Archive for the 'News' Category


Two red kites confirmed poisoned in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire

Red Kite Mali HallsYesterday, North Yorkshire Police put out the following press release:


Police are appealing for information and warning about the dangers of illegal bird of prey poisoning.

Two red kites were found poisoned in the Nidderdale area of North Yorkshire in 2016.

One was found near Pateley Bridge on 12 March 2016. Tests have attributed its death to alphachloralose. Traces of aldicarb and three rodenticides (difenacoum, bromadiolone and brodifacoum) were also identified.

The second was found near Bouthwaite on 18 May 2016. Shockingly, tests have shown the presence of eight different poisons – alphachloralose, aldicarb, bendiocarb, carbofuran and isofenphos, together with three rodenticides.

Officers are appealing for information about the two incidents, and warning members of the public about the dangers of this illegal practice. Hard-hitting posters urging people to report suspected wildlife poisoning are being distributed across the county.

Inspector Jon Grainge, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said: “The use of poisons in the two Nidderdale cases is particularly shocking. The practice of lacing animal carcasses with poison to kill other wildlife is cruel and illegal. It is also a serious risk to members of the public and their children or pets if they come into contact with them.

If you find a mammal or bird that you believe has been poisoned, please do not touch it, as poisons can transfer through skin contact. Also keep youngsters and pets well away. Make a note of the location, including GPS co-ordinates if possible, and anything else that is around or near the animal, and contact the police immediately”.

Anyone with information about the poisoning of the red kites found in Nidderdale should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, quoting reference number 12160043415, or email


Have a look at this map. The poisoned red kite at Bouthwaite was found just to the north of the Gouthwaite Reservoir, and the poisoned red kite near Pateley Bridge was found just to south. Look at the land use on either side of the reservoir: this is driven grouse shooting country.


Presumably these two poisoned red kites were part of the ten suspicious red kite deaths investigated in North Yorkshire in 2016. Most of those were confirmed shot but there were a number of suspected poisonings too.

It seems strange that North Yorkshire Police is only now appealing for information about two poisoned red kites that were found nine and eleven months ago respectively. The delay may be due to issues at the toxicology lab (it wouldn’t be the first time) and therefore beyond North Yorkshire Police’s control. The delay is certainly at odds with the commendable speed with which North Yorks Police announced some of last year’s shot red kites (e.g. see here – shot kite found on Sunday, press release out by Monday). They were also incredibly quick off the mark to go out and investigate the three illegal pole traps found on the Mossdale Estate grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park last year, and although senior officers ballsed up what should have been a straight forward prosecution, at least they were honest and transparent, admitted the mistake and amended their policies as a result.

The long delay aside, it is very good to see North Yorkshire Police provide detailed information about the type of poisons used in these two crimes (take note, Police Scotland). It’s also very good to see them proactively warning the public of the danger of these highly toxic substances (again, take note Police Scotland), especially as we head towards spring, which is typically the time when illegal raptor persecution really hots up.

North Yorkshire Police have certainly got their work cut out fighting wildlife crime, and particularly raptor persecution. North Yorkshire is consistently rated the worst county in the UK for the number of reported crimes against raptors, and a lot of it takes place in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the neighbouring Yorkshire Dales National Park. We were only talking about this region two days ago in relation to the ongoing persecution of hen harriers.


Photo of red kite by Mali Halls


Driven grouse shooting auctioned at Tory fundraising ball

Every year the Tory party hosts a lavish Black & White fundraising ball for wealthy donors, with a range of opulent prizes on offer in an auction.

We’ve blogged about this event before (see here) when in 2015 one of those auction prizes – an opportunity to shoot 500 pheasants and partridge at the Maristow and Bickleigh Estate in Devon – reportedly sold for £110,000.

This year’s ball took place on Monday evening and one of the auction lots was ‘a fantastic grouse shoot for 8’ at the Westerdale and Rosedale Estate in the North York Moors National Park.

Would this be the same grouse moor where an horrifically injured buzzard with a severed leg and gunshot wounds was found last summer?


It’s not known on whose land this buzzard was shot and trapped, nor the identity of the perpetrator(s), just that the critically injured bird was picked up on a Westerdale grouse moor within the North York Moors National Park. It didn’t survive.


Satellite-tagged hen harrier Mick ‘disappears’ in Yorkshire Dales National Park

mickNatural England has today issued the following press statement:

North Yorkshire Police is appealing for information following the loss of a hen harrier in Upper Swaledale.

Mick, a young male, fledged in Northumberland last summer. He was fitted with a satellite tag in July by a hen harrier expert from Natural England. His tag stopped transmitting on 21 December 2016 in the Thwaite area of North Yorkshire. A search of the area has been carried out but no trace of the bird or equipment has been found.

