Archive for May, 2019

31
May
19

Raven found poisoned on Ruabon Moor, the ‘grouse capital’ of North Wales

RSPB press release (31/5/19)

(Links have been added by RPUK)

RAVEN FOUND POISONED ON RUABON MOOR

  • The dead bird was found on the same estate near Wrexham, where two satellite-tagged hen harriers recently vanished.
  • Police are now appealing for information from the public. 

A dead raven found on Ruabon Moor, near World’s End, North Wales, has been confirmed as deliberately poisoned – triggering a police investigation.

The bird was found dead on 28 August 2018 by a man who had been out photographing birds.

He said: “I was coming home from Wrexham when I noticed the bird on the ground, away from the road in a little clearing of grass. It was upside down, its eyes sunken, and its feet in the air. It didn’t look like it had been dead for long.”

Thinking it may have been shot, he contacted the RSPB’s Investigations Unit. Following liaison with the North Wales Police, Welsh Government arranged for toxicology tests on the bird. This revealed that the raven had been deliberately poisoned with the highly toxic insecticide bendiocarb which had been most likely been applied to a bait. Police enquiries in the area have failed to identify anyone responsible.

[The illegally poisoned raven, photo from @RSPBBirders]

Ravens are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Killing one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

Ruabon Moor holds a significant proportion of the Welsh black grouse population and is an area managed for red grouse shooting. In 2018, two rare hen harriers named Heulwen and Aalin went off the radar in this general area. The birds had been fitted with satellite-tracking devices as part of the EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project.

Jenny Shelton, RSPB Investigations, says: “It would seem that ravens and birds of prey are not welcome in this area, and naturally people will be asking why. There is a history throughout the UK of birds of prey and ravens being targeted on areas managed for intensive grouse shooting, due to the perceived threat these natural predators pose to the grouse. However, the law is plain: killing birds of prey and ravens is illegal.

On top of this, placing poison in a public area is hugely irresponsible. Many people will be bringing their families to places like this as the weather warms up. To think that a child or a family pet could have found this bird is outrageous. These crimes must stop before someone is seriously harmed.

Jenny continues: “Ravens are beginning to recover in the UK after decades of persecution, and Wales is a key stronghold for these impressive birds. Spring – the start of the bird breeding season – is sadly a key time for the illegal killing of birds of prey and ravens. If you notice a bird of prey dead on the ground in suspicious circumstances, call the police right away.”

North Wales Police are now appealing for information.

Rob Taylor, North Wales Police Rural Crime Team manager said “The deliberate killing of a bird by poisoning is a serious risk to humans and other animals such as certain birds of prey who frequent the area. We are continuing our investigation and we ask members of the public who have information to contact us or ring Crimestoppers anonymously.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call North Wales Police on 101.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form.

Or, to speak in confidence about bird of prey persecution taking place in your area, call the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline: 0300 999 0101. This number is for bird of prey-related matters only.

ENDS

It’s not clear why it’s taken nine months for this news to emerge. Hopefully North Wales Police were more vocal in the local community at the time, warning the public about the presence of this deadly poison.

Let’s hope they’re also alerting locals and visitors alike that this part of North Wales is earning the reputation of being a wildlife crime hotspot, just like so many other grouse shooting areas across the UK.

The placement of warning signs at these locations is the very least we should be expecting from the authorities.

31
May
19

Political silence in response to wildlife crime in Cairngorms National Park

Nine days ago we learned that yet another satellite tagged hen harrier (‘Marci’) had vanished in suspicious circumstances on an unnamed grouse moor near Strathdon, an area of the Cairngorms National Park previously identified as a raptor persecution hotspot.

[Hen harrier Marci, photo by Shaila Rao]

Hen harrier persecution is a National Wildlife Crime Priority and the population in Scotland has suffered a 27% decline in the last 12 years. As such, we expected a strong response from the authorities.

We’ve trawled websites and Twitter feeds and this is what we’ve found:

Cairngorms National Park Authority – silence

Grant Moir, Chief Executive Cairngorms National Park Authority – silence

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment – silence

Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment and Hen Harrier Species Champion – silence

Alexander Burnett MSP, in whose constituency Marci ‘disappeared’ – silence

PAW Scotland – silence

Scot Gov Greener, ‘the official Twitter channel of the Scottish Government covering the environment and rural economy’ – silence

And then seven days ago we learned that four geese had been found poisoned by a highly toxic banned pesticide on the western side of the Cairngorms National Park. Police have been searching an area on the Pitmain Estate near Kingussie after estate workers reportedly alerted them to the corpses.

