A COUPLE had a surprise when a kestrel saved itself a long journey by hitching a ride on their yacht.

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Carol and Max Raffe were returning from a two-week holiday on the Dutch Waterways in their 30-foot Cornish Pilot Cutter.

They were sailing home when a guest passenger joined them around 25 miles off the Suffolk coast.

Mrs Raffe, from Crowfield, said: “There was nothing in sight except the Greater Gabbard wind farm some way off in the distance when I was suddenly aware of something tapping on my shoulder and was amazed to find a bird had found it to be a suitable place to perch.

“My shock must have made it decide to move off and it then settled amongst the coiled main sheet by my side.”

The kestrel spent four-and-a-half hours on the boat before it flew to the safety of land by the River Deben.

The couple said the bird of prey flew off towards Ramsholt Church.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) experts believe the young female kestrel may have been blown off course.

Julian Roughton, SWT’s chief executive, said: “It was almost certainly a bird coming over from the continent to take advantage of our milder winters. There is every chance its life was saved by landing on the boat.

“At the end of October thousands of birds died in the North Sea as they became confused and went off course in foggy conditions.”

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