Natural England reported Mick’s disappearance to North Yorkshire Police and is working closely with wildlife crime officers, local landowners, the Moorland Association and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

The loss of another juvenile hen harrier brings the total to five within four months across northern England – and is a serious blow to the small English hen harrier population. Interference with hen harriers is a criminal offence.

Rob Cooke, a Director at Natural England, said:

The disappearance of a hen harrier is deeply concerning to all who appreciate these rare and impressive birds. Any information that can shed light on what has happened to Mick will be gratefully received by North Yorkshire Police“.

David Butterworth, Chief Executive at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority said:

It’s incredibly disappointing that the Yorkshire Dales’ reputation as a wonderful place to visit is being damaged by incidents like this. We have pledged to provide whatever support we can to help the Police and Natural England find out what happened in this particular case“.

Anyone with any information which could help police with their enquiries should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Please quote reference number 12170014975 when passing information.



Thwaite is an interesting area, dominated by driven grouse moors (the dark brown areas with the patchwork of rectangular burnt heather strips on this map):


The Yorkshire Dales National Park and the neighbouring Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are well-known blackspots for hen harriers (and many other raptors). Hen harriers have not bred successfully in the Yorkshire Dales National Park since 2007. According to 2007-2014 hen harrier satellite data, published by Natural England in 2014, at least nine young sat tagged hen harriers (11 if we include Rowan & Mick) have ‘disappeared’ or been killed within the National Park / AONB area:

Female, tagged N England 26/6/07: last tag signal 5/10/07. Status: missing.

Female, tagged N England 16/7/09: last tag signal 27/9/09. Status: missing.

Male, tagged Bowland 29/6/09: last tag signal 17/8/09. Status: missing.

Female, tagged N England 29/6/10: last tag signal 25/11/10. Status: missing.

Female (Bowland Betty), tagged Bowland 22/6/11: found dead 5/7/12. Status: shot dead.

Female (Kristina), tagged N England 25/6/12: last tag signal 9/10/12. Status: missing.

Male (Thomas), tagged N England 4/9/12: last tag signal 4/9/12. Status: missing.

Male (Sid), tagged Langholm 21/9/14: last tag signal 21/9/14. Status: missing.

Female (Imogen), tagged N England 26/6/14: last tag signal 1/9/14. Status: missing.

Male (Rowan), tagged Langholm 2016: found dead 22/10/16. Status: shot dead.

Male (Mick), tagged Northumberland 2016: last tag signal 21/12/16. Status: missing.

Mick was a Natural England-tagged bird, so he doesn’t appear on the RSPB’s Hen Harrier Life Project website. He does, though, now appear on our ever-lengthening list of 2016-fledged hen harriers that have died and / or ‘disappeared’:

Hen harrier Elwood – ‘disappeared’ in the Monadhliaths just a few weeks after fledging.

Hen harrier Brian – ‘disappeared’ in the Cairngorms National Park just a few weeks after fledging.

Hen harrier Donald – missing in northern France, presumed dead.

Hen harrier Hermione – found dead on Mull, believed to have died from natural causes.

Hen harrier Rowan – found dead in Yorkshire Dales National Park. He’d been shot.

Hen harrier Tarras – ‘disappeared’ in the Peak District National Park.

Hen harrier Beater – missing in Scottish Borders, presumed dead.

Hen harrier Bonny – ‘disappeared’ in the North Pennines, presumed dead.

Hen harrier Carroll – found dead in Northumberland, PM revealed a parasitic disease & two shotgun pellets.

Hen harrier Mick – ‘disappeared’ in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, presumed dead.

Ten down, six to go (Aalin, DeeCee, Finn, Harriet, Wendy, Sorrel).

Mick’s last tag signal was received on 21 December 2016. So he ‘disappeared’ before Xmas and yet it’s taken Natural England / North Yorkshire Police almost seven weeks to issue this appeal for information. That’s pretty poor. If you’d prefer not to have to rely upon Government agencies releasing information way too late to help, you might want to consider donating to BAWC’s new raptor satellite-tagging project, where information about tagged birds will be publicised with greater speed and accuracy, and not delayed by wasting time ‘working closely’ with the likes of the Moorland Association. Please visit BAWC’s crowdfunding/donations page HERE


Botham spinning more balls, again

It’s been a while since we’ve heard any more cock and bull stories from Sir Ian Botham. He’s been pretty quiet since he was caught out mis-using the good name of the BTO last August, but on Saturday he was back attacking the RSPB in an article in the Telegraph.

The article (here), written by ‘Online Education Editor’?! Harry Yorke, headlined with ‘RSPB embarrassed after rare bird it suggested had been illegally dispatched is found alive and well‘.

The article refers to satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Highlander’, whose signal had stopped abruptly last summer but who had probably been observed in the field last month with a presumably faulty sat tag (see here).

