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Walter the pigeon goes off the radar ...after rescuers thought he was home in a boat

By Claire McNeilly

Published 23/09/2016

Walter the pigeon after he was rescued
Walter the pigeon after he was rescued
A ferry employee with the bird in a box and ready for the voyage home to Belfast

Where's Walter? That's the question two different countries are now demanding the answer to, after what must be the world's most unfortunate homing pigeon disappeared off the radar.

Walter - a Co Down bird - captured the hearts of Isle of Man residents last week after landing in a kindly Manx couple's garden having veered wildly off course and sustaining multiple injuries.

The ownership of the Crossgar homer, who had been flying from Skibbereen, Cork, was quickly confirmed by Sue and Tony McMaster through the blue ring on his leg.

Problems began, however, after the Northern Ireland owner asked Walter's rescuers to send him to Belfast via the Manx ferry and then release him so that he could fly back.

But it turns out that Walter wasn't really at home in a boat and now Brendan McLaughlin from the Irish Homing Pigeon Union has told the Belfast Telegraph that they are becoming increasingly concerned about him.

"I spoke to Walter's owner this morning who confirmed that he still hasn't made it back," said Mr McLaughlin.

"We're starting to think that possibly his injuries may have been worse than originally thought which meant he was unable to fly to Crossgar from Belfast.

"A second option - and this is something we're hoping against hope hasn't happened - is that he may have fallen victim to a bird of prey."

Mr McLaughin has asked members of the public to keep an eye open for Walter and he said they are still confident the black, white and grey speckled bird will turn up safe and well.

"Normally it should take about half an hour for a pigeon to fly from Belfast to Crossgar but we're still hoping that he'll be home at some stage," added Mr McLaughlin.

"One year I lost a pigeon in August and it didn't come back again until the following May so we're not panicking just yet and we haven't given up on Walter."

The last Douglas duo Sue and Tony heard of the bird - nicknamed by the McMasters after the legendary Hollywood actor, Walter Pidgeon - was that he had safely set sail for Belfast.

"When he first turned up on our doorstep on Tuesday, September 13 he was reluctant to move," she said.

"He was very tame and he allowed me to examine him and that's when I noticed there was superficial damage to his breastbone and leg that indicated his involvement in some kind of incident.

"It actually looked like he had probably been attacked by a hawk during his travels and that could have been what knocked him off course in the first place."

Mrs McMaster said that when she spoke to Walter's owner she learned that he was the only one of a number of pigeons released on September 10 that didn't make it back home.

"He asked me to let the pigeon rest, feed him and keep him safe and then send him back on the ferry once he was fit to travel."

Sue and Tony took Walter down to the Sea Terminal last Saturday night for his trip back to Northern Ireland on the Steam Packet ferry in a box that was marked 'Belfast or bust!'.

"Our friends call us the animal whisperers because we're always attracting hurt and wounded animals," Sue said.

"I really hope Walter makes it home soon."

A spokesman for the Steam Packet Company said: "We boxed and marked and transported Walter to Belfast and then released him once the vessel had docked, as instructed. I assume he got home."

Have you seen Walter? Please call Brendan McLaughlin from the Irish Homing Pigeon Union on 07912261575

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