Archive for the 'Persecution Incidents in Wales' Category

15
Sep
18

Grouse shooting industry’s reaction to news of 3 x missing hen harriers

Following the RSPB’s announcement on Thursday that three of this year’s satellite-tagged hen harriers have already ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on three grouse moors (here), we predicted that the grouse shooting industry’s ‘leaders’ would respond with a wall of silence, just as they have previously (e.g. see here).

We weren’t wrong.

[One of the missing three: ‘Hilma’, photo by Steve Downing]

Two days on, after searching websites and twitter feeds, here’s how the ‘partners’ of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG, also known as the PAW Raptor Group) have responded:

Countryside Alliance – no public statement

BASC – no public statement

National Gamekeepers Organisation – no public statement

Moorland Association – no public statement

Country Land & Business Association – no public statement

Natural England – no public statement

DEFRA – no public statement

Northern England Raptor Forum – full public statement here

NERF’s statement is excellent, and as usual, it doesn’t pull any punches. It talks about the never-ending cycle of persecution on driven grouse moors and how the grouse shooting ‘partners’ of the RPPDG are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem.

Why is this charade of ‘partnership-working’ still allowed to continue? It’s been running for seven years and absolutely nothing has changed. Nothing. Not one thing.

And nor will it, when the grouse shooting industry’s so-called leaders refuse to even publicise the raptor persecution hotline to encourage their members to report suspected raptor crime!

The RPPDG has a new Chair – Police Supt. Nick Lyall of Bedfordshire Police. We’ve been impressed with his willingness to listen – he contacted us directly and asked to talk – that’s never happened before. It’s clear that he wants to make a difference and understands that the status quo is unacceptable, but we don’t yet know what changes he intends to bring.

Although, he tweeted this afternoon that he intends to bring more conservation groups to the RPPDG and cited the Hawk & Owl Trust as one of them!

That’ll be the Hawk & Owl Trust that’s in bed with the grouse shooting industry in pursuit of the ludicrous hen harrier brood meddling scheme (here) and which is now facing two legal challenges from conservationists in the High Court in December (here); that lost its former President, Chris Packham, over the decision to partner with the grouse shooting industry on brood meddling (here); is prepared to turn a blind eye to the criminal activities of the driven grouse shooting industry when it suits (see here); is unwilling to be transparent about the illegal shooting of one of its own satellite-tagged hen harrriers (see here); and has been accused by its own members of being apologists for raptor persecution on driven grouse moors (here).

We look forward to a lively discussion with Nick later in the week!

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13
Sep
18

3 more satellite-tagged hen harriers ‘disappear’ – all on grouse moors

You could set your clock by the regularity of these reports. In news that will shock absolutely no-one, the RSPB has announced the sudden and inexplicable ‘disappearance’ of three young satellite-tagged hen harriers.

All three had hatched this year, all three had vanished before the end of August, and in all three cases the tag’s last known fix came from a driven grouse moor.

Photo of Hen Harrier Octavia, by Steve Downing:

Read the RSPB blog here

The three ‘missing’ harriers are Hilma (1), Octavia (2) and Heulwen (3).

[RPUK map]

According to the RSPB blog, Hilma’s last known tag fix was on 8 August 2018 ‘near Wooler, Northumberland over land managed for driven grouse shooting’.

From the map on the RSPB blog, we believe this to be on the Lilburn Estate. We’ve blogged about the Lilburn Estate recently (see here).

Here’s a close up map of the habitat at Hilma’s last known location. The rectangular strips of burnt heather give the game away a bit, eh?

According to the RSPB blog, Octavia’s last known tag fix was on 26 August 2018 on ‘privately owned grouse moors near Sheffield’.

From the map on the RSPB blog, we believe this to be the Broomhead Estate in the Peak District National Park. We’ve blogged about the Broomhead Estate quite recently (here, here and here).

Here’s a close up map of the habitat at Octavia’s last known location. The rectangular strips of burnt heather give the game away a bit, eh?

According to the RSPB blog, Heulwen’s last known tag fix was on 29 August 2018 ‘in the vicinity of Ruabon Mountain’.

From the map on the RSPB blog, we believe this to be the Ruabon grouse moor. We’ve blogged about this grouse moor recently (see here, here).

Here’s a close up map of the habitat at Heulwen’s last known location:

And cue obfuscation, denial and deflections from the grouse shooting industry’s social media trolls, deathly silence from the grouse shooting industry’s representative bodies, and wilful blindness (and continued silence) from DEFRA, Michael Gove MP, Therese Coffey MP, Natural England and anyone else who thinks we’re stupid enough to believe that the HH Action Plan is helping hen harrier population recovery.

