Archive for the 'Persecution Incidents in Wales' Category


48 hen harriers confirmed illegally killed or ‘missing’ since 2018

In September 2020 I blogged that at least 45 hen harriers were ‘missing’ in suspicious circumstances or had been confirmed illegally killed since 2018 (see here).

Today the list is updated to 48 hen harriers, ‘missing’ or confirmed illegally killed since 2018, after the recent news (here, here and here) that three more satellite-tagged hen harriers have ‘disappeared’ since September 2020.

Here’s the blog that’ll be published every time this list is updated:

It’s getting to that time of year when the grouse shooting industry pumps out its patently misleading propaganda relating to hen harrier conservation in the UK. The aim is to hoodwink the public in to believing that the industry loves hen harriers and is doing all it can to protect and nurture the tiny remnant breeding population (but conveniently forgetting to mention that the breeding population is only in such dire straits because the grouse shooting industry has been ruthless in its maniacal intolerance of this supposedly protected species).

And the industry’s pursuit of the hen harrier is not simply ‘historical’ or indicative of past behaviour, as some would have us believe. It is on-going, it is current, and it is relentless.

[This male hen harrier died in 2019 after his leg was almost severed in an illegally set trap that had been placed next to his nest on a Scottish grouse moor (see here). Photo by Ruth Tingay]

To illustrate this fact, I intend to keep a running tally of all the hen harriers that I know (because most of these victims had been fitted with a satellite tag) to have either ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances or have been confirmed as being illegally killed since 2018.

Why only since 2018 when we know that hen harriers have been a persecution target for years and years and years? Well, 2018 is the year that the grouse shooting industry ‘leaders’ would have us believe that the criminal persecution of hen harriers had stopped and that these birds were being welcomed back on to the UK’s grouse moors (see here).

This assertion was made shortly before the publication of a devastating new scientific paper that demonstrated that 72% of satellite-tagged hen harriers were confirmed or considered likely to have been illegally killed, and this was ten times more likely to occur over areas of land managed for grouse shooting relative to other land uses (see here).

I only started compiling this list of dead / missing hen harriers in June 2020 when I learned that all five of last year’s brood meddled hen harrier chicks were ‘missing’, presumed dead (see here). It has since been updated a few times as we found out about more satellite-tagged hen harriers that had vanished during lockdown in suspicious circumstances on grouse moors in the Cairnorms National Park (here), on a notorious grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (see here) and on a grouse moor believed to be involved with the brood meddling in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here).

It’s now time to update the death list again, as I’ve learned of yet another three satellite-tagged hen harriers that have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances, only revealed after an FoI request to Natural England who seem reluctant to let the public know about these ongoing losses. I can’t think why. Some might think NE’s silence was connected to a financial agreement it made recently with representatives from the grouse shooting industry. That would be a preposterous suggestion – as ridiculous as Natural England removing hen harrier chicks from the moors at the behest of the grouse shooting industry and calling it conservation. It’d never happen, right?

That brings the gruesome tally to 48 hen harriers. I’m still waiting to hear whether three hen harriers, satellite-tagged by Natural England this year and have since vanished (here), are being treated as suspicious disappearances by the police and if so, they will be added to this list. I’m also aware of at least one ongoing police investigation that has yet to be publicised so that bird will also be added to this list if the circumstances dictate it’s appropriate.

Four eight.

Forty eight.

In the space of two years.

Nobody has been prosecuted for any of these cases. We have every expectation that this list will be updated again in the near future.

For now, here are the 48:

February 2018: Hen harrier Saorsa ‘disappeared’ in the Angus Glens in Scotland (here). The Scottish Gamekeepers Association later published wholly inaccurate information claiming the bird had been re-sighted. The RSPB dismissed this as “completely false” (here).

