Archive for the 'News' Category


Remember those illegal pole traps found set on Mossdale Estate?

Remember those three illegally-set pole traps that were found on the Mossdale Estate in the Yorkshire Dales National Park last year? (Photo: RSPB)

You know, the ones where a Mossdale Estate gamekeeper was filmed by the RSPB as he re-set them on posts on the grouse moor? (Photo: RSPB)

Yes, the gamekeeper who escaped with a police caution after a procedural blunder, instead of facing a full blown prosecution.

Well, guess what? Two of those traps had been used previously to illegally catch birds. How do we know? Because when those traps were seized from the Mossdale Estate, sharp-eyed and forensically-aware RSPB investigators suspected that they’d been used for trapping other birds. The traps were sent for expert examination at the Wildlife Forensics Unit at the SASA labs near Edinburgh and tests revealed the presence of kestrel DNA on one trap, and DNA from another (unidentified) falcon species on the other. (Photo: Guy Shorrock)

Unfortunately a prosecution was not possible as it wasn’t known where the traps had been used previously, when they’d been used, and by whom.

You can read more about this, and other DNA cases, on a fascinating RSPB Investigations blog written by Guy Shorrock and published earlier this afternoon (here).


More ‘extreme hairdressing’ as Highland grouse moors set alight

Last week, Scottish Land & Estates were warning of a high wildfire risk but said that ‘many grouse moors have already stopped their annual muirburn programme’ (here).

Here are two that haven’t yet stopped (they don’t have to stop until the muirburn season ends on 15 April). First up is Moy Estate – we’ve blogged about the grouse moor hairdressers on this estate a few times (see here and here). Last Saturday (8 April 2017) one of our blog readers took the following photographs:

Here is a series of unattended fires stretching for an estimated 4km.

The fires created a massive plume of toxic smoke, heading towards Nairn. Lucky Nairn residents, eh? You do have to wonder how this all fits in with Scotland meeting its climate change targets.

Meanwhile, a little further to the east on Dava Moor, close to Lochindorb, another blog reader took photos of more trees that had been cut and then burned:

The photographer mentioned that the area around Lochindorb was also being burned, right up to the shore, in gale force winds!

What’s interesting about Dava Moor is that it forms part of the designated Drynachan, Lochindorb and Dava Moor Special Landscape Area:

You really should read the assessment of this SLA – it’s quite something. It says the landscape here (predominantly intensively managed grouse moor) is ‘valued for its homogeneity, characterised by geometric muirburn patterns creating an abstract mosaic of colour and texture’ and there is a ‘strong sense of tranquility’. See pages 144-149: Assessment of Highland Special Landscape Areas

Strong sense of tranquility? Who writes this crap? It’s a barren, biodiversity-poor wasteland, ravaged by the ecological warfare waged against any species that might interfere with the overproduction of farmed red grouse for ‘sport’ shooting.


Buzzard, raven & crow shot in Brecon Beacons National Park

The RSPCA is appealing for information after the shooting of three birds in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

A member of the public discovered a dead raven and a dead buzzard near Pen-y-Cae on 5 April 2017. They were taken to the RSPCA’s Merthyr Tydfil clinic where x-rays revealed they had been shot with a pellet gun (x-ray image by RSPCA).

An injured crow was rescued but later euthanised due to its injuries.

Local residents have reported seeing an unusual white van parked in the area around 5 April.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the RSPCA Appeals Line, in confidence, Tel 0300-123-8018.

BBC news article here

ITV news article here


Vicarious liability prosecution: case dropped (Andrew Duncan, Newlands Estate)

Regular blog readers will know that we’ve been tracking the vicarious liability prosecution of landowner Andrew Walter Bryce Duncan, who was alleged to be vicariously liable for the crimes committed by gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick in April 2014.

Gamekeeper Dick was convicted in August 2015 of killing a buzzard on the Newlands Estate, Dumfriesshire by striking it with rocks and repeatedly stamping on it (see here). Mr Dick was sentenced in September 2015 and was given a £2000 fine (see here). Mr Dick appealed his conviction but this appeal was rejected on 15 July 2016 (see here).

Vicarious liability proceedings against Mr Duncan began in August 2015 and the case has been repeatedly adjourned since then (a total of 13 court hearings) with two trial dates assigned but then later dropped (see here). These repeated delays were due in part to Mr Dick’s appeal against his conviction but in part for other reasons which have not been explained.

The third trial date (24 April 2017) looked set to go ahead but today we’ve learned that the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service has dropped all proceedings. We do not yet know why the prosecution has been dropped.

Whatever the reason for dropping the prosecution, this result does not reflect well on the efficiency of wildlife crime enforcement measures in Scotland.

Vicarious liability in relation to the persecution of raptors in Scotland (where one person may potentially be legally responsible for the criminal actions of another person working under their supervision) came in to effect over five years ago on 1st January 2012 as a provision in the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011. It was introduced as an amendment to the draft WANE Bill in November 2010 by the then Scottish Environment Minister, Roseanna Cunningham. It was a direct response to the unrelenting problem of illegal raptor persecution and the apparent inability/unwillingness of the game shooting lobby to get their own house (grouse moors) in order.