Cartoon by Gerard Hobley

 

07
Sep
18

North Wales Police investigating “possible disappearance” of another satellite-tagged hen harrier

The North Wales Police Rural Crime Team has posted the following statement on Twitter this morning:

There isn’t much detail to go on but presumably this harrier’s tag has suddenly and inexplicably stopped in highly suspicious circumstances, just like the 79% of other tags fitted to hen harriers between 2007-2017 (and remember this is 79% of tags fitted by Natural England – it does not include any tags fitted by the RSPB – we’re expecting that analysis sometime next year).

What’s interesting though, is the location from where this hen harrier’s satellite tag last tranmsitted: the “Llandegla area”. This is very close to the location where another satellite-tagged hen harrier (Aalin) ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in February this year near the Ruabon grouse moor (see earlier blog on Aalin’s disappearance here).

Hopefully more details about this latest hen harrier’s “possible disappearance” will be published soon.

UPDATE 13 September 2018: 3 more satellite-tagged hen harriers disappear – all on grouse moors (here)

24
Jul
18

Satellite-tagged hen harrier Lia found dead in suspicious circumstances

The RSPB has reported the suspicious death of yet another satellite-tagged hen harrier.

‘Lia’ was tagged at a nest in north Wales in 2017 and after fledging she spent a bit of time in the Brecon Beacons National Park before a brief sojourn to Somerset, and then had returned to settle in mid-Wales.

[Photo of Lia by Guy Anderson]

In May this year the engineering data from her tag indicated she was dead and the RSPB located her decomposed corpse in a sheep field near the village of Tylwch, south of Llanidloes, an area with an apparent history of illegal raptor persecution.

[Location map from RSPB]:

Lia’s corpse was sent to the Zoological Society of London for a post mortem. Unfortunately a cause of death couldn’t be established but the vets did detect a fractured tail feather.

[Photo of fractured tail feather, via RSPB]:

ZSL’s post mortem report stated that fractures of this type “have previously been found in a hen harrier proven to have been shot with ammunition (Hopkins et al 2015). No other signs of shooting were detected in this bird“.

The Hopkins et al (2015) paper related to a pioneering forensic examination of Bowland Betty (a hen harrier found shot on a Swinton Estate grouse moor in Yorkshire’s Nidderdale AONB in 2012) that detected a tiny fragment of lead which confirmed she had been shot, confounding the protests of the Countryside Alliance.

Although Lia’s cause of death was inconclusive, Dyfed Powys Police have been treating it as suspicious and are investigating.

For further details of Lia’s demise, please read the RSPB’s latest Skydancer blog here

30
Jun
18

Peregrine & two buzzards found poisoned: police appeal for info

Press release from South Wales Police (Bridgend & Vale of Glamorgan), 29th June 2018:

We are appealing for witnesses after three birds of prey were poisoned.

We are investigating the deaths of a peregrine falcon and two buzzards at Ruthin Quarry in the Vale of Glamorgan. The birds were found dead in the quarry on March 26.

[RPUK map]

A toxicology report confirmed that the birds were killed using a poisoned bait bird which was laced with a banned pesticide.

PC Mark Goulding, wildlife and environmental crime officer, said: “The killing of birds of prey is a serious wildlife offence. Raptor persecution is a National Wildlife Crime priority.

The poisoned birds ingested bait laced with the banned pesticide which was deliberately set out. I would urge anyone who may have witnessed this crime or who has information about this incident to come forward.

Anyone with information on illegal use of pesticides against wildlife can call us on 101 quoting 1800106122 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111“.

ENDS

The police press release didn’t include any photographs but from what has been described (“using a poisoned bait bird”) and given the location, it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that this crime involved a live pigeon smothered in poison and tethered to a rock so that its helpless flapping attracted predators. This is a well-known barbaric persecution method that has been used for years, especially in Wales and Ireland, by some involved in pigeon racing who want to take out peregrines on the pigeon racing routes (e.g. see here).

Photo of a poison-smeared tethered pigeon at a quarry in Wales in 2012 (photographer unknown)

21
Mar
18

Satellite-tagged hen harrier Aalin ‘disappears’ near Ruabon grouse moor, North Wales

They can hide the tags. They can hide the bodies. But they can’t hide the pattern” (Dr Hugh Webster)

RSPB press release (21/3/18):

RARE HEN HARRIER GOES MISSING IN WALES

North Wales Police and the RSPB are appealing for information following the disappearance of a satellite-tagged hen harrier near Wrexham.

