Posts Tagged ‘buzzard


Shot buzzards found concealed on a Bransdale grouse shooting estate in North York Moors National Park

North Yorkshire Police have issued the following press release today:

Appeal for information after buzzards found shot in Bransdale

North Yorkshire Police is appealing for information after five dead buzzards were found hidden in a hole in the ground on land below Fox Hole Crag, on the edge of Bransdale in the North York Moors.

Following information reported to the police in April 2020, officers attended the location and discovered five dead buzzards. The buzzards were then x-rayed, with four found to contain pieces of shot.

[X-ray showing one of the shot buzzards, via North Yorkshire Police]

So far, eight individuals have been interviewed under caution in connection with the incident. Enquiries are ongoing and if you have any information which could help this investigation please call 101 quoting reference number 12200063953.

All birds are protected by law, and it is a crime to intentionally kill, injure, or take any wild bird. Persecution of birds of prey is one of the five national wildlife crime priorities.

Find out more about how to recognise the signs of bird of prey persecution here:


Gosh, who might have been out shooting buzzards inside a National Park when everyone else was in lockdown? What a mystery.

The estate name hasn’t been given, but there aren’t that many estates in Bransdale.

[Bransdale (the dale, not the estate) according to Google maps]

[Fox Hole Crag, where the shot buzzards were found concealed in a hole]

[A view of one end of Fox Hole Crag, taken from near Fox Hole. Photo by Gavin Hatton, creative commons]

Looking at the site, North Yorkshire Police deserve some serious credit for locating hidden buzzards up there. They also deserve credit for bringing in eight individuals for questioning under caution. It’d be interesting to know whether any of those suspects gave anything more than a ‘no comment’ interview. Let’s hope the reported ‘ongoing enquiries’ include detailed forensic work on those corpses and anything else that might have been recovered from the site.

There have been a number of persecution incidents reported from this area in the past. In 2010 a shot goshawk was found at Bransdale (see here) and a post mortem reportedly revealed it had also been poisoned (see here). In 2012 a walker crossing the moorland in Bransdale found a dead sparrowhawk, also reported to have been shot (see here). In 2019 a buzzard was reportedly found shot on Bransdale Moor (see here).

There are many, many connections between Bransdale and figureheads in the grouse shooting industry and beyond; we’ll be examining some of those relationships in a series of forthcoming blogs. This incident may well provide the perfect platform for a demonstration of the grouse-shooting industry’s recent (but so far undemonstrated) claim of ‘zero tolerance’ for raptor persecution.

For now, if you have any information that could help the police’s criminal investigation please contact North Yorkshire Police on Tel: 101 and quote ref: 12200063953.

Don’t forget, tonight at 7pm Channel 4 News has a special investigation in to the wider issue of raptor persecution in North Yorkshire and Countryfile will also be covering it on Sunday evening.

UPDATE 30 May 2020: Channel 4 News highlights raptor persecution on North Yorkshire grouse moors (here)

UPDATE 31 May 2020: National Gamekeepers’ Organisation’s pathetic response to Channel 4 programme on rampant raptor persecution (here)

UPDATE 1 June 2020: BBC Countryfile highlights raptor persecution on grouse moors (here)

UPDATE 2 June 2020: 4 shot buzzards on a Bransdale grouse moor: shooting industry’s response (here)


RSPB provides update on raptor persecution surge during Coronavirus lockdown

Two weeks ago the RSPB said there had been a ‘surge’ in raptor persecution crimes during the Coronavirus lockdown period resulting in a number of police searches on various grouse moors across the UK (see here).

The shooting industry’s leaders responded to this news with their usual mind-bending, truth-twisting denials and obfuscation (see here).

This morning, in response to some of the accusations and denials made by the shooting industry, the RSPB has published a short video update:

The ~2 min video features Mark Thomas, head of investigations and the transcript is as follows:

Hi, it’s Mark Thomas from RSPB Investigations.

Thank you for your concern, disappointment and overall overwhelming support since last week’s news release about the surge in raptor crime.

Of the 56 incidents, 81% of those confirmed so far have a connection with land use for shooting, both in the uplands and in the lowlands.

Interestingly, the shooting world seem fixated on trying to show these incidents didn’t actually happen, particularly the red kite in Leeds which was shot on the city outskirts close to other confirmed persecution incidents. The latest news on this one is that a shooting syndicate are helping police with their enquiries.

This doesn’t look, feel or sound like zero tolerance, more like the usual denial. In fact the only progressive voice has been that of Shooting Times, who called out the issue and then swiftly became targets from their own peers. What chance of self regulation?

So where are we a week on?

Well unsurprisingly the figures have gone up, more confirmed and potential offences have come to light from the police, including four from the Peak District National Park alone. One of those being a buzzard that was found mortally injured and had to be put to sleep, the x-ray showing it had been shot with a shotgun on not just one but two separate occasions. 

We’ve also received news from Norfolk Police of a shot buzzard in west Norfolk that also had to be put to sleep, and another dead buzzard in North Yorkshire which is currently being investigated.

We are aware of, and have been involved in, a number of other police investigations, some that we can’t talk about. Put simply, this is not going away.

We’ve been in close contact with the police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit, in fact supplying the NWCU with detailed line-by-line breakdown for each of the incidents we’ve detailed.

As always, we are science and evidence based. This isn’t an issue to be discussed behind closed doors, it’s of national public concern and a measure of that interest is why it’s being featured on Channel 4 News tonight and on BBC Countryfile