Given the seriously high risk to humans, wildlife, domestic stock and pets, and the Scottish Government’s previous comments about having a zero tolerance policy for illegal poisoning, we expected a strong response from the authorities.

We’ve trawled websites and Twitter feeds and this is what we’ve found:

Cairngorms National Park Authority – silence

Grant Moir, Chief Executive Cairngorms National Park Authority – silence

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment – silence

Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment – silence

Kate Forbes MSP, in whose constituency the poisoned birds were found – silence

PAW Scotland – silence

Scot Gov Greener, ‘the official Twitter channel of the Scottish Government covering the environment and rural economy’ – silence

So what’s the deal, here?

Don’t they care?

They do care but they’re too embarrassed to comment?

They’ve commented on so many other similar incidents that there’s nothing new to be said?

They know they’re impotent to stop it happening again and again and again?

Keep quiet and hope it all goes away?

Compare and contrast this silence with the recent response of the North Pennines AONB Partnership to the illegal shooting of two buzzards within the protected area – Strong public statement, posters put up on public noticeboards, fliers distributed to shops and pubs in the area and lots of coverage on social media.

The Scottish authorities couldn’t even manage a tweet between them!

And then compare and contrast this silence with the recent sentencing of wildlife poisoners in Spain – Two years and eight months in prison AND a five year & four month disqualification from the management of hunting reserves and the right to hunt AND a fine of 67,538.65 Euros AND to been told to ‘take measures to recover the damage caused’.

The last prosecution for an alleged wildlife poisoning case in Scotland (that we’re aware of) involved the poisoning of three buzzards on a game shooting estate in Perthshire. Despite pleas from Police Scotland, the Crown Office decided to drop the prosecution and didn’t provide an explanation for this decision.

Is anybody still wondering why wildlife crime is still so prevalent in Scotland?

30
May
19

Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s pity party in response to failed Strathbraan raven cull bid

At the beginning of May we blogged about how SNH had rejected a 2019 application for a raven cull licence in the Strathbraan area of Perthshire (see here).

This decision followed last year’s fiasco when SNH had issued a raven cull licence for Strathbraan, on what we considered to be false pretences, and which was eventually withdrawn after a legal challenge by the Scottish Raptor Study Group.

A subsequent analysis by SNH’s own Scientific Advisory Committee found the ‘study’ (designed by GWCT) to be ‘completely inadequate’, ‘seriously flawed’ and said ‘it will fail to provide any meaningful scientific evidence’.

[Photo by Dieter Schaeffer]

In response to SNH’s 2019 licensing decision, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has today decided it’s going to have a massive pity party. It’s written a seven-page invitation to anyone that might want to attend: SGAs open letter_Strathbraan raven cull_May2019

This open letter has apparently been sent to MSPs and also to a number of news desks.

Many thanks to journalist Ilona Amos for allowing us a right of reply in this article published in The Scotsman this afternoon.

Sorry to ruin your pity party with a few home truths, SGA. Actually, we’re not sorry at all. The gratuitous slaughter of wildlife that takes place every day on game bird shooting estates throughout the UK is obscene. That predator-hating gamekeepers should ever be given a licence to kill even more wildlife, on the pretext of it being ‘scientific research’, in an area identified as a wildlife crime hotspot, is beyond comprehension.

30
May
19

Buccleuch to sell Langholm Moor

Press release from Buccleuch Estate (30/5/19)

LAND TO BE MARKETED FOR SALE ON BUCCLEUCH’S BORDERS ESTATE

Buccleuch announced today it intends to sell a substantial landholding the Scottish Borders, including Langholm Moor.

Following a review of land on its estates, 25,000 acres – stretching from Auchenrivock in the south to Hartsgarth in the north – are being marketed from Buccleuch’s Borders Estate. Alongside the Moor, much of the area is currently part of Buccleuch’s farming operation. There are also a small number of farm tenancies, which will continue as they are under new ownerships and blocks of forestry.

In line with the Scottish Land Commission’s protocol on community engagement, Buccleuch will consult with the local communities about the proposed sale, inviting responses to a short questionnaire, which will be available online (www.buccleuch.com) or in local community hubs.

Langholm Moor was the site of two major scientific projects relating to moorland management, the latter of which – the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project – was completed two years ago.

[Photos by Ruth Tingay]

Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch, said: “The completion of the Langholm Moor project gave us an opportunity to look at what moor’s future should be within the wider Buccleuch portfolio of landholdings. That review led us to the conclusion that marketing the moor area for sale was our preferred option.

