Archive Page 2


See you at Hen Harrier Day tomorrow!

Wild Justice (Chris Packham, Mark Avery & Ruth Tingay) is hosting this year’s Hen Harrier Day event at Carsington Water Visitor Centre, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, 12 noon to 5pm Sunday 11th August 2019. Huge thanks to Severn Trent Water for their support, enthusiasm and help.

This is a family-friendly event with loads of kids activities and stalls and a fantastic line up of speakers who’ll be telling the ugly truth about what’s happening to hen harriers.

[This hen harrier was caught in an illegally set trap that had been placed next to his nest on a grouse moor. The trap practically severed his leg. Despite the best efforts of a specialist wildlife vet, he didn’t make it. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

The speakers will be on stage throughout the afternoon in three blocks:

Early speakers: Iolo Williams (Conservationist and broadcaster), Hardyal Dhindsa (Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner), Gill Lewis (author), Tim Birch (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust).

Mid-afternoon speakersRuth Tingay (Wild Justice and Raptor Persecution UK), Cathleen Thomas (RSPB Hen Harrier Life project), Dan Rouse (conservationist, Wales), Ian Thomson (RSPB Investigations, Scotland)

Late afternoon speakersNick Lyall (Police Superintendent, chair Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group), Tessa Gregory (lawyer, Leigh Day), Dom Dyer (conservationist), Natalie Bennett (Green Party), Chris Packham CBE (Wild Justice, broadcaster etc).

We know that many supporters are travelling across the country to be there. Safe travels and look forward to seeing everyone.


Nearly 60 million non-native gamebirds released in UK every year

The exact number of game birds that are released in the UK for shooting every year is not known (because, incredibly, the game bird shooting industry is virtually unregulated). Nobody even knows how many game bird shoots there are, because the people involved do not have to register anywhere, nor report on the number of birds released / shot each year. It’s been a great old wheeze for decades.

[Gamebird poults in poor feather condition just prior to release in to a woodland pen. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

All we’ve had to go on in recent years has been a conservative estimate of approx 50 million released birds every year, of which approx 43 million are pheasants and 9 million are red-legged partridge.

This ~50 million estimate came from the GWCT’s National Gamebag Census which until now hadn’t been updated since 2012, so a lot of us had guessed that the figure had probably increased substantially since then but we had no hard evidence to support this theory.

Until now.

Take a look at this recent paper from the GWCT, which analyses gamebag data up until 2016 (so it’s still not up to date but it’s more up to date than their 2012 estimate).

This table from the paper is fascinating:

So as of 2016 there are at least 47 million (yes, million) pheasants released in to the countryside for shooting every year, as well as at least 10 million (yes, million) red-legged partridge.

That’s nearly 60 million non-native birds, every year!

And look at that – at least 12,000 jays killed every year. Why?

140,000 woodcock, 85,000 common snipe and 870 golden plover killed every year. Why? Isn’t the shooting industry supposed to be ‘looking after’ waders? Why are they killing them in such huge numbers?

As many of you will know, Wild Justice is currently challenging DEFRA about its failure to assess the environmental impact of releasing so many millions of non-native game birds in to the countryside. The crowdfunder to support this legal action is just £2,059 short of its target, with 7 days to go. If you can help push it over the line, please visit here.

Thank you



More osprey chicks released at Poole Harbour, Dorset

Some welcome conservation news…..

The Poole Harbour Osprey Translocation Project has just released eleven healthy young birds as part of a five year plan to establish a breeding population on the south coast.

This year’s birds were collected from nests in Scotland (only from broods with multiple chicks) in mid-July and have spent the last few weeks being cared for around the clock by a team of dedicated staff and volunteers. The birds were released from the aviaries at the weekend and are reported to be doing exceptionally well (see here).

[Osprey project team members Paul, Brittany & Lucy showing Lou Hubble (Head, National Wildlife Crime Unit) around the site last month. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

[Osprey #21 in fantastic condition inside the release aviary, being photo bombed by another. Photo by Lou Hubble, NWCU]

The project is jointly led by local charity Birds of Poole Harbour, The Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and local Poole-based business Wildlife Windows. This is the third year of releases and already one of the 2017-released birds has returned to the harbour after a successful inaugural migration to West Africa and has been seen pair-bonding with an older female who originated from Rutland Water but has been hanging out in Poole since the project began.

