Archive Page 2


Buzzard found poisoned in North York Moors National Park

Press release from North Yorkshire Police (8 Oct 2018):

In January a dead buzzard was found in suspicious circumstances on top of a dry-stone wall, next to a layby on the Kildale to Commondale road near Percy Rigg in the North York Moors.

[Google map showing the road between Kildale and Commondale and surrounding grouse moors]

The find was made by a member of the public, who reported it to the RSPB and North Yorkshire Police.

The area is very public, and it is unlikely that the bird died where it was found, but appears to have been placed onto the wall deliberately.

The bird was collected and no obvious signs of trauma were found, and an x-ray revealed no signs of injury. The bird was sent for toxicology tests under the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS).

The results show that chloralose poisoning was the likely cause of death.

Sergeant Stuart Grainger, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said:

North Yorkshire is known for its wonderful countryside, which is home to many species of birds, including protected birds of prey. Sadly, as a county, we have more confirmed incidents of raptor persecution than any other county in England – a situation North Yorkshire Police is absolutely determined to tackle.

It is saddening that this magnificent bird has been poisoned. I would urge anyone with any information about this incident to contact us on 101, or you can speak with someone in confidence by ringing the RPSB hotline number.”

[RSPB Raptor Crime Hotline Number: 0300-999-0101]

Jenny Shelton, RSPB Investigations Liaison Officer, said:

Raptor persecution is a serious, ongoing issue which is affecting some of our most incredible birds of prey. Our UK population of buzzards dropped during the 20th century largely due to illegal killing, and it’s alarming that these practices are continuing even today. This was a despicable and deliberate act. If you have any information, please speak out.

If you have any information about the circumstances of the buzzard’s death, or why it was placed on the wall, please contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, quoting reference number 12180127114.


It’s not clear why this appeal for information has only just been published when the buzzard was found poisoned in the National Park in January, although we understand the toxicology results weren’t provided by the lab until July.

It’s no surprise to learn that yet another raptor persecution crime has been detected in North Yorkshire, inside a National Park that is dominated by driven grouse moors.

[RPUK map]


Bob Elliot appointed new Director at OneKind

The Scottish animal welfare charity OneKind has played a blinder by appointing Bob Elliot as its new Director.

Bob has worked for the RSPB for the last 14 years, previously as Head of Investigations in Scotland and currently as Head of Investigations UK. He’s well known for his unflappable, good-humoured and straight-talking approach and his wide-ranging experience in the conservation sector will be of enormous benefit to OneKind as it steps up its campaigning efforts in the coming years.

Bob’s career in conservation has equipped him with many skills. Prior to joining the RSPB he worked as a Head Warden on the Farne Islands and then a number of jobs with National Trust Scotland as a ranger and then a manager, and then he managed the ranger service at Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. More recently he has been leading tours for Naturetrek inbetween his day job at the RSPB. He’s a first-rate naturalist, knows how to engage with the public either face to face, infront of the camera and in print, and, importantly, he knows the game-shooting industry only too well. This will be valuable experience later this autumn as OneKind, along with a wider coalition, will be launching a new project that focuses on grouse moor management, partly building on OneKind’s recent high profile campaign against the mass culling of mountain hares on driven grouse moors. Bob’s considerable expertise and well-honed partnership-working skills will help ensure this project is both effective and influential.

Bob starts his new role with OneKind on 15 October and we wish him the best of luck and look forward to a close collaboration.

Of course, OneKind’s gain is the RSPB’s loss and it’ll be interesting to see who now takes on the role of UK Head of Investigations.


Yorkshire police investigate suspicious death of buzzard found with head injuries

Press release from Humberside Police (2 Oct 2018):


We are investigating the suspicious death of a common buzzard found at the end of August in the western area of the East Riding of Yorkshire.

X-rays of the bird show that it has previously suffered shotgun injuries as three shotgun pellets were found embedded in the bird.  The shotgun pellets are not thought to have caused its death and when the bird was found it had recent injuries to its head consistent with being confined in a cage trap.

[Photos by Humberside Police]

Wildlife Crime Officer PC 1708 Ward said,

However this bird met its end it has previously been shot. Raptor persecution is a National Wildlife Crime priority which we take very seriously. Whatever anyone’s feelings are towards birds of prey there is no excuse for this type of criminality.

It’s sad that such practices are still common place. Due to the nature of these crimes they are difficult to detect. If you have information about anyone persecuting birds of prey we want to know.

I can be contacted in confidence via 101 and your information will be treated with the utmost confidentiality“.

Anyone with information regarding the above incident should call us on the non-emergency number 101 quoting investigation number 16/99978/18 which is being dealt with by WCO PC 1529 Day.

The attached images may cause distress and are property of Humberside Police

Note to press: No one is available for interview regarding this news story.