The decision is very much in line with our business’s stated aim of reducing the Buccleuch footprint while enabling us to invest in priority projects.”

Buccleuch has instructed Savills to handle the proposed sale.

END

That’s an interesting move. Could it be linked to the findings of the forthcoming final report from the Langholm 2 project, which ended prematurely three years ago?

Some in the game-shooting lobby argued the project wasn’t worth continuing because they weren’t being allowed to kill some raptors (buzzards, mostly) which were supposedly responsible for low grouse densities, preventing the reinstatement of driven grouse shooting at Langholm. However, conservation scientists argued that the grouse population had recovered sufficiently to meet the population density threshold required for viable grouse shooting, and that this had been achieved without the need to kill any raptors. And besides, the scientific evidence had shown that the buzzards (and hen harriers) at Langholm just weren’t that interested in eating red grouse.

It’ll be interesting to see the final report, due out this year we think, especially now that more scientific papers are emerging from the Project scientists’ desks, and to put those findings in to context when wondering why Buccleuch has decided to sell up now.

29
May
19

New business ‘Skydancer coffee’ set to support hen harrier conservation

A new business offering fresh speciality coffee is due to launch at the end of June on Uist, in the Western Isles.

Called ‘Skydancer’, it’s being set up by Michael and Sarah Faint and will offer an on-site service as well as deliveries.

[Photo from the West Highland Free Press]

In a recent interview for an article in the West Highland Free Press, Sarah said:

Why Skydancer? Hen harriers thrive in the Outer Hebrides, especially in the Uists. In the spring the males perform magnificent aerial displays that are called ‘skydancing’. In honour of the amazing spectacle, we have named the roastery after the Hen Harriers and in the future, we will pledge a percentage of profits to their conservation and to nominated local causes“.

Fantastic!

It’s not yet clear whether the fresh Skydancer coffee will be available to customers beyond the Western Isles but let’s hope so.

We couldn’t find a website for the company yet (but when we do we’ll add it here) but they are on Facebook (here).

We wish them the best of luck and hope they make a stack of £££££ for hen harrier conservation.

29
May
19

Case against Scottish gamekeeper accused of 12 wildlife crimes proceeds to trial

The case against a south Scotland gamekeeper has continued this week with an intermediate diet (a type of court hearing) and he has pleaded not guilty to a number of alleged offences.

Alan Wilson, 60, is accused of shooting two goshawks, four buzzards, a peregrine falcon, three badgers and an otter at Henlaw Wood, Longformacus, between March 2016 and May 2017.

He also faces charges of using a snare likely to cause partial suspension of an animal or drowning, failing to produce snaring records within 21 days when requested to do so by police and no certificate for an air weapon.

We also believe he is accused of the alleged possession of the banned pesticide, Carbofuran.

Due to Mr Wilson’s not guilty plea, this case will now proceed to trial at Jedburgh Sheriff Court on 13 June 2019.

Previous blogs about this case: see herehere here  here here and here.

Please note: we will not be accepting comments on this news item until legal proceedings have concluded. Thanks.

26
May
19

Birds killed after ingesting banned poison nr Kingussie in Cairngorms National Park

Police Scotland has issued the following statement (dated 24 May 2019):

We can confirm that enquiries are ongoing following the deaths of four geese, which were reported to the Police by concerned estate workers who had found the birds on their land near Kingussie in late April 2019.

Subsequent post-mortem examination of the birds found that they died as a result of ingesting a banned pesticide.

Searches by Police Scotland officers have been carried out in the area around Loch Gynack near Kingussie.

Officers are advising any members of the public or dog walkers who use the area recreationally to be aware and to consider their safety – or that of their pet – if walking in the area.

Inspector Vince Tough, Highlands and Islands Wildlife Crime Coordinator, said:

We do not wish a member of the public, a dog or any other animal to become unwell where it can be avoided’. Our enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances of this incident. In the meantime I would urge anyone who walks their dogs in the area to be aware as a precaution.

Anybody who has information is asked to contact Police Scotland immediately on 101, using reference NM1041/19, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

ENDS

According to Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website, which provides details of estate boundaries, Loch Gynack, the location of the police search area, is on the Pitmain Estate close to Kingussie, although that does not mean that’s where the geese ingested the banned poison. Depending on which poison was used and how much was ingested, the geese may have died within minutes of ingestion or may have been able to fly a short distance. There are a number of sporting and non-sporting estates whose boundaries converge around Kingussie, some with dodgy reputations, some with impeccable credentials, so it would be unwise to assume anything without further information from the police, although we do know that of 219 poisoning offences recorded in Scotland between 2005-2014, a staggering 81% were on land used for game-shooting (57% on grouse moors, 24% on lowland pheasant shoots).