5 February 2018: Hen harrier Marc ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Durham (here)

9 February 2018: Hen harrier Aalin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Blue ‘disappeared’ in the Lake District National Park (here)

March 2018: Hen harrier Finn ‘disappeared’ near Moffat in Scotland (here)

18 April 2018: Hen harrier Lia ‘disappeared’ in Wales and her corpse was retrieved in a field in May 2018. Cause of death was unconfirmed but police treating death as suspicious (here)

8 August 2018: Hen harrier Hilma ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Northumberland (here).

16 August 2018: Hen harrier Athena ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

26 August 2018: Hen Harrier Octavia ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (here)

29 August 2018: Hen harrier Margot ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

29 August 2018: Hen Harrier Heulwen ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Wales (here)

3 September 2018: Hen harrier Stelmaria ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

24 September 2018: Hen harrier Heather ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here)

2 October 2018: Hen harrier Mabel ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

3 October 2018: Hen Harrier Thor ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in Bowland, Lanacashire (here)

23 October 2018: Hen harrier Tom ‘disappeared’ in South Wales (here)

26 October 2018: Hen harrier Arthur ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North York Moors National Park (here)

1 November 2018: Hen harrier Barney ‘disappeared’ on Bodmin Moor (here)

10 November 2018: Hen harrier Rannoch ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Scotland (here). Her corpse was found nearby in May 2019 – she’d been killed in an illegally-set spring trap (here).

14 November 2018: Hen harrier River ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Nidderdale AONB (here). Her corpse was found nearby in April 2019 – she’d been illegally shot (here).

16 January 2019: Hen harrier Vulcan ‘disappeared’ in Wiltshire close to Natural England’s proposed reintroduction site (here)

7 February 2019: Hen harrier Skylar ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here)

22 April 2019: Hen harrier Marci ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

26 April 2019: Hen harrier Rain ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Nairnshire (here)

11 May 2019: An untagged male hen harrier was caught in an illegally-set trap next to his nest on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire. He didn’t survive (here)

7 June 2019: An untagged hen harrier was found dead on a grouse moor in Scotland. A post mortem stated the bird had died as a result of ‘penetrating trauma’ injuries and that this bird had previously been shot (here)

5 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 1 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor nr Dalnaspidal on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park (here)

11 September 2019: Hen harrier Romario ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

14 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183704) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

23 September 2019: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #55149) ‘disappeared’ in North Pennines (here)

24 September 2019: Wildland Hen Harrier 2 ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor at Invercauld in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

10 October 2019: Hen harrier Ada ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the North Pennines AONB (here)

12 October 2019: Hen harrier Thistle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Sutherland (here)

18 October 2019: Member of the public reports the witnessed shooting of an untagged male hen harrier on White Syke Hill in North Yorkshire (here)

November 2019: Hen harrier Mary found illegally poisoned on a pheasant shoot in Ireland (here)

January 2020: Members of the public report the witnessed shooting of a male hen harrier on Threshfield Moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

1 April 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183703) ‘disappeared’ in unnamed location, tag intermittent (here)

5 April 2020: Hen harrier Hoolie ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

8 April 2020: Hen harrier Marlin ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

19 May 2020: Hen harrier Fingal ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Lowther Hills, Scotland (here)

21 May 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2019, #183701) ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in Cumbria shortly after returning from wintering in France (here)

27 May 2020: Hen harrier Silver ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor on Leadhills Estate, Scotland (here)

7 September 2020: Hen harrier Dryad ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

16 September 2020: Hen harrier Fortune ‘disappeared’ from an undisclosed roost site in Northumberland (here)

19 September 2020: Hen harrier Harold ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here)

20 September 2020: Hen harrier (Brood meddled in 2020, #55152) ‘disappeared’ next to a grouse moor in North Yorkshire (here)

To be continued……..

Anybody still wondering why the grouse shooting industry wants conservationists to stop fitting satellite tags?


Proposal to reintroduce golden eagles to Wales: information finally released

Regular blog readers will be aware that there are currently two separate groups with a stated interest in reintroducing golden eagles to Wales, although both have very different, conflicting approaches.