There’s no detail about the location other than “the western area of the East Riding of Yorkshire“. Here’s a Google map showing East Riding:


Despite best efforts, shot red kite didn’t make it

In July an injured red kite was found by a member of the public in woodland near Corby, Northants – she’d been shot and had three shotgun pellets lodged in her body. We blogged about her here.

She was cared for by Simon Dudhill and team at The Raptor Foundation in Cambridgeshire. Simon said at the time:

I have taken charge of a red kite that has been shot, with three shotgun pellets, in the leg, shoulder and ear. The leg and shoulder pellets are not really an issue governing the birds potential release as they are below joints. The pellet in the ear is lodged in the bony part of the skull and is causing the bird problems with balance. The vet and I both agree the bird could not be released back with the pellet still inside. We have been treating for infection and pain relief and the bird is making steady improvements. It was unable to stand on admission, but is now mobile along the floor to some degree. The vet is looking to operate later this week“.

[Photo by The Raptor Foundation]

Unfortunately, she didn’t make it.

Simon said:

Sadly, despite two months of hard work by ourselves and our vets, we had to make the extremely disappointing decision to put her to sleep. None of her balance had returned, she was only able to get about 15 inches off the ground onto a log, and the rest of the time she was dragging her wings and body along the ground. We all felt it was not in the bird’s best interest to keep her in this poor condition, as any further improvement was not expected“.


More smoke & mirrors from Moorland Association on raptor persecution

Following the publication of the RSPB’s 2017 Birdcrime Report on Tuesday (here), the Moorland Association has issued not one, but two public statements in response. Blimey, Police Supt. Nick Lyall must have made quite an impact last week.

The first response, published on the same day as Birdcrime, was as follows:

It’s the usual flannel from Conjuror-in-Chief Amanda, carefully written to highlight the superficial positives and avoid any mention of the more damning statistics of ‘missing’ satellite-tagged hen harriers that are, without a shadow of doubt, being illegally killed on driven grouse moors across the UK.

You’ll note also the rather strange reference to the RSPB, implying that the RSPB doesn’t ‘work constructively’ with other partners.

This theme reappears in Amanda’s second statement, published the day after Birdcrime 2017 was released:

It’s not the RSPB refusing to work collaboratively – it’s the Moorland Association, and others from the game shooting industry, who still haven’t managed to promote the RSPB’s Raptor Crime Hotline which was launched in February! What’s the problem? There’s no cost to the Moorland Association – the hotline is run and managed by the RSPB whose Investigations staff provide around the clock coverage to answer calls about suspected raptor persecution incidents. If the Moorland Association et al are as determined to eradicate raptor persecution as they’d like us all to believe, publishing and promoting this hotline amongst their members would be a no brainer.

The spiked references to the RSPB aren’t what really caught our eye though. We are fascinated by the following line in Amanda’s second statement:

Grouse moors are embracing the most modern land mangement practices within the law to ensure healthy populations of birds of prey“.

Eh? And what “most modern land management practices within the law” are those, then? Does Amanda have any examples she could share that would help us to understand?

Here are some recent examples of ‘management practices’ that have been used on grouse moors, none of them modern, none of them within the law, and none of them designed to ensure healthy populations of birds of prey:

Gamekeeper filmed at an illegal poisons cache on East Arkengarthdale Estate, Yorkshire (here)

Gamekeeper filmed setting illegal pole traps on Mossdale Estate, Yorkshire (here)

Unidentified armed individual filmed setting an illegal spring trap at a peregrine nest site on Bleasdale Estate, Lancashire (here)

Unidentified armed men filmed shooting at a nesting marsh harrier and removing eggs from the nest on Denton Moor, Yorkshire (here)

Gamekeeper filmed setting illegal pole trap on Swinton Estate, Yorkshire (here)

Gamekeeper filmed shooting, then stamping on two short-eared owls then burying their corpses on Whernside Estate, Cumbria (here)

Gamekeeper cautioned for setting an illegal trap on Lilburn Estate, Northumberland (here)

And of course this list doesn’t include the never-ending tally of shot, poisoned and trapped raptors that are found with depressing regularity on grouse moors, nor the catalogue of satellite-tagged hen harriers that vanish in highly suspicious circumstances on grouse moors, the latest three reported just two weeks ago (here), news to which the Moorland Association et al couldn’t even be arsed to respond (here).

Real progress” being made in the fight against illegal raptor persecution on grouse moors? Sorry, Amanda, your propaganda doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.


RSPB’s 2017 Birdcrime report documents ongoing illegal raptor persecution

The RSPB published its 2017 Birdcrime Report yesterday. It didn’t contain any surprises – we all know that crimes against birds of prey continued in 2017, and that these were largely associated with game-shooting estates.

The online report can be read here

The very useful appendices (actual data) can be accessed here

The RSPB’s interactive map hub (showing the spatial pattern of raptor crime) can be accessed here

We were particularly interested in the Scotland data, which amounted to just five confirmed, detected raptor persecution crimes. Quite obviously, this is just the tip of a large iceberg and is an indication of just how good the raptor killers have become at hiding the evidence of their crimes rather than an accurate reflection of the extent of ongoing raptor persecution – a fact recently acknowledged by Police Scotland (see here).