The police have not named the banned poison but it will be one of the eight listed on The Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005. These eight substances are considered to be so lethally toxic it’s an offence just to be in possession of any of them, let alone use any of them to bait and kill wildlife:

Aldicarb
Alphachloralose
Aluminium phosphide
Bendiocarb
Carbofuran
Mevinphos
Sodium cyanide
Strychnine

So once again we have a wildlife crime reported inside the Cairngorms National Park.

It was only three days ago that we were blogging about this so-called “Jewel in the Scottish and UK landscape” (ahem) following the suspicious disappearance of satellite-tagged hen harrier Marci on a grouse moor in the raptor persecution hotspot that is the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park.

In that blog we’d included a long list of reported crimes against raptors since the Park’s inauguration in 2003. You can see that illegal poisoning was prevalent during the 2000s but then the criminals switched tactics and shooting and trapping became much more prominent. The last known use of illegal poison in the Park, at least that we’re aware of, was reported in 2011.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the Cairngorms National Park Authority bothers to issue a statement about this latest poisoning crime. As far as we can tell, they didn’t bother publishing anything on their website about missing hen harrier Marci.

They’d do well to take a leaf out of the North Pennines AONB’s book. Prepare some leaflets, stick them up on public noticeboards, deliver fliers to pubs and shops, write a damning statement of condemnation for the Park’s website, etc etc.

It’s 2019 for god’s sake. Why are we still seeing banned poisons used inside a National Park to kill wildlife, and potentially any resident or visitor or their pet unfortunate enough to stumble across it? And why is the Park Authority so impotent to act against it?

For that matter, why is the Scottish Government still so impotent to act against it?

This latest crime happened in the constituency of Kate Forbes MSP (SNP: Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch). If you’re one of Kate’s constituents, please contact her and ask her what she intends to do about it. (Remember, she probably didn’t lay the bait and this is probably the first she’ll have heard about the crime – please be polite but be clear that doing nothing is not an option).

If you’re not a constituent of Kate’s, you can contact her on Twitter (@KateForbesMSP) and ask the same question (again, politely, please).

UPDATE 31 May 2019: Political silence in response to wildlife crime in Cairngorms National Park (here)

25
May
19

Gamekeepers ready to support reintroduction of buzzards to Salisbury Plain

Thanks to the blog reader who sent us this screen grab of a tweet doing the rounds recently (it now appears to have been deleted).

Oh dear. Perhaps Sporting Rifle will consider publishing a link to the RSPB’s very helpful online article ‘How to ID a Hen Harrier’, which includes these useful guides:

And perhaps Sporting Rifle will consider revising its article about hen harrier conservation by publishing the facts about why hen harriers are in a spiral of decline across the UK? (BIG CLUE: GAMEKEEPERS ARE INVOLVED).

Perhaps Sporting Rifle will also consider publishing the findings of the recent scientific paper which showed that hen harriers are ten times more likely to be killed on grouse moors than any other habitat. Yes, TEN TIMES more likely!

Or perhaps Sporting Rifle will also consider publishing the recent news that one of the many tagged hen harriers to vanish in suspicious circumstances just happened to vanish less than 20 miles from the proposed ‘reintroduction’ site in Wiltshire, in an area heavily managed by gamekeepers for pheasant and partridge shooting?

Incidentally, on the subject of DEFRA’s outrageous proposal to ‘reintroduce’ hen harriers to southern England this year, we’ve heard recently that some of our colleagues in Spain have been approached again by Natural England, seeking donor birds, with an apparent assurance that these donor birds won’t go any where near the UK’s upland grouse moors! If this is an accurate report (and we have no reason not to believe it, given the source), it fits in with Natural England’s previous distortions of the truth about hen harrier persecution (we blogged about that here).

The Spanish are not stupid. We’re aware that at least some of those who’ve been approached recognise that there is no evidence whatsoever to support such an ‘assurance’, and besides, Spanish raptor conservationists are well aware of the ongoing killing of hen harriers on UK grouse moors and they consider this southern England reintroduction proposal to be a sham – just a distraction from where the conservation agencies should be focusing their efforts. By all accounts, at least some of them have told Natural England to get lost.

