An escaped European eagle owl which had swooped in on the garden of a Sleaford care home has been caught a dad in a neighbouring primary school playground.
Residents and staff at a Sleaford's Ashdene care home had been having a real hoot this morning (Friday) as they received an unexpected wildlife experience, when the eagle owl flapped in and perched on their garden fence.
The apparently fully grown bird stood around two feet tall, with a six foot wing span, and spent a while resting on the fence before spreading its wings to flap around the rear garden on East Road, land on the summer house before chasing off some birds across the neighbouring cemetery.
In all it stayed there for at least two hours, creating great excitement for the residents gazing and marvelling at it through the patio windows of the lounge.
Home manager Jilly Hunt said: "It's huge. Our deputy manager, Laura came in at 9am and saw it first then all the residents have been looking out the window in excitement."
They noticed that the raptor to have leather tassles tied to its legs and so must have escaped from captivity locally, but they were planning to call the RSPCA for advice.
Jilly said: "! have rung a local birds of prey man I know but he says it isn't one of his."
Stephen Tapley, headteacher at the neighbouring William Alvey School contacted us to say the impressive owl had paid a visit to their playground as well, sitting on the boundary fence.
He said: "One of our dads, Mark Bett, is a bird of prey expert. We gave him a ring and he caught it!"
Now they are trying to reunite it with its owner.
Mr Bett, of Great Hale, has been a falconer for 30 years, mainly as a hobby, but also set up and ran a birds of prey rescue centre and hospital in South Africa for 10 years.
He said: "The bird was flying around with the swivels and leather jessies hanging off its legs and could have got caught and tangled and hung upside down until it eventually died.
"When myself and a friend got there I had some food from my birds with me and a glove. It was perched on a fence by the side of the school, but as I approached it took off and we chased after it to the cemetery where it was being mobbed by crows.
"It looks as fat as a pig, so it has been surviving and catching and killing stuff if it has been loose for long. You could feel the muscle and meat across its breast bone.
"It went onto a tombstone and I edged up to it slowly until I was close enough to grab the equipment round its legs and brought it back to show the kids at school before driving it home and putting it in one of my enclosures."
Mark has lived at Great Hale for eight years, having moved to the area to be near family and still has two falcons and a goshawk.
"I started falconry when I was 12 years old and had a very good mentor," he said.
We had appealed to people to identify whose owl it is and what kind it is and have been in touch with Rob Louth, of Ruskington, who runs Reptile Life animal experiences and Animals UK supplies.
He said, if it is the same one, it could be one lost by a friend of his a few months ago in the Ruskington area and they had been unable to catch it again since.
Rob said: "They are not uncommon in Europe and the UK living in the wild, but this one belonged to a friend. There has been one released living at the Bass Maltings."