The project team has built a number of artificial nest platforms around the harbour and hopes are high that next year will see the first breeding attempt.

As you might expect, these birds are attracting a huge amount of local public interest and support and Birds of Poole Harbour has hosted a number of special ‘Osprey Boat Cruises’ which have proved to be extremely popular. The boats go for a leisurely cruise around the harbour for a couple of hours with members of the project team on board to provide a commentary and help spot the ospreys (highly recommended – these trips are great fun). If you’d like to book you’d better be quick – book here.

Congratulations to everyone involved with this excellent project and fingers crossed that all the hard work will pay off next year with at least one breeding attempt.


Disaster hits South Scotland Golden Eagle Release Project

The South Scotland Golden Eagle Project has been hit by disaster in an unprecedented set of circumstances.

This is a project to translocate golden eagles from the Scottish Highlands and release them in south Scotland in an attempt to boost the remnant sub-population in the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway. The first three birds were released in 2018 and all have survived so far.

However, this year’s cohort of translocated eagles (three of them) were released in the last week and now one of them is dead, one of them is injured (but recaptured) and one of them is ‘missing’.

The project team believe that one of last year’s birds, a large female called ‘Beaky’, has been the source of the problem. She is known to have been 10 miles away from the release site when this year’s birds were released, and despite not having visited the project’s food dumps for months, she suddenly made a bee-line there and began to display dominant behaviour towards this year’s three (smaller) males. The males responded by cowering in nearby undergrowth and not visiting the food dumps.

One of the eagles has since been found dead and is currently undergoing a post mortem to find out the cause of death. It’s believed he had injuries but it’s not clear whether those injuries were the cause of death or whether he starved to death.

[This is the eagle that is believed to have died. Photo by South Scotland Golden Eagle Project]

A second eagle has been recaptured and is undergoing treatment. The project team has yet to decide the next course of action but if this eagle is to be released it’s probably safe to say it’ll be released at a different site.

The third eagle is apparently ‘missing’, although it is fitted with a satellite tag.

This situation is devastating for the project team (and for all those who helped source the eagles from the Highlands) and to be fair to them, it’s not something that could ever have been predicted. Adult eagles are well known for territorial disputes and these can sometimes result in death, but it’s exceptional for such a young bird (Beaky – one year old) to display such aggressive territorial behaviour that results in death. It’s virtually unheard of.

The future of the project will be under serious scrutiny as a result of this week’s events – it may be that a new release site has to be found – but that’s for another day. At the moment the priority is to rehabilitate the injured eagle and to locate the ‘missing’ eagle. Hopefully the project team is seeking expert help from those with experience of searching for ‘missing’ sat tagged raptors.


Police warning as red kite confirmed poisoned in Nidderdale AONB

Last October (2018) a dead red kite had been found near Wath, in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a notorious raptor persecution black spot.

An x-ray confirmed the kite had been shot and North Yorkshire Police launched an investigation. We blogged about the case here.

It seems that wasn’t the end of the story. Although the x-ray revealed two pieces of shot, these were not considered to have caused the kite’s death so it was sent off for post-mortem and toxicology examination.

The results are now back (10 months on!!) and nobody will be surprised to learn that, like so many other red kites in Nidderdale, this one had not only been shot on two separate occasions, but it had also been poisoned with a concoction of banned pesticides.

North Yorkshire Police has now issued a warning and an appeal for information as follows:


Police have issued a warning about illegal pesticides, after a post-mortem concluded a red kite died as a result of pesticide abuse.

At the end of October 2018 a red kite was found dead in Nidderdale. The finder in this case was the landowner, who was concerned that criminal activity may have taken place on his land.

North Yorkshire Police arranged for the bird to be x-rayed, and this showed there were two pieces of shot in the bird. However, it was not possible to say whether these had caused fatal injuries. Police released details of the incident, and appealed for information from the public.