Bravo, Spain!

25
May
19

Brilliant response from North Pennines AONB to illegal buzzard shootings

On Thursday we blogged about two separate wildlife crimes that had occurred recently in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) where two buzzards had been shot – one near Steel and one near Blanchland (see here), an area with a growing reputation for raptor persecution.

[Photo of one of the shot buzzards and an x-ray by Hadrian Vets]

This is an area where the landscape is dominated by grouse moors and we commented on the number of ‘official’ signs in the region offering public information on access rules and warning of ‘dangerous mine or quarry excavations’. We suggested that in addition to these signs, the North Pennines AONB Partnership team might consider putting up other signs, warning the public that they were entering a known raptor persecution hotspot, offering tips on what to look out and providing information about how to report any suspicious activity.

This led to a short discussion on Twitter with the Director of the AONB Partnership, Chris Woodley-Stewart , who told us there weren’t any plans to put up new signs because he “doubted we’d get permission“. Presumably that means permission from the land owners.

It’s difficult to understand why grouse moor owners in a raptor persecution hotspot might not want to encourage members of the public to keep an extra eye out for raptor killers, isn’t it? Aren’t they all supposed to find raptor persecution abhorrent? Aren’t they all supposed to be doing their utmost to fight it? Aren’t they represented by the Moorland Association on the police-led Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG)? Isn’t their Moorland Association rep, Amanda Anderson, chomping at the bit looking for ways her members can contribute to the objectives of the RPPDG (e.g. raising awareness about raptor persecution)? Isn’t one of the conditions of being an RPPDG member the need to provide evidence of either proactive or reactive responses to raptor crime? The Moorland Association hasn’t even published a statement on its own website to raise awareness about these latest crimes against two birds of prey. We fully expect RPPDG Chair Nick Lyall to hold the Moorland Association to account at the next RPPDG meeting.

In complete contrast to the Moorland Association’s apparent silence, the North Pennines AONB Partnership (also a member of the RPPDG) has responded brilliantly, and, refusing to be deterred by the constraints of potentially unhelpful private landowners, the Partnership has instead taken the initiative to distribute posters on public land, and deliver leaflets to shops and pubs, alerting the public to the buzzard shootings, appealing for information, and informing people what to do if they suspect raptor crime in their area.

[Photo of a North Pennines AONB Partnership team member posting an appeal for information on a public notice board. Image from @NorthPennAONB]

Not only that, but Chris Woodley-Stewart has written an angry statement that’s been posted on the front page of the North Pennines AONB website, as follows:

BUZZARDS SHOT IN THE NORTH PENNINES AONB

Comment from Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director, North Pennines AONB Partnership

Two buzzards – a protected species – have been shot in the north eastern part of the North Pennines (24th April at Steel, Hexhamshire and 13th May near Blanchland). One bird survived the shooting but its injuries meant it had to be euthanised. But that’s a euphemism – it had to be killed, which was the vile intention of the person who shot it.

We hear a lot (though actually not enough) about the potentially catastrophic long-term declines in our wildlife populations, but buzzards have bucked the trend. There’s been a tremendous eastward recolonisation by buzzards over the past 20 or so years and they are now a daily sight here in the North Pennines, when once they were very scarce. There are around 65,000 pairs of buzzard in the UK now and it’s our most common raptor; I find that a cause for great joy – these are magical birds, for me symbols of freedom and wild places.

We have no idea who killed these birds, though logically it is someone with access to a shotgun. Regardless of who is responsible, or why they did it, this is not merely objectionable, it is a crime and whoever did this is a criminal.

This corner of the North Pennines is gaining a reputation as a raptor crime hotspot, these two buzzard deaths adding to the eight red kites that have been illegally killed in the Muggleswick area (5 miles from Blanchland) since 2010. The killers are breaking the law, tarnishing the reputation of the place they live in and, most importantly, needlessly killing our precious native wildlife.

AONB Partnership staff have been out leafleting the area this morning, putting up posters and giving flyers to shops and pubs, calling for information on the recent crimes. We have written to the relevant Parish Councils today to draw their attention to these incidents. If you have relevant information, you can come forward confidentially and use the RSPB’s Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101 or contact the police on 101, quoting log 722 14/05/19. You can also provide information through www.northumbria.police.uk

Whoever is doing this, for whatever reason, it simply has to stop.

