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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 May, 2003, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Owl attacks bird watcher
The tawny owl may have been protecting her young

A grandfather almost lost an eye when he was attacked by a swooping owl.

John Butter, 74, was walking in woods close to the tawny owl's nest when it swooped.

His ear and temple were slashed by the attack which left a cut just an inch and a half from his right eye.

Mr Butter believes he had walked too close to the female owl's nest and the bird had attacked him to protect her young.

I heard a clicking noise and looked around to see an owl coming straight towards my face
John Butter

Mr Butter, who manages an 11-acre woodland at Chelfham, near Barnstaple, north Devon, for the League Against Cruel Sports, had been out watching the birdlife when he was attacked.

He said: "I was only a few yards from the edge of the wood when I heard a clicking noise and looked around to see an owl coming straight towards my face.

"I must have turned away a fraction of a second before it hit me because its talons caught the side of my face rather than my eye.

"I must have been too near its nest."

The tawny owl is a bird of prey with a wing span of about 2ft 6in.

Mr Butter said: "I remember seeing its angry face and its glaring eyes.

"I have only heard of one other case of someone being attacked and in that case the victim lost an eye. I am very lucky the same thing did not happen to me."

Mr Butter was seen by a doctor who cleaned up the wound but he did not need to go to hospital.

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