Owl aims to have a hoot at Oscars

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A big bird with star quality has got Hollywood in a flap and could earn Lancashire an Oscar.

Checkers the eagle owl from Preston has already swooped on the Golden Globes and now has his talons set on next month’s Academy Awards.

A haunting slow motion clip showing Checkers pouncing on his prey is featured in the Spike Jonze blockbuster Her which is nominated in five categories at the Oscars in Los Angeles on March 2.

“The film is opening in Britain next week and I can’t wait to see it,” said Checkers’ owner Andy Bilsborough who runs the Turbary Woods Owl and Bird of Prey Sanctuary near Penwortham. “It’s just mind-boggling what’s happened since he was filmed in our back garden. I haven’t told him yet, but he’s on his way to being a global superstar.”

In the film, the clip - shot at 1,000 frames a second - is played on a giant screen behind lead character Theodore as he sits forlornly on a wall. It shows Checkers homing in on a kill and, according to movie magazine Slant, it signifies the hapless Theodore being “caught in the talons of loneliness, heartache and detachment.”

Back in Samlesbury, where the feathered celebrity has his home perch, the Bilsborough family are still coming to terms with what has happened to the bird they reared from an egg.

The film clip, shot almost five years ago by wildlife cameraman Mark Johnson using a high definition high-speed camera, has already had around 2.5m hits on Youtube.

“Mark approached me about filming Checkers in slow motion and it took about 12 or 15 takes in our back garden to get it just right,” said Andy. “Since then it’s been used in documentaries, commercials and has become quite famous.

“Then one day I took a call from one of Spike Jonze producers asking if they could use it in a movie which they were shooting.

“They sent us a couple of thousand dollars as a donation to the sanctuary.”




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