with a towel behind it to catch the bird,” Stuart said.
“Kris pulled the fire out and there was nothing there. I couldn’t see anything at all, so I took a photo on my phone and still couldn’t see anything. Then we heard a flutter further up so we put a pipe up and waggled it about, and something big fell down.
“We were expecting something like a blackbird, but we saw it was an owl. It dodged the towel and flew straight into a wall, and then another wall, and it fell dazed on the sofa. Kris put a towel over it quick and took it outside. After about ten minutes it popped up and looked around, then flew onto a fence and a couple of seconds later flew off.
“It was about 12 inches tall and had a massive wingspan.”
When Stuart was asked to go to another home with a trapped bird just two days later he thought his colleagues were winding him up.
They moved the gas fire and this time Stuart saw the large talons and knew they were dealing with a bird of prey.
“That bird had been trapped for four or five days as well, but I could see the claws and I wasn’t about to put my hand anywhere near them,” he said.
This time they called in the experts from Huxley’s Bird of Prey Centre in Sedgwick Lane, Horsham.
Owner Julian Ford said: “The owl had gone 12 or 15 feet back up the chimney so I laid on my back and used a stick to coax it down.
“We don’t see many owls in chimneys, but when it does happen it’s often the tawny owls. In the wild they go into holes in trees and sometimes they explore a chimney and drop all the way down to the bottom and can’t get back out. If the bottom is blocked by a gas fire you have to call a fitter to come and move it before you can get it out.
“Luckily this was a success, the bird was rescued and we brought it to our aviary here for a couple of days to check it was ok before taking it back to the place it would recognise and letting it go.”
Owner of Grigg and Co, Peter Grigg, said: “We’ve had all sorts of small birds in chimneys, but in 40 years I’ve never seen an owl in a chimney so to have two in a week is just uncanny.”
Kris added: “I do not like owls.”