NIKITA has been found hungry and dirty in Poulton-le-Fylde six days and 60 miles away from her home in the Yorkshire Dales.
An astonished birdwatcher spotted her 8 foot [2.4m] wingspan as she crossed the Pennine hills yesterday morning. More sightings of the heaviest eagle in the world led her trainer Chris O’Donnell to a field outside Blackpool. He had been hunting his Steller’s Sea Eagle for four days after she bolted during a training exercise at Hawk Experience, Brackenbottom, near Horton-in-Ribblesdale. On the Arctic coasts of North East Asia, the giant birds of prey kill salmon, ducks, geese, swans, cranes, herons, gulls, mink, foxes and small domestic dogs. North Yorkshire police warned people, ‘Please take care when letting small animals out into the garden’, as Nikita appeared to be following the River Ribble towards Lancashire.
When Chris closed in on the field at Poulton Nikita bolted again, ‘She nearly got hit by a truck, which was a very bad thing, obviously. She went round in a big circle then landed back in the field.’
Chris tempted her to his fist with two juicy rabbit legs and the pair travelled home by van. Back at Greengates Farmhouse near Pen-y-Ghent, which is the base for Chris’s travelling eagle and vulture show, he said, ‘She looks a bit dirty around the edge, but I would like to really, really thank everybody who has taken the time to ring in.
‘She is happy, healthy and has had a really good feed, and I am sure she will be much happier waking up in her own environment.’
One of the Lancashire birdwatchers who had correctly identified the Steller’s Sea Eagle complained when he heard that she is named Nikita, ‘In Russia, where she comes from, Nikita means “victorious” and is never given to a girl. It all went wrong in 1985, when Elton John wrote that song Nikita about an imaginary East German woman border guard. Five years later Luc Besson directed a film featuring a female assassin called Nikita. All quite wrong. But a very nice bird of prey for my notebook.’