A shocked man is warning people to be vigilant after he claims a mystery bird swooped down and picked up his friend’s dog in its talons.
Marc Stidolph was looking after Patch, a Jack Russell-cross, for his pal and took him for a walk last Tuesday near to Blackberry Hills, off Coast Road, South Shields.
The 36-year-old from Westoe, South Shields, says he was left stunned when a large brown bird suddenly appeared and picked Patch up in its claws and flew off.
In 2014 a European eagle owl was roaming the skies around Cleadon after, apparently, accidentally escaping from captivity - swooping down low and causing alarm for walkers and joggers.
But local bird experts are stumped as to what bird could have been involved in this latest incident.
Marc said: “Patch was off the lead and a little way ahead me and this massive bird just came from nowhere. It was brown and had white tips to its wings.
I just wanted to let people know so they could be careful.Marc Stidolph
“Patch was wearing a harness and it just seemed to grip onto it and carried him off. By the time I got to the spot, neither the bird or the dog was there.”
A frantic Marc continued his search for the rescue dog before returning back to his house - where Patch was waiting for him, apparently uninjured.
Marc said: “I couldn’t believe it, there he was totally fine, he had somehow managed to make his way back.
“I don’t think my friend is very happy with me as I’d let Patch off his lead, but I never expected this to happen.
“I just want to let people know so they can be careful.”
It was thought the bird is likely to be an escaped eagle owl - but twitchers say there have been no recent sightings of the owl which was causing problems on Cleadon Hills for at least three years.
Dougie Holden, keen bird watcher and National Trust park ranger for Souter and the Leas, is mystified as to what the bird could have been.
He said: “If the eagle owl was back on the scene I know I would have heard about it.
“It’s unlikely that one would be able to pick up a dog anyway. They tend to prefer small things like rats and mice.
“The type of bird most likely to go for a dog of this size is a golden eagle, but I’m quite sure we have none of these flying around South Shields.