The Telegraph’s headline is inaccurate on two counts. The RSPB isn’t ’embarrassed’ and nor had it suggested Highlander had been ‘illegally dispatched’. On the contrary, at the time Highlander’s tag stopped working the RSPB blog announcing the news was supremely cautious (see here) and at no point was it suggested that Highlander had been ‘illegally dispatched’.

Of course, many of us assumed she had been bumped off, and that was an entirely reasonable conclusion to draw given the growing list of hen harriers known to have been illegally shot in recent years (Rowan, Carroll, Lad, Annie, Betty, Heather, Muirkirk female, Fettercairn male, Geallaig Hill male) but the RSPB did not say that Highlander had been illegally dispatched, just that she had disappeared.

And that’s why the RSPB isn’t ’embarrassed’ by Highlander’s apparent reappearance. What has the RSPB got to be embarrassed about? Absolutely nothing – the RSPB has been open and honest about this failed tag, in sharp contrast to how other organisations have handled the recent news that another sat-tagged hen harrier, Rowan, had been shot.

The Telegraph article includes some quotes from Botham where he slags off the RSPB – it’s not clear if he was speaking as the mouthpiece of the grouse-shooting industry’s propaganda campaign You Forgot the Birds but his diatribe has all the familiar hallmarks of the Nasty Brigade.

As ever though, it’s what the article didn’t include that is the most telling. This piece was published the day after the RSPB’s 2015 Birdcrime report was published, detailing the continued illegal persecution of raptors across the UK, largely at the hands of gamekeepers. You could argue that this attack on the RSPB was the Telegraph’s / grouse-shooting industry’s direct response to that report.

Thanks to one of our blog readers (‘Mr Carbo’) for sending in this interpretation of what’s happening to satellite-tagged hen harriers.


Police Scotland continue to withhold raptor persecution data

Earlier today we blogged about the publication of the RSPB’s 2015 UK Birdcrime report (here).

Have a look at the report’s data appendices: rspb-birdcrime2015_appendices

You’ll notice a statement in relation to Appendix 3 (which is a table of confirmed and probable bird of prey and owl persecution during 2015). That statement says: ‘The details of some confirmed bird of prey persecution incidents cannot be shown, as requested by Police Scotland‘.

You’ll see the same statement in relation to Appendix 4 (which is a table of confirmed poison abuse incidents during 2015).

You’ll see the same statement in relation to the UK map of bird crime incidents 2015.

You’ll notice that no other police force in the UK has applied such restrictions to the publication of incident data, just Police Scotland.

Take a closer look at Appendix 4 (list of confirmed poison abuse incidents) and you’ll notice that not only has Police Scotland withheld the month, species, poison and county of four confirmed poisoning crimes, but they’ve also withheld the name of the poison used in every single Scottish poisoning crime (except one) in 2015. No other police force has done this. Every other police force listed in this table has provided the full details of each confirmed poisoning crime. But not Police Scotland. Why is that?


You might recall that in 2015 the Scottish Government organised a poisons disposal scheme that ran from Feb – May 2015 (see here). This resulted in the handing in of a massive amount of banned poisons (see here). However, it’s clear from the above table that despite this disposal scheme, some banned poisons are still being held and used illegally in Scotland. But without knowledge of the poison used, and in some cases where it was used, when it was used and which species was the victim, it is virtually impossible for us to cross-reference and track these cases.

This withholding of data by Police Scotland also renders the national statistics on raptor persecution utterly pointless. How can we have any faith in the national picture if we know that Police Scotland are refusing to release information, two years on from when the crimes were committed?

The withholding of raptor persecution data appears to be becoming a Police Scotland speciality – they’ve done it before with the ‘official’ PAW Scotland 2015 raptor persecution data (see here) and also with the Scottish Government’s 2015 annual wildlife crime report (see here, here and here).

Police Scotland’s refusal to publicise some of these crimes is deeply concerning, and especially when that suppression extends to details of crimes in ‘official’ Government reports that are supposed to demonstrate openness and transparency.

Ask yourselves, in whose interest is it to keep these crimes under wraps? You’d be hard pressed to argue that it is in the interests of the general public.

UPDATE 6 Feb 2017: It’s worth re-visiting RSPB Scotland’s written evidence to the ECCLR Committee (10 January 2017) about the withholding of raptor persecution data in the Scottish Government’s annual 2015 wildlife crime report. Here’s a quote:

We note that a number of cases of confirmed raptor persecution have not been included in the Wildlife Crime Report. RSPB Scotland is concerned that increasingly, such data are being withheld from public scrutiny on the basis that cases remain under investigation and/or there is an anticipation that an individual will come forward, as a result of an appeal, with some specialist information that will identify a potential suspect. As far as we are aware, this has never happened, almost certainly due to the culture of silence outlined above‘.


RSPB publishes 2015 UK Birdcrime report

On Friday (3 Feb 2017) the RSPB published its latest UK Birdcrime report (2015).