Previous key blogs on this topic can be read here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

[Photo of a young golden eagle by Getty]

I’ve been particularly interested in the approach of one of these groups, Wilder Britain, which is headed up by Dr Paul O’Donoghue who is known for, amongst other things, his failed application (under the name of Lynx UK Trust) for a trial release of Lynx at Kielder Forest (here) and his failed attempt (under the name of Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC) to sue Andy Wightman MSP for alleged defamation (here).

Since February 2019, O’Donoghue has made a lot of noise in the media about his ‘plan’ to reintroduce golden eagles to Wales and he’s been fundraising to support this ‘plan’ but so far, in complete contrast to the Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project, very little detail of his background research or his ‘plan’ has emerged.

As a result, in August last year I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Natural Resources Wales (NRW, the Welsh Government’s statutory conservation agency) for information about any correspondence it’d had with O’Donoghue about reintroducing golden eagles.

It took NRW three months to respond (instead of the statutory 20 working days) and when it finally did respond, it refused to divulge any information because it claimed the requested information was exempt (see here).

I didn’t agree that the requested information was exempt so I challenged NRW to review the decision. It did review it and, two months later, I received the following response yesterday:

The accompanying information that NRW released is posted below. It’s not especially interesting; there’s what looks to be a great deal of posturing and bluster, but essentially NRW has not yet received a licence application from Wilder Britain in relation to the reintroduction of golden eagles to Wales.

Here are the released documents:

Of much more interest was the second part of the letter from NRW to me, where it sets out its position on reintroductions in general and then specifically on proposed golden eagle reintroductions. This information is useful as it clarifies several issues, including what licences would be required for a reintroduction and the option for NRW to conduct its own public consultation prior to a decision being made. This should be reassuring for many.

It’s also useful to see NRW’s commitment to meeting IUCN standards, and that includes addressing the persecution issue and whether it’s still a risk to golden eagles. Recent revelations exposed on this blog indicate that it is indeed still a significant risk (see here).

In amongst the released documents from NRW is correspondence from Wilder Britain last summer about an intention to submit licence applications to NRW by Xmas 2020 with a view to releasing eagles in summer 2021. This seems ambitious, even without the new Covid lockdown, especially when some key eagle experts in Norway (from where O’Donoghue has claimed to be sourcing donor birds) have apparently said they haven’t agreed to any such project.

Let’s see what happens this year.


Sentencing delay for man convicted of offences against badger and red kites

Back in December it was reported that a man had been found guilty of wildlife crimes against a badger and red kites in Wales (see here).

Dewi James Price, 39, of Commercial Street, New Tredegar, Caerphilly, faced a potential custodial sentence and the sentencing hearing was due to take place at Cardiff Crown Court on 23 December 2020.

[Photo of a red kite by Gareth Scanlon]

However, it has since been reported that sentencing was delayed after Price’s lawyer told the judge that her client wanted to appeal the convictions. Apparently the court adjourned the hearing until 8th January 2021.

This seems a bit odd. Has anybody heard of sentencing being delayed in these circumstances before? Sure, appeals against convictions are common and are an important part of the judicial process, but don’t these appeals usually come after sentencing, not before?

Here’s a copy of the news report from Powys County Times:

Man convicted of killing Builth Wells badger to appeal

By Iwan Gabe Davies (23 Dec 2020)

A MAN found guilty after a trial of hunting and killing a badger is to appeal against his conviction.

Dewi Price, 39, of Commercial Street, New Tredegar, Caerphilly, was also found guilty of offences against red kites.

He was convicted in his absence at Newport Magistrates’ Court.

Price was found guilty of killing a badger in the Builth Wells area of Powys on February 18, 2018.

The defendant was also convicted of taking a red kite in Gelligaer, Caerphilly, on May 19, 2019.

He was also found guilty of intentionally or recklessly disturbing a red kite while it was in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young and of intentionally or recklessly disturbing the dependent young of a red kite.