ENDS

The speed with which the AONB Partnership has reacted, and the unequivocal condemnation of these wildlife crimes, including a public acknowledgement of the area’s growing reputation as a raptor persecution hotspot, is to be applauded. This is a first class response, entirely what should be expected of a genuine RPPDG member, determined to play their part in the fight against raptor persecution. Well done to all at the North Pennines AONB.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen clear public condemnation of raptor crime by an AONB being despoiled by ongoing raptor persecution. In recent years we’ve also heard from the Chair of the Nidderdale AONB (here), the Chair of the Bowland AONB (here) as well as the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (here) and the Peak District National Park Authority (here).

Public awareness is growing, the pressure is mounting all the time.

UPDATE 25 May 2019: The second buzzard shooting incident was originally reported as being on 14 May 2019. We’ve now been advised (by North Pennines AONB Director Chris Woodley-Stewart), that the bird was found on 13 May 2019. Text now amended above.

23
May
19

Two buzzards found shot next to grouse moors in North Pennines AONB

Northumbria Police have launched an investigation following the discovery of shot buzzards, in two separate crimes, both close to grouse moors in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Northumbria Police press release (22/5/19):

POLICE INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED AFTER BIRDS OF PREY SHOT IN NORTHUMBERLAND

Officers are investigating after two separate reports of buzzards being shot and killed in the Hexham area.

One incident occurred on April 25, in Steel, Hexham where enquiries established the bird had been shot and injured. It was taken to a Wildlife Sanctuary and subsequently examined by a local vet where it had to be put to sleep.

The second occurred on May 13, in Blanchland, Hexham where the bird was found dead near the river Derwent.

[Photos and x-rays from Hadrian Vets]

[RPUK map showing the location of Steel and Blanchland in the North Pennines AONB]

PC Lee Davison, Northumbria Police’s Wildlife Crime Officer, said: “Northumberland is home to a variety of wildlife-including birds of prey. The persecution of birds of prey like buzzards is quite rightly an emotive issue and I want reassure the public that we take it very seriously. It is a criminal offence and, where possible, we will always look to identify offenders and put them before the courts.

Enquiries into these incidents are ongoing and we are working with partners to identify suspects. I would ask anyone who has any information to get in touch with us.”

Jenny Shelton from the RSPB’s Investigations team said: “Buzzards are beautiful birds which bring pleasure to many and are a crucial part of our natural landscapes and ecosystems. All birds of prey are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Yet buzzards, peregrines, red kites and other birds of prey are being illegally killed in Northumberland, and other upland areas in the UK.”

Anyone who has information that may assist police should contact officers on 101 quoting log 722 14/05/19 or report it online at www.northumbria.police.uk

Anyone wishing to convey information in confidence can call the Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101, which has been set up for those within the shooting community who wish to speak out about raptor persecution.

ENDS

What the police statement doesn’t include is detail about the local land use and the history of illegal raptor persecution in the area (shootings, poisonings, pole traps). That information has been provided by the RSPB in their own blog here.

Some of us were in this part of the AONB just a few months ago having a look at this extensive area of grouse moors (although not believed to be the grouse moors mentioned in relation to these current cases), and we noticed a lot of signs like these:

[Photos by Ruth Tingay]

These public information/warning signs had been endorsed by various authorities such as Natural England and the North Pennines AONB (see logos) and undoubtedly provide a useful public service:

Isn’t it time we also saw other public signs, endorsed by the authorities, highlighting areas that have been identified as raptor persecution hotspots and warning people to be alert to the evidence of such crimes and what to do if they stumble across such suspected evidence, i.e. who to report it to?

Presumably the grouse shooting estates wouldn’t object to this sort of signage being attached to posts next to their land given that they all denounce illegal raptor persecution and claim to want it stamped out (the crimes, not the raptors).

Perhaps this could be a consideration for Supt Nick Lyall and his reinvigorated Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG)? Given that the North Pennines AONB is in the process of joining the RPPDG, they could trail blaze this initiative as an indication of just how seriously they’re taking illegal raptor persecution on their patch.

Wouldn’t it be great to see other RPPDG ‘partners’ such as the Moorland Association, Countryside Alliance and BASC helping the North Pennines AONB to raise funds to support such a scheme and/or providing the labour to install the signs.

UPDATE 25 May 2019: Brilliant response from North Pennines AONB to illegal buzzard shootings (here)

UPDATE 25 May 2019: The second buzzard shooting incident was originally reported as being on 14 May 2019. We’ve now been advised (by North Pennines AONB Director Chris Woodley-Stewart), that the bird was found on 13 May 2019. Text now amended above.




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