To date there have only been two successful prosecutions/convictions: one in December 2014 (see here) and one in December 2015 (see here). Both related to raptor persecution on low ground shoots, not on intensively managed driven grouse moors. One further case in October 2015 did not reach the prosecution stage due, we believe, to the difficulties associated with identifying the management structure on the estate where the crimes were committed (see here). And now this latest case has failed, for reasons as yet unknown.

Two successful prosecutions in five years is not very impressive, and won’t be much of a deterrent for those who continue to kill raptors safe in the knowledge that the probability of being caught, prosecuted and convicted is still virtually nil.


GWCT’s 2017 Scottish Auction catalogue

The GWCT’s annual Scottish Auction fundraiser is set to take place at Prestonfield, Edinburgh on 4 May 2017. We’ve just been having a read of the auction catalogue. As ever, it’s quite an eye-opener. Have a look and see how many names you recognise: GWCT Scottish Auction 2017-Catalogue

As well as the auction lots, there’s a list of GWCT Scotland events for 2017 (see page 11). There’s an evening farm walk (to be followed by a BBQ) on June 14 2017 at Corsehope Estate.

Would that be the same Corsehope that is currently subject to a three year General Licence restriction (on Corsehope high ground) after the discovery of illegally-set traps during a Police raid in May 2014?



Red kite shot in Hertfordshire

Hertfordshire police have issued the following appeal for information:


7 April 2017

Police are appealing for witnesses and information after a wounded bird of prey was taken to a vet in Buntingford.

The Red Kite was spotted in Furneux Pelham, Buntingford, in distress and unable to fly. The vet concluded that the Kite had been shot and had suffered injuries which meant that it had to be put down.

Rural Operational Support Team Sergeant Jamie Bartlett said: “All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act. As a bird of prey Red Kite persecution is monitored by DEFRA and the National Wildlife Crime Unit, as Raptor Persecution is a National Wildlife Crime Priority. Not only is this a serious criminal offence but, this female would have been ready to breed this season and its death will impact on the local Kite population.

If anyone has information about this incident or has seen people shooting or carrying hunting rifles in the area, please contact the Herts Police non-emergency number 101 quoting reference A2/17/197.”


Photo of a red kite by Richard Stonier


Killing red kites is de rigueur in Nidderdale AONB, North Yorkshire

Today the RSPB’s Investigations Team has published a blog focusing on red kite persecution in North Yorkshire.

Many of you will already know that North Yorkshire is consistently rated as the worst county in the UK for recorded raptor persecution crimes and in recent years there has been a steady report of illegally-killed or injured raptors, particularly red kites, being discovered in this region. (Photo: M Ruddock)

In fact in the last ten years (2007-2017), twenty six red kites have been confirmed as victims of illegal persecution in North Yorkshire (18 poisoned, 8 shot), and these are only the ones that have been found. How many other victims were there? (Graph: RSPB)

But North Yorkshire is a huge area and has two National Parks (Yorkshire Dales & North York Moors) as well as two designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Howardian Hills & Nidderdale). When the average member of the public hears of a poisoned or shot kite being found in North Yorkshire, they probably think of it as a one off, random, & isolated killing. They’d be wrong.

The RSPB has created a map of where these confirmed red kite killings took place and it’s really quite obvious to see where red kite persecution is de rigueur; parts of the eastern side of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and parts of the Nidderdale AONB. Oh, and guess what the major land use is in these two areas? Intensively managed driven grouse moors. (Maps: RSPB)

Here is a closer view of the Nidderdale map, showing that 22 of the 26 red kite victims were killed here:

When you look at these maps it’s worth remembering that they are only showing confirmed incidents of red kite persecution. These maps do not include other confirmed crimes such as illegally-killed or injured buzzards, illegally-killed or injured hen harriers, illegally-killed or injured peregrines, illegally-killed or injured kestrels, illegally-killed or injured marsh harriers, poisoned baits, illegal poison caches, and illegally-set traps. Nor do they include ‘probable’ crimes against raptors, particularly ‘disappearing’ satellite-tagged raptors, especially hen harriers.

A couple of weeks ago, Police Superintendent Chris Hankinson (who leads the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group in England & Wales) wrote a comment on this blog (here). He said that the RPPDG was ‘working towards publication of a national map showing raptor persecution incidents with the aim of triggering activity from the local police force and community who can assist with information and intelligence to capture those responsible‘.

With the greatest respect, Supt Hankinson, the national maps are already available and have been for years (thanks to the diligent recording work of RSPB Investigations staff and their annual BirdCrime reports) and yet there hasn’t been a single prosecution for red kite persecution in the Nidderdale AONB (or the whole of North Yorkshire) for over ten years. Stop wasting your time pandering to those organisations in the RPPDG ‘partnership’ who are probably contesting every single incident and get on with leading the group to the known hotspot areas. The Nidderdale AONB would be a good start.

UPDATE 16.51hrs: Meanwhile, local business owners are putting up their own money towards a reward to catch the kite killers. Great stuff – the local fight back is on. See article in Harrogate Advertiser here

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