Price had been due to be sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court but Judge Michael Fitton QC was told by the defendant’s barrister Rosamund Rutter that her client wanted to appeal against his conviction.

The case was adjourned until January 8.

Price was granted conditional bail.



Man guilty of wildlife crime offences against red kites & a badger

Article from the South Wales Argus (13th December 2020)

Caerphilly man found guilty of hunting and killing badger

A MAN is facing a prison sentence after he was convicted after a trial of hunting and killing a badger.

Dewi James Price, 39, of Commercial Street, New Tredegar, Caerphilly, was also found guilty of offences against red kites.

He had denied the charges during a trial at Newport Magistrates’ Court.

[Photo of red kite by Gareth Scanlon]

Price was found guilty of killing a badger in the Builth Wells area of Powys on February 18, 2018.

The defendant was also convicted of taking a red kite in Gelligaer, Caerphilly, on May 19, 2019.

He was also found guilty of intentionally or recklessly disturbing a red kite while it was in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young and of intentionally or recklessly disturbing the dependent young of a red kite.

Price’s case sentence was adjourned and is due to take place at Newport Crown Court on December 23.

He was granted conditional bail.


UPDATE 7 January 2021: Sentencing delay for man convicted of offences against badger and red kites (here)


Post mortem reveals Welsh golden eagle had suffered gunshot injury

In August 2020 a walker found an adult golden eagle dead in a river in Powys, Wales.

The discovery prompted a great deal of media interest (e.g. here) as this eagle was believed to be the lone bird that had survived for approx 12 years in the wild in Wales, having escaped from captivity when she was three months old.

Just a few days before her corpse was found she’d featured in a BBC documentary presented by Iolo Williams, The Last Wilderness of Wales (available here on BBC iPlayer and well worth a watch for footage of this eagle doing her thing).

At the time of the news reports the cause of death was still to be established.

The Welsh Government organised for a post mortem where it was determined she’d died of systemic Aspergillosis. The PM report included the following description:

Asperillosis is the most comon fungal mycosis in birds. Aspergillus fumigatus is a ubiquitous opportunistic organism and factors impairing the birds’ immunity can predispose to disease. No underlying immunocompromising factors were detected on testing. There were extensive, chronic lesions throughout the carcase likely resulting in reduced feed intake, ill-thrift and dehydration and ultimately death‘.

That all looked straight forward and no cause for concern. However, an x-ray of the corpse had also revealed something much more sinister, as documented in the PM report as follows:

So, this golden eagle had been shot previously, although it’s not clear when and the pathologist thought this was unlikely to have contributed to the bird’s death.

Interestingly, the Welsh Government chose to suppress this information. Here is some internal correspondence, released under FoI, where the suppression is detailed:

In later correspondence also released under FoI, Welsh Government officials said this wasn’t deliberate suppression but just standard procedure when informing the original reporter of the incident about the cause of death, excluding any additional information that the PM may have uncovered. Government officials also stated that the Environment Minister had been informed about the gunshot injury.*

That seems reasonable behaviour under normal circumstances. However, finding the only golden eagle in Wales dead in a river couldn’t be described as ‘normal’ under any circumstances. And discovering that the eagle had been shot would also be of significant public interest, not least when there’s currently an active debate about the proposed reintroduction of golden eagles to Wales which could happen as early as next year (see here).

I’d say that public understanding of illegal persecution, including the targeting of a golden eagle, was actually fundamental to the debate.

Although according to an FoI response from the Welsh Government’s statutory conservation agency Natural Resources Wales (NRW) last month, officials there claimed to have received no correspondence about the shooting of this golden eagle either. That seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? Surely officials in the environmental section of the Welsh Government talk to officials in NRW, especially on a subject as significant as the shooting of a golden eagle?

It’s not the first time information about golden eagles in Wales has been suppressed. Last month NRW withheld correspondence it had had with Wilder Britain, one of two competing organisations involved with the proposed reintroduction of golden eagles to Wales (see here).

