By Kirsty Topping
A BABY falcon has been rescued and reunited with its owner after surviving an amazing 170-mile journey.
Fifteen-week-old Lucy was lost in Lancashire last week after she was attacked by crows while out exercising with her owner.
Devastated Barry Haughton assumed his beautiful Lanner falcon must be dead.
But five days later, in a remarkable stroke of luck, a sharp-eyed animal protection officer spotted a famished young falcon devouring a pigeon in a park in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh.
Mairi Stewart caught the bird and was astonished to find ID tags leading to the small village of Cockerham near Preston.
Today a delighted Barry, 70, travelled to Dalhousie Castle Falconry, near Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, to be reunited with his beloved bird.
“I was resigned to the fact that I’d never see Lucy again when out of the blue I got the call from the officer.
“When she said she was in Edinburgh I thought it must be a mistake there’s no way she could have flown that far but sure enough it’s my bird.
“I’m so glad she was found when she was. Any later and her blood sugar would have got so low that she wouldn’t be able to fly and could have died.”
Barry described the terrifying moment when his bird flew off.
“This was only the eleventh time she’d flown free when out of nowhere a crow appeared and spooked her,” he said.
“She veered off and the crow gave chase, quickly followed by a mob of around five crows all dive bombing her.
“She must have been terrified and I was very upset.”
Barry immediately jumped in his car and gave chase after Lucy, who was fitted with a tracking device, but his beloved pet was soon out of sight.
He said: “I have her fitted with a tracker so I followed her in the car for an hour and a half right to the sea estuary of the River Lune and that’s where the trail went cold so I knew she must have flown over the water.”
Barry, who has been flying birds for 20 years, said he had originally hoped to use Lucy for falconry displays but said her new-found hunting skills might make this difficult.
He said, “Lucy’s now experienced hunting for herself but if I keep her at the right weight and interested in the lure she’ll associate me with food and hopefully she’ll keep coming back.”
Although Cockerham and Holyrood Park are 170 miles apart, it is likely Lucy clocked up even more miles on her flight north.
Mairi, who works for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), said: “”I was amazed to see this beautiful bird of prey just sitting on the grass close by me. She was clearly very hungry by the way she was feeding on a pigeon she’d just caught and I could see she was quite young.”
Mairi noticed the bird was wearing jesses – leather straps used for control – so she knew the bird was not wild.
“I knew she belonged to someone. I caught her without too much trouble and found her owner’s contact details on her jess,” said Mairi.
She added: “Barry didn’t believe me when I explained I was in Edinburgh holding his bird!”
Lanner falcons can grow to almost a metre in height with a wing-span of up to 105cm, with the females typically weighing more than the males.
They are found in America, Asia and Europe and can reach the age of 17 if kept in captivity.
They mainly hunt other birds, but will eat insects, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles.