One Flew Over the Chimney Stack

The steady flow of casualties brought to the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary Raptor Hospital is a constant one - with no respect for weather or seasons. Over the colder months, most cases have suffered injury from road traffic accidents, flights into windows, starvation, the effects of cold, wet weather conditions and also falls down chimneys.

The latter is not such a rare occurrence as one might expect at this time of year as old, wide chimney stacks seem to be particularly attractive places for potential owl nest sites. Only last Saturday, staff were called out last Saturday to a local residence where a Tawny Owl had suffered such a fall.

Generally, such rescue missions are quite straightforward affairs……the owl is detected by scratching and scrabbling noises, the householder investigates, extricates the owl and brings it to the sanctuary hospital for assessment, bathing and recuperation time, before being released back into the wild.

General Manager Maz on one of her three visits to rescue the trapped Tawny Owl

On this occasion, however, removing the owl from the chimney stack proved a little trickier - the chimney was a large inglenook into which a fire hood had been fitted to direct smoke up the chimney stack more efficiently. This caused an obstruction which the rescuing falconers had to penetrate, through a VERY tiny inspection hatch, in order to reach the owl.

Manager Maz Robinson visited the property three times with falconry staff member Liz and volunteer Steve to try to coax the terrified owl into an accessible position, whilst limiting the stress the bird was suffering as much as possible.

Eventually, on visit three, slender Steve was able to inch his way to the bird with a net, through the slim opening and gently bring it into Maz’s reach. Owl, falconers and house owners were all able to breathe a huge sigh of relief when the Tawny was safely boxed for transportation back to the hospital.

"Come out, come out where ever you are…" Maz prepares to release the rescued Tawny

A thorough assessment of the bird’s condition concluded that although the owl was very black and frightened, it appeared to be in good health. A couple of bubble baths later the bird emerged refreshed and looking like a Tawny Owl again. Food and quiet recuperation were the order of the day and by Monday morning, this tough little creature was ready for release back into the wild….well away from tempting chimneys!