Archive for October, 2012


Police officer guilty of egg theft

A police constable amassed a collection of 649 rare birds’ eggs by stealing from nests, sometimes while on duty for Suffolk Police, according to the BBC (see here).

Michael Upson, 52, admitting having the eggs in his possession, including those of several Schedule 1 species such as the marsh harrier. He is due to be sentenced at Norwich Magistrates Court tomorrow (Thurs).

It’s a fascinating story, described by the BBC here. He apparently kept detailed notes describing how and where he collected the eggs, including instances when he was working on nightshift. He apparently also travelled throughout the UK on his egg-thieving expeditions, if his diaries are to be believed, including to the Western Isles to help an un-named collector steal golden eagle eggs.

Following his arrest in June, Upson was suspended but he retired from the police force in August before being convicted, so he will keep his pension.

Well done to the RSPB’s Mark Thomas for leading the investigation and securing a conviction.

Good photographs in the Daily Mail here


New motion lodged in Scottish Parliament: “Death of golden eagle”

A new motion was lodged in the Scottish Parliament on Monday 22nd October 2012 concerning the death of the Glen Esk golden eagle:

Motion S4M-04516: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party.

Death of Golden Eagle

That the Parliament condemns what it sees as the recent brutal killing of a golden eagle in Glen Esk, Angus; considers that the golden eagle is one of Scotland’s most iconic species and understands that 11 golden eagles have been illegally killed since 2007; notes also that 2013 will be the Year of Natural Scotland; urges the Police Service of Scotland to ensure that police officers have the training and resources required to tackle wildlife crime effectively; considers that golden eagles more than earn their keep by attracting tourism to rural Scotland, and asks the Scottish Government to assess what further measures it might take to protect what are considered these magnificent birds.

Here is a desciption of what a Scottish parliamentary motion is.

Here is the full text of this particular motion.

While very welcome (and probably a direct result of all the letters of complaint and media coverage) this motion raises some interesting questions:

It was proposed by 1 MSP (whose constituency includes Brechin) and was supported by 26 others. There are 129 MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. Where’s the support of the other 122? Did your MSP support it? If not, why not?

Note the phrase, “….what it sees as the recent brutal killing of a golden eagle in Glen Esk, Angus” and then compare it with the official line given by Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP:

The reports may suggest that the circumstances of this incident were suggestive of an offence however there is no hard evidence and it remains possible that there is an alternative explanation“.

It seems Nigel Don MSP and the 26 MSPs who supported his motion do not share the Environment Minister’s view on what happened to that eagle. Apparently nor do the police (see here). We would encourage you to write again to Mr Wheelhouse and ask him to provide the evidence that leads him to suggest that this eagle’s death was not the result of criminal activity. Email: It’s important that this issue is clarified; any doubt that this eagle did not die as a direct result of criminal activity will be used by the Dark Side to support their continual denial about the extent of illegal raptor persecution.

Another interesting question concerns the number of known illegal deaths of golden eagles. The motion says 11 golden eagles have been illegally killed since 2007. Our figures suggest that ten have been discovered (see here):

Peebles (2007); Glen Orchy (2009); Alma (2009); Skibo 1 (2010); Skibo 2 (2010); Skibo 3 (2010); Farr (2010); Glenbuchat (2011); Lochaber (2012); Glen Esk (2012).

 So where’s the information about the 11th one? And why limit the figure to golden eagles? What about white-tailed eagles? If they’re included during this time frame, then the number of eagles known to have been illegally killed is at least 14:

GlenQuoich (2007); Glenogil (2009); Farr (2010); Skye (2011).

If the time frame was increased one year further, to 2006, then at least 16 eagles are known to have been illegally killed:

Dinnet & Kinord (2006); Glen Feshie (2006).

And then there’s all the known ‘missing’  eagles, which brings the total to at least 25:

WTE radio-tagged Bird ‘N’ disappeared in Angus Glens (2007); WTE carcass removed in suspicious circumstances from Lochindorb (2010); 4 x golden eagle leg rings found in gamekeeper’s possession on Moy Estate (2010); sat-tagged golden eagle ‘disappeared’ in Monadhliaths (2011); sat-tagged golden eagle ‘disappeared’ in eastern glens (2012); sat-tagged golden eagle ‘disappeared’ NE of Cairngorms (2012).