We know from the recent national survey results for three iconic species (golden eagle, hen harrier, peregrine) that illegal persecution continues to suppress the populations of all three species in areas where the land is dominated for driven grouse shooting. We also know from the ongoing studies of satellite-tagged golden eagles, white-tailed eagles and hen harriers that these birds continue to ‘vanish’ in the same grouse moor areas. Unfortunately these cases don’t make it in to the official wildlife crime stats although both the police and the Scottish Government have acknowledged that they are indicative of criminality, hence the current Government-commissioned Werritty review in to grouse moor management.

Of the five confirmed cases of illegal raptor persecution in Scotland last year, two were linked to the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate in South Lanarkshire – the witnessed shooting of a hen harrier in May 2017 (here) and then a few weeks later the witnessed shooting of a short-eared owl (here). The crumpled body of the shot short-eared owl was retrieved from a ditch the following day and the RSPB sent it off for post mortem, which confirmed it had been shot, causing multiple fractures to its wing, leg, foot, ribs and skull.

[The short-eared owl shot on Leadhills Estate, photo by RSPB]

The police investigated both cases but no prosecutions followed. Earlier this year, a dead buzzard was found at Leadhills and it too had been shot but yet again, nobody was prosecuted (here).

For those familiar with the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate this will come as no surprise – there have been over 50 reported cases of raptor persecution crimes on or close to this estate since 2003 and of those, only two have resulted in a conviction (gamekeeper convicted in 2004 for shooting a short-eared owl; gamekeeper convicted in 2009 for laying out a poisoned bait).

This appalling failure to enforce the law was addressed by the then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP, who instructed SNH to withdraw the use of the General Licence on estates where there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate raptor persecution crimes had occurred but insufficient evidence to progress a prosecution against a named individual. We’ve waited and waited and waited for SNH to impose a General Licence restriction on the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate for these recent shootings but so far, nothing. When we’ve asked SNH for an explanation, it has refused to comment, saying it’s not in the public interest for SNH to explain its decisions.

Meanwhile, Lord Hopetoun continues to serve as the Chair of the Scottish Moorland Group (a sub-group of Scottish Land & Estates) and whose Director, Tim (Kim) Baynes continues to serve on the PAW Scotland Raptor Group – you know the one – the pretend ‘partnership’, chaired by the Scottish Government, set up to tackle the illegal persecution of raptors on driven grouse moors.


Meet the new Chair of the PAW Raptor Group: Police Supt Nick Lyall

The Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG, also known as the PAW Raptor Group, England & Wales) has a new Chair – Police Supt Nick Lyall.

He’s off to a good start – he’s set up a blog, in the spirit of openness, to discuss the workings of this group and to report on any progress it might make under his tenure. In the seven years this so-called partnership has been running, he’s the first to attempt to bring any semblance of transparency to proceedings and we applaud him for that.

Read Nick’s first blog here

Although Nick is new to the world of raptor persecution, he’s no fool. We’ve been talking with him over the last few weeks and he gets it. We’re not sure he gets just how difficult a role he’s taken on, but he clearly understands that the ‘partnership’ hasn’t been working and he’s determined to turn things around.

[Meeting with RSPB Investigations Team]

Quite how he’ll manage that remains to be seen. Here is a disparate group with wholly opposing objectives. A few want to increase enforcement measures to ensure the legislation works to protect birds of prey from illegal persecution, whilst the majority want to legalise persecution by getting licences to kill birds of prey just so more game birds are available to be shot for fun.

However, he’s got some good ideas. Central to that will be his proposed Action Delivery Plan – we don’t yet know the details of that but fully expect he’ll share it when its ready. It’s got to be an improvement on the current work plan, which seems to consist of the game-shooting reps doing everything they can to challenge and obfuscate the annual raptor crime figures to downplay the extent of the widespread criminality directly linked to driven grouse moors and some pheasant/partridge shoots.

He’s been meeting with some of the key players this week and we note with an eye roll his comments about today’s meeting with the Moorland Association and his reference to “rogue gamekeepers”. He still has much to learn.

[Meeting with Moorland Association]

But let’s give this guy a chance. His openness and willingness to listen is refreshing. Do we think the ‘partnership’ can be effective? No, to be frank, at least not in its current format. But let’s see what happens when the usual suspects try to block progress, as inevitably they will, and Nick has the opportunity to experience that first hand. From our conversations, it sounds like he won’t be tolerating any more disruption.

Incidentally, for regular blog readers – remember last year when we reported that Amanda Anderson (Moorland Association) had raised questions at an RPPDG meeting about grouse moor owners wanting licences to kill marsh harriers (see here, here and here), a claim Amanda denied? It’s taken us a while, and many FoI requests, but we’ll be blogging more about that conversation that ‘never happened’ (ahem) next week…..

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