The format for the 2015 report has changed. Instead of publishing a downloadable PDF, the report has been published ‘online’ – see here.

This isn’t to everyone’s liking, including ours; we prefer to have a report that can be filed and read offline. Nevertheless, the new online version includes all the usual information that we’ve come to expect from the RSPB’s Investigations Team, including a downloadable PDF of the data appendices (very useful), and for the first time it includes a new ‘interactive’ map of persecution incidents. This is a fantastic development, and although at the moment it only includes data from 2015, it is hoped that data from previous and future years will be added in due course, which will make this a very valuable tool when looking at persecution hotspot areas.

Overall, the RSPB received 196 reports of shooting, trapping and destruction of birds of prey in 2015. 64 of these were confirmed crimes, including the shooting or attempted shooting of 46 raptors and 16 trapping crimes.

There were also 50 reports of poisoning and pesticide-related incidents. Of these, 32 were confirmed and included the illegal poisoning of 15 buzzards, four red kites and three peregrines.

A map documents some of the 2015 reported incidents, although some are not mapped because there wasn’t an associated grid reference and others were not mapped “as requested by Police Scotland“.


This map illustrates the geographical extent of raptor persecution in the UK (even with some of the Scottish incidents being withheld) and according to the report the UK breakdown for 2015 was 61% of all confirmed persecution reports were in England, 29% in Scotland, 9% in Northern Ireland and 1% in Wales.

The regional breakdown is very familiar to those who take an interest in regional trends. It’s no surprise to see that the worst area for reported raptor persecution continues to be North Yorkshire (40 reports), closely followed by Highland (39 reports) and then Aberdeenshire (23 reports). All three areas are dominated by land managed for driven grouse shooting, including three National Parks (Yorkshire Dales NP, North York Moors NP and Cairngorms NP).

The report includes a pie chart to illustrate the occupation / interests of 176 individuals convicted of bird of prey persecution related offences between 1990-2016. Again, no surprises here:


Given that 68% of all those convicted of raptor persecution offences over the last 26 years were gamekeepers, the response to the 2015 Birdcrime report by the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation is predictable in its denial and insincerity. We might have more trust in them if they didn’t harbour convicted criminals.


Many congratulations and thanks to the RSPB Investigations Team for continuing to compile these data and for making them available to the public.

We’ll be writing another, related blog, later today about Police Scotland’s continued withholding of data.


Hawk and Owl Trust dig themselves in to a deeper hole re: shot hen harrier Rowan

The Hawk and Owl Trust are digging themselves in to a deeper hole.

Most people looking at the x-ray of hen harrier Rowan’s leg injuries, which was published yesterday, would be able to interpret the image fairly easily. A fractured leg with a number of radio-dense foreign bodies associated with the injury site; radio-dense foreign bodies with a radio density consistent with metal. This is not a difficult image to interpret and it’s pretty clear that Rowan’s injuries weren’t caused when he was shaving his legs and slipped (thanks Lewis Thomson @LT_FoD for the most amusing suggestion seen on Twitter yesterday!).


The Hawk and Owl Trust (and Natural England and Cumbria Police) had the benefit of additional evidence in the form of photographs (presumably a gunshot entry wound was visible on the leg directly adjacent to the fracture site) and a written report from the pathology expert who had conducted the post mortem. The opinion of the pathologist was that Rowan had been shot and Cumbria Police accepted his expert opinion.

So we come back to the questions we raised earlier:

(a) Why did the joint press release issued by Hawk & Owl Trust / Natural England on 28 October (just prior to the Westminster grouse shooting debate) exclude all the post mortem evidence that was available to them on 27 October?

Their press release included the line: “We are unable to make further comments or enter into discussion at this time as this may be prejudicial to ongoing investigations“. Our friend Mark Avery suggested to us an alternative line: “We are unable to make further comments or enter into discussion at this time as this may be prejudicial to the Westminster debate on driven grouse shooting“.

(b) Cumbria Police’s draft press release on 3 November clearly stated that the post mortem had concluded Rowan had been shot. Why then, on 7 November and after consultation with Natural England (and possibly Hawk & Owl Trust) was this police press release altered from Rowan ‘was shot’ to Rowan ‘was likely to have been shot’?

Yesterday evening, the Hawk and Owl Trust issued a statement in an attempt to justify their lack of transparency:

The most interesting sentence is the penultimate one:

“……the initial post mortem results were not wholly conclusive and further metallurgical tests were required“.

Really? Who said the initial post mortem results weren’t wholly conclusive? (Clue: it wasn’t the pathologist).

And who said further metallurgical tests were required? (Clue: it wasn’t the pathologist).

Have those further metallurgical tests been done? If so, where are the results? If they haven’t been done, four months on, then why not if they were supposedly “required”?

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