In an FoI refusal letter, NRW argued that Wilder Britain had refused permission to release its correspondence with NRW. I’ve lodged a review of that decision because I don’t believe it should apply to correspondence written by NRW to Wilder Britain in relation to a proposed reintroduction project. I believe the public have a right to know what advice NRW has been giving to someone proposing to reintroduce golden eagles to Wales and especially now that it’s been confirmed that Wales’s only wild-living golden eagle had at some stage been illegally shot.

*Update 12.24hrs: The person who took the dead eagle from the walker and delivered it for post mortem has been in touch to say the Welsh Government did provide details of the pellet and did not try to dissuade her from sharing that information with the media. This information is supported by some of the FoI material I’ve received, which shows that the Welsh Government informed her about the pellet sometime after they’d first mentioned to her that Aspergillosis was the cause of death, and seemingly only after being prompted by an outside agency to do so.

There is further correspondence, released under FoI which hasn’t been published here, in which the Welsh Government explicitly states, ‘We aren’t planning any proactive comms‘ [about the eagle being shot].

UPDATE 17.00HRS: This blog post has been picked up by Wales Online (here)

UPDATE: This blog post has been picked up by the Mail Online, who couldn’t report it accurately (claiming the eagle was shot twice) nor manage to acknowledge the source of their story).


New paper documents history of eagles in Wales

An important new scientific paper has just emerged documenting the history of golden and white-tailed eagles in Wales.

Published in the journal Conservation Science & Practice, this new paper builds on the earlier, painstaking work of the much missed Richard Evans who, along with colleagues (see here), mapped the historical distribution of eagles across Britain and Ireland.

This latest paper, authored by Cardiff University PhD student Sophie-lee Williams et al, thoroughly evaluates the evidence for both species in Wales and maps their likely core distributions. The authors conclude there is strong evidence that both species were widespread across Wales but fell victim to persecution and haven’t bred there for over 150 years.

This paper is open access which means it is freely available to everyone.

Download it here: Williams et al 2020_Past distribution eagles Wales

The significance of this paper relates to a proposed reintroduction of golden and/or white-tailed eagles to Wales. Many blog readers will recall that this prospect has been on the table for a while and whilst there is still a lot more work to complete before licence applications are submitted, understanding the species’ past historical ranges is important.

Some blog readers may recognise some of the names involved in this latest research. They are part of the Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project (ERWP) (website here) who we blogged about last year when news emerged that a different team was also contemplating an eagle reintroduction in Wales, but apparently without the careful research assessment being undertaken by the Cardiff University team (see here). Fortunately, so far, that alternative approach hasn’t advanced very far (see here and here).

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see more research results from the ERWP that’ll take us another step closer to restoring these eagles back to Wales.


North Yorkshire Police leads awareness-raising day as raptor persecution crimes soar during lockdown

Further to today’s news that reported raptor persecution crimes have surged during lockdown (see here), North Yorkshire Police has issued the following press release:

North Yorkshire Police leads online day of action to raise awareness of raptor persecution

Worrying signs that incidents of birds of prey being killed or injured could be on the rise

North Yorkshire Police is joining with other police forces across the country today (15 May) in a virtual ‘Operation Owl’ day of action to highlight bird of prey persecution as numbers of reported incidents show no signs of slowing down.

[A shot buzzard, photo via North Yorkshire Police]

Launched in February 2018, Operation Owl is a joint initiative by North Yorkshire Police, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), together with the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks and the Nidderdale AONB. The initiative set out to raise awareness of raptor persecution, encouraging the public to be vigilant for signs of this criminal activity, and to report suspicious activity to the police.

In June last year, Operation Owl was rolled out nationally and the first awareness weekend was held in September 2019 with 26 police forces taking part across the whole of the UK. A second national weekend of action was planned for April 2020 with 36 police forces asking to be involved. But that sadly had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Superintendent Nick Lyall, Chair of the England and Wales Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) said:

We’ve heard from various police forces across the country that they have seen no let-up in incidents of raptor persecution being reported and some areas have seen a significant rise in the past few weeks which is very worrying.