Officers have now completed their enquiries. The dead bird was subjected to a post mortem, which concluded that the injury caused by one piece of shot was old and had healed. The damage caused by the second piece was recent but was not a fatal injury.

The bird was then submitted to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme, which is administered by Natural England. It was subjected to toxicological tests which found several poisons in the bird. The largest quantity of poison was a substance called bendiocarb, a pesticide which is licenced [sic] for use in the UK. Smaller amounts of two other pesticides, isofenphos and carbofuran, which are both illegal in the UK, were also present. The report concluded that the kite had died as a result of the abuse of several pesticides.

At this time, officers have not received any information to help them identify any suspects. Although the investigation has now concluded, anyone with any information about this incident is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police, quoting reference 12180199938.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “The test results suggest that someone not only has access to two illegal poisons, but is also placing them, along with a legal pesticide, into the environment so that a wild bird has been able to consume them. In addition to being poisoned, the bird had also been shot at least twice during its life.”

Red kites have been successfully re-introduced to Yorkshire, having been extinct as a breeding bird in England, and they are now a familiar sight to people in Nidderdale. All birds are protected by law and it is a crime to intentionally kill, injure, or take any wild bird. If anybody has information about persecution of birds of prey, whether by poisoning or shooting, please call North Yorkshire Police on 101.

Anyone misusing pesticides may also be committing a variety of offences. If you come across an object which you believe may be contaminated with a pesticide or other poisons, please do not handle it. Report the situation immediately to the police giving accurate details of location and why you suspect involvement of a poison.


There’s an RSPB blog about this case here.

Interesting to note the suggestion that Bendiocarb is a pesticide that is licensed for use in the UK. Not in Scotland it isn’t – it’s one of eight pesticides that are considered so highly toxic that it’s an offence to even have them in your possession, let alone use them (the others are Aldicarb, Alphachloralose, Aluminium phosphide, Carbofuran, Mevinphos, Sodium cyanide and Strychnine).

When an opportunity arose to have these substances banned in England, the then Wildlife Minister Richard Benyon (owner of grouse moor & pheasant shoot) refused to support such a move (see here).

So, here’s yet another red kite victim to add to all the other red kite victims that have been found either poisoned or shot on or close to grouse moors in the Nidderdale AONB, along with all those missing satellite-tagged hen harriers and two shot hen harriers.

RPUK map showing the boundary of the Nidderdale AONB (yellow line), illegally killed red kites (red dots), missing satellite-tagged hen harriers (orange stars), shot hen harrier Bowland Betty (red star), shot hen harrier River (red triangle).



Fundraising drive for RSPB’s Investigations Team

The RSPB’s Investigations Team has launched a fundraising drive to help support more staff and buy more specialist equipment for use in the front line against the raptor-killing criminals.

There doesn’t seem to be a set target as such, and donations can be either made as a one-off or as a monthly contribution.

The Team has produced some material to explain why funds are needed, including this website and this video:

For those of you wondering about the value of contributing, please be aware that these funds are specifically for the Investigations team and not for use by the wider organisation.

If you’re still wondering about the value of contributing, consider the following names and ask yourself if you’d have any clue about what’s been going on there without the tireless efforts of the Investigations team:

Bleasdale, Whernside, Mossdale, Stody, Glanusk, Leadhills, Millden, Glenogil, Moy, Invercauld, Denton, East Arkengarthdale, Swinton, Brewlands, Cabrach, Tillypronie, Invermark, Kildrummy, Buccleuch, Farr & Kyllachy, Glenbuchat, Raeshaw, Skibo, Clee Hill etc etc etc

Please support them if you can, HERE


Two ravens shot – police issue CCTV image of man of interest

Statement from Staffordshire Police:


Staffordshire Police’s Rural and Wildlife Crime officers have released a CCTV image of a man they would like to talk to following the discovery of the bodies of two protected birds on Cannock Chase.

The two adult ravens were found at around 11.30am on Sunday 6 May by a passer by. The birds were still warm at the time they were discovered and further examination showed they had been shot.

Anyone who recognises the man in the images or who has any other information is asked to ring 101 quoting incident 298 of 6 May.

Alternatively, for guaranteed anonymity, please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


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