And then the most recent one, the shot golden eagle found on the border of Buccleuch Estate (2012) – that brings the total to 26.

And we haven’t included any other of the known persecuted raptor species in this list!

So, well done Nigel Don MSP for highlighting a significant and on-going problem – we look forward to seeing a response from the Scottish Government.


Police wco earns well-deserved recognition

For the benefit of those not on Twitter…

Devon & Cornwall Police Wildlife Crime Officer P.C. Josh Marshall has received a Commander’s Commendation at the South Devon Police Awards for his work on Operation Wilderness.

According to the RSPB’s recently published 2011 Birdcrime report, Devon had the worst record for bird of prey persecution in England last year, when fifteen goshawks, peregrines and buzzards were found poisoned or shot.

We’ve previously blogged about Josh’s innovative and successful Operation Wildnerness (see here, here, here, here and here) and it’s fantastic that his efforts have been recognised at the top police level. The word we’ve most often used to describe his work is ‘pro-active’, and his approach is even more impressive when you realise his role as a Police Wildlife Crime Officer is only part-time; something he has to fit in alongside his other policing duties.

Congratulations, Josh, on your very well-earned award! Hope you don’t mind that we’ve nicked your photo from Twitter!

Josh’s blog here


BBC Radio 4 discusses raptor persecution, today at 11am

Today’s BBC Radio 4 ‘Saving Species’ programme will be discussing raptor persecution at 11am today.

Radio 4 Saving Species Episode 8 trailer here

If you missed the programme, you can listen to it on BBC iPlayer here


Trial underway for alleged raptor egg trader

The trial against alleged raptor egg trader Keith Liddell is finally underway at Inverness Sheriff Court after a period of long delays.

Liddell, of Holm Dell Drive has denied allegations of keeping, buying and selling the eggs from his home, and possession of a large egg collection including red kite, merlin, black kite, snowy owl, griffon vulture, Egyptian vulture and rough-legged buzzards, among other species.

The case is being prosecuted by specialist wildlife fiscal, Kate Fleming and is expected to last for five days.

This case has rumbled on for a long time (see here, here, here, here and here).


Update on ‘missing’ or dead satellite-tracked raptors: hen harrier, Northern England

Last but not least in this mini-series of updates (well, five ‘missing’ or dead satellite-tracked raptors is plenty to be going on with) is the other Langholm hen harrier chick, ‘Barry’.

Barry managed to survive a couple of weeks longer than his sibling, Blae, but by all accounts he’s probably now dead, especially as “most of his previous movements were associated with grouse moors” (see here). His last signal was received on 2nd October and a search for him got underway. Three weeks later – no news.

So, there we have it. Five ‘missing’ or dead satellite-tracked raptors, and then let’s not forget the golden eagle recently found shot and severely injured on a grouse moor in Dumfries & Galloway (here).

Now, what was it Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said recently about raptor persecution? Ah yes, here it is:

“The unlawful killing of any raptors has no place in today’s Scotland and we will continue to work hard to eradicate this criminal activity. We believe that the partnership approach with the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, is bringing the reduction in bird of prey poisoning that can be seen in the statistics in recent years. However we are not complacent and if there is evidence of a switch to other methods of persecution we will take action to bear down on those methods”.

How much more evidence do you need, Paul? What action are you going to take? And no, industrial-scale sweeping doesn’t count!


Update on ‘missing’ or dead satellite-tagged raptors: hen harrier, Scottish Borders

Regular readers will know all about the Langholm hen harrier chick, ‘Blae’, who was alive for just a few short weeks. She was found dead ‘about’ 11th September 2012 in the Scottish Borders (see here).

It’s now 20th October and still there’s no word about the location where she was found dead, nor the circumstances of her demise.

It’s coming up to six weeks – just how long does it take to do a post-mortem? We understand that Rugs-R-Us are doing a roaring trade in Langholm High Street…

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 5,581,032 hits


Our recent blog visitors