AN owl ended up covered from head to tail in thick soot after “doing a trial run for Santa”.
The tawny owl got hopelessly trapped in a chimney and needed two lengthy showers and a dose of eyedrops after it was rescued.
The bird is thought to have got trapped after making the not-so-wise decision to nest in the chimney of a family home in Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway.
The residents heard the noise of the owl desperately attempting to free itself and called out the SSPCA who managed to free it.
It was taken to the Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue in Beith, North Ayrshire, who described the bird as the “sootiest owl we’ve ever seen”.
After pictures of the poor bird appeared on Hessilhead’s Facebook page, fan Lyndsay Cowgill wrote: “Och, wee soul. He was obviously doing a trial run for Santa.”
A spokesman for the rescue centre said: “Basically the owl had come down the chimney at a property in Castle Douglas and decided to nest.
“We don’t know how long it had been there but the SSPCA were called and rescued it before bringing it to us.
“The residents had heard something coming from the chimney before calling them.
“We think it’s a male but it’s hard to tell. His eyes were really sore when he came in because all the soot was irritating them so we administered some eye drops.
“He’s been all cleaned up but is a little nervous and will be keen to get back out.”
She added: “He was on his own when we found him but will have a mate back in Castle Douglas who is probably wondering where he is.
“We are planning to take him near to where he was found and release him back out into the wild within the week.”
Dozens of animal lovers took to the charity’s Facebook page to praise them on the rescue.
Shona Macaulay wrote: “Aw bless, it looks so grumpy being all sooty and so proud at being clean.”
Alan Jones said: “Owls are wise though. Probably won’t get stuck in a chimney again.”
And Richie Millar joked: “Looks like it had a hoot.”
Tawny owls typically nest in tree holes so they can protect their eggs and young against potential predators.
They are non-migratory and can be highly territorial but many young birds can starve if they fail to find a vacant territory once parental care ceases.
Birds usually reside in established pairs so that one can be on hand to protect their territory.