The harrier, named Aalin, was tagged as part of the RSPB’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE+ project in July 2016 from a nest on the Isle of Man, in collaboration with Manx Birdlife. Aalin left the Isle of Man in 2016 and spent her first winter in Shropshire, before heading to Wales in the spring of 2017, where she remained ever since.

Hen harrier Aalin (photo by James Leonard)

Aalin’s tag had been transmitting regularly, until it suddenly stopped on the morning of 9 February 2018. Data from Aalin’s tag indicated she spent the last few months in the same area of moorland around Ruabon Mountain near Wrexham, from where the tag unexpectedly sent its last signal at 10.34am. A search was conducted by RSPB Investigations staff, but no tag or body was found and she has not been seen or heard of since.

RSPB map:

Dr. Cathleen Thomas, RSPB Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, said: “It’s incredibly disappointing to lose yet another hen harrier in these circumstances, especially as this bird is so scarce in the UK. It’s also the first suspicious loss of a bird in Wales for our project, after the elation of tagging our first chicks there in 2017. We were hopeful that heading towards the breeding season Aalin would have nested in Wales and successfully reared chicks this summer, so her loss also affects future generations of this rare and beautiful bird in the area. We believe the loss of Aalin and other recently tagged hen harriers in the UK is having a devastating impact on their conservation status.”

Rob Taylor, Rural Crime Team Manager, North Wales Police, said: “We have been notified by the RSPB of this incident and we are investigating the disappearance, but at this time we have little to go on. We are appealing to the public for any assistance they can give and we hope that foul play hasn’t played a part in the loss of this rare bird.”

Neil Morris, Managing Director of Manx Birdlife, said: “This is heart-breaking news. As well as the sudden unexplained loss of yet another magnificent bird of prey, we still know so little about the behaviour of Manx-born hen harriers. Clearly there is an impulse for young birds to wander soon after fledging. But we don’t really know why or whether any of those that leave the Isle of Man as juveniles make the return journey as mature adults to breed back in their native hills.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, please call North Wales Police on 101 quoting the reference WO28466. Alternatively, you can call the RSPB Raptor Crime Hotline confidentially on 0300 999 0101. All calls are anonymous.

If you find a wild bird that you suspect was illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form:

https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx

ENDS 

Dr Cathleen Thomas, RSPB’s Hen Harrier Life Project Manager has also written a blog – here.

We’ve produced a habitat map covering the area of Aalin’s last known satellite-tag fix. The tell-tale heather strips show this as, surprise surprise, a grouse moor:

Aalin was one of the 2016 cohort of young satellite-tagged hen harriers. Here’s what happened to the others:

Hen harrier Elwood – ‘disappeared’ in the Monadhliaths just a few weeks after fledging, presumed dead (Aug ’16).

Hen harrier Brian – ‘disappeared’ in the Cairngorms National Park just a few weeks after fledging, presumed dead (Aug ’16).

Hen harrier Donald – missing in northern France, presumed dead (Autumn ’16).

Hen harrier Hermione – found dead on Mull, believed to have died from natural causes (Sep ’16).

Hen harrier Rowan – found dead in Yorkshire Dales National Park. He’d been shot (Oct ’16).

Hen harrier Tarras – ‘disappeared’ in the Peak District National Park, presumed dead (Oct ’16).

Hen harrier Beater – ‘disappeared’ in the Scottish Borders, presumed dead (Nov ’16).

Hen harrier Bonny – ‘disappeared’ in the North Pennines, presumed dead (Dec ’16)

Hen harrier Mick – ‘disappeared’ in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, presumed dead (Dec ’16).

Hen harrier Carroll – found dead in Northumberland, PM revealed a parasitic disease & two shotgun pellets (Jan ’17).

Hen harrier John – ‘disappeared’ in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, presumed dead (Oct ’17)

Hen harrier Aalin – ‘disappeared’ in Wales, presumed dead (Feb ’18)

Twelve down, five to go (DeeCee, Finn, Harriet, Wendy, Sorrel).

More evidence then, that DEFRA’s Hen Harrier Action Plan, launched on 16 January 2016 months before these hen harriers even hatched, is a categorical failure. Will DEFRA or any of the other supporters of this pathetic pantomime (Natural England, Moorland Association, GWCT, Hawk & Owl Trust, International Centre for Birds of Prey etc) re-assess and pull the plug? Of course not.

It looks like Mr Carbo needs to update his sketch:

 

21
Mar
18

Peregrine confirmed poisoned in North Wales

From North Wales Police Rural Crime Team:




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