Whilst it is not possible to hold a weekend of action at this time, we wanted to use social media and online channels to raise awareness of bird of prey persecution and to take a stand against this unacceptable crime.

The three vital pieces of information we want to make everyone aware of are ‘Recognise, Record and Report’ – how to recognise bird of prey persecution, how to record it and how to report it. If you notice anything suspicious, like a dead or injured bird of prey, or a suspicious trap, call the police on 101. Take pictures on your phone, and remember please do not interfere with what could be a crime scene or a lawfully placed trap.

Please share our messages with your networks online and please be vigilant for signs of raptor persecution when you are out and about taking your daily exercise. Everyone has a part to play in helping put an end to this relentless persecution.”



Police search grouse moors as raptor persecution crimes surge during lockdown

RSPB press release (15 May 2020)

Bird of prey persecution crimewave during lockdown

  • The RSPB has received a surge in reports of birds of prey being illegally killed since lockdown began 
  • The majority of incidents have been on or close to sporting estates managed for game bird shooting 
  • The public are being asked to stay vigilant and report crimes against birds of prey 

The RSPB’s Investigations Unit has been ‘overrun’ with reports of birds of prey being illegally killed in recent weeks.

Police have been called out to investigate multiple cases involving the shooting, trapping and suspected poisoning of birds of prey following reports by the public.

The RSPB is currently aware of many confirmed incidents involving the targeting of birds of prey involving hen harriers, peregrines, buzzards, red kites, goshawks and a barn owl in the last six weeks. Amongst the cases being dealt with by the police are a number of significant ongoing investigations on land managed for grouse shooting.

[A bleak, ecologically devastated landscape of intensively managed driven grouse moors, photo by Ruth Tingay]

On 29 March a buzzard was found shot at Shipton, near York. Its wing was fractured in two places and an x-ray revealed several pieces of shot within the bird’s body. Thanks to the care of a local wildlife expert the buzzard recovered and was released.

Over the Easter Weekend, a red kite was found shot dead near Leeds. It had 12 shotgun pellets lodged in its body.

The following weekend, wildlife presenter Iolo Williams recovered a dead red kite in Powys, which had been shot. Reports also came in of a further two shot red kites in the area, which is managed for pheasant shooting.

And in Scotland, the police are following up several raptor persecution cases and multiple reports of illegal trap use on grouse moors.

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

Mark Thomas, RSPB Head of Investigations UK, said:  “Since lockdown began, the RSPB has been overrun with reports of birds of prey being targeted. It is clear that criminals on some sporting estates both in the uplands and lowlands, have used the wider closure of the countryside as an opportunity to ramp up their efforts to kill birds of prey. 

Spring is the time when birds of prey are most visible and therefore vulnerable, as they put on courtship displays, build nests and find food ready to breed. It is clear the criminal actions are targeted and malicious in nature, taking out birds before they have the opportunity to breed, often in areas where they have previously faced persecution. 

We welcome the fact that the public is remaining vigilant and encourage any suspicious incidents to be reported. But please observe government guidelines at all times.”

[An illegally poisoned buzzard. Photo by RSPB]

Superintendent Nick Lyall, head of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, said:  “Over recent weeks, I have been sickened by the number of raptor persecution cases that have come to my attention as chair of the Raptor Persecution Delivery Group. I know that there are officers currently investigating a number of crimes against wild birds of prey which have occurred since lockdown began. 

It is clear that lockdown has been seen as a green light by those involved in raptor persecution offences to continue committing crimes, presumably in the belief that there are fewer people around to catch them doing so.  

I remain grateful to everyone involved in investigating these crimes, and thankfully in the vast majority of the cases I am aware of, it looks like some really good lines of enquiry are taking place which should lead to arrests and interviews.

If you have any information about birds of prey being killed in your area, call the police on 101 or the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline: 0300 999 0101.


The game-shooting industry’s supposed stance of ‘zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution is going well, then.

There’ll be more news about the lockdown raptor persecution surge later today.


BBC News website is running a piece with a quote from Amanda Anderson (Moorland Association) who essentially ignores the surge in reported crime and bleats the mantra that grouse moors are great for raptors (see here)

The Guardian has an article that includes more detail on the reported crimes, including 15 confirmed shot birds and 24 others submitted for further postmortem analysis after suspected illegal killing (see here)

The RSPB’s Investigations Team has published the press release (here) along with this illuminating table:

UPDATE 20 May 2020: Game-shooting industry displays zero credibility in fight against raptor persecution (here)

UPDATE 29 May 2020: RSPB provides update on raptor persecution surge during Coronavirus lockdown (here)


Red kite found shot dead on land managed for pheasant shooting in Wales

Three red kites have been found dead on land managed for pheasant shooting in Wales.

On Sunday (19 April 2020) two corpses were found by a member of the public and photographed but then ‘disappeared’ before they could be collected. A third corpse was found by TV presenter Iolo Williams and an x-ray confirmed it had been shot.

[The shot red kite found by Iolo Williams]

The RSPB and Dyfed-Powys Police have today issued the following appeal for information:


Police and the RSPB are appealing for information regarding the shooting of one red kite, and the suspected shooting of two more in Wales.

A protected red kite was found shot dead in Tregynon, near Newtown, Powys on Sunday 19 April 2020. At least two more are suspected to have been illegally killed in the area, which is managed for pheasant shooting.

A local woman found the two dead red kites while out walking with her family on 19 April. She photographed the birds and planned to return the next day.

She posted her photographs on social media, where they came to the attention of wildlife presenter Iolo Williams. The former RSPB employee ventured out that same evening to the location the birds had been seen, but when he arrived the bodies had disappeared. However, he discovered a third bird lying dead on the ground. The body was x-rayed and found to contain three pieces of shot in its chest and each of its wings.

Police officers conducted a patrol of the area but uncovered no leads. They are now appealing to the public for information.

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

Julian Hughes, head of species at RSPB Cymru, said: “Red kites have made a comeback in Wales after a collaborative effort by farmers, conservationists and communities. For most of us, the sight of these glorious birds – recognisable by their long wings and forked red tail – is a source of joy. They should be celebrated, not persecuted“.

Iolo Williams, broadcaster and former RSPB species officer, said: “The red kite is Wales’ national bird and many of us remember it being incredibly rare and confined to mid-Wales. Hundreds of landowners, wardens and volunteers worked incredibly hard for so many decades to ensure the kite population thrived that I am both baffled and disgusted by this horrific incident.”

PC Charlie Jones, of the Dyfed-Powys Rural Crime Team, said: “It is illegal to intentionally harm or kill a red kite, or any other bird of prey, making this an act of criminality. Wales is home to a significant population of breeding red kites and therefore we take any offences against them very seriously, and wish to hear from anyone who has information which may help with our investigation.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Dyfed-Powys Police on 101.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, email RSPB Investigations on or fill in the online form:



Booking opens for Hen Harrier Day Wales (18 July 2020)

The first ever Hen Harrier Day Wales takes place this year on Saturday 18 July 2020 in Snowdonia, from 12-5pm.

This is earlier than the usual August date for a Hen Harrier Day event but then hen harriers are killed on grouse moors throughout the year so it’s great that attention is being drawn to it with an additional event in July.

Hen Harrier Day Wales is being organised by Ian Cooper (a Snowdonia-based mountain leader) and Julian Cartwright, another mountain leader. Full details of this event and other Hen Harrier Day events planned for across the UK can be found on the newly-created Hen Harrier Day website.

The event location is Plas Y Brenin, the National Outdoor Centre in the Snowdonia National Park. As this is an indoor event, numbers are limited due to health & safety / fire regs etc. The organisers are offering places on a ticket-booking system and those tickets will become available tomorrow (Sunday 15 March) via Eventbrite HERE

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