Two birds that were taken during an overnight break-in have been safely returned – to the delight of their animal sanctuary owners.
Staff at the Blue Highlands Bird of Prey Rescue Centre in Brora made an emotion plea after Maximus, the Eurasian eagle owl and Buster, an injured herring gull, were taken from the centre sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning.
The alarm was first raised when the sanctuary’s assistant director Jane Wilson heard distressed noises from the bird enclosures.
She said: “The birds were making a lot of noise and upon inspection it was clear that a break-in had happened.
“Damage was made to lock systems and a door broken due to the forced entry.
“That’s when we knew Maximus and Buster has been taken.”
Maximus was spotted flying over a clearing just outside of the village this morning.
He was lured back to safety with the help of his owl partner Victoria, who sat on a make-shift feeding station erected by the rescue workers.
As for Buster, he was spotted at Brora Golf Club and was quickly captured then brought back to the centre.
Tony Gill, Manager of the Brora Golf Club, said: “I just happened to be looking out of the window and spotted a bird with blue tape around its wing – it’s then that I knew this was the bird Blue Highlands were looking for.
“Fortunately the gull had perched up beside one of the golf enclosures – we cornered it and grabbed it before it took off.”
Neither of the birds had sustained any injury and after a full check they are recovering well.
Ms Wilson described the ordeal as an emotional roller coaster, she said: “We’ve gone from being devastated and concerned to over the moon and relieved all in 24-hours.
“All we wanted was our birds back safe and sound – we are so glad that has happened.
“Victoria was hooting all night in distress but now is very happy to be reunited with her partner.”
A Facebook post by Blue Highlands reached around 50,000 hits and it is thought the thief may have released the birds due to the online backlash.
Ms Wilson added: “We’ve had tremendous support from the local community through social media that has aided the return of the birds.
“It is difficult trying to hide a bird with such a wingspan as Maximus.”
Police inquiries continue and officers are working with the animal sanctuary to establish who the perpetrator was.