A barn owl had a lucky escape earlier this month (8 September) when it was rescued from a water-logged hole by two Anglian Water contractors.

Robert Rose and John Chapman, who work for Anglian Water’s partner Balfour Beatty on the company’s water projects, realised the bird was in peril while carrying out their routine checks on site.

The team, who are using directional drilling to relay a water main in St Neots, check for animals and other objects in the excavated hole each morning before work starts.

John Chapman said: “When doing this type of work we check the excavated hole every morning as part of our daily routine. Usually we don’t find anything, but last week I noticed an Owl had somehow become stuck at the bottom of the hole in the water that had collected there.

“It had hooked its beak into the side of the hole to keep its head out of the water, which no doubt kept it alive.”

John, who is 6ft, swooped his arm down into the hole, taking a chance it wouldn’t peck him, and pulled the bird free.

Team Leader, Robert Rose, said: “The bird was really cold and we didn’t know what to do to help it, but then I remembered I’d seen a news piece about rescued sea birds and the most important thing is to get them warm. I got the slurry off him and wrapped him in my sweatshirt, and then popped him inside my jacket to warm him up on my body heat.

“Thankfully the team had found a box and we put him in the van near the heater, still wrapped up. By this time he was breathing a bit stronger and stretching his claws, but I decided to take him straight to Wood Green anyway.

“As we handed him over to the veterinary centre, he lifted his head a little. It was very heart-warming and brought a tear to my eye.”

Vets at Wood Green decided the best course of action was to transfer the owl to the Raptor Foundation in St Ives.

Simon Dudhill from the Raptor Foundation said: “We took the bird to our walk-in shower in one of the self catering accommodation units to clean it up and then placed it under a heat lamp in our hospital to dry out gradually. The following morning it was good as new and eating well. We kept an eye on it for a couple more days to be sure it was ok to be re-released, and thankfully it was.

“We re-released it near where it was originally found and it went off well. The Anglian Water team who found it where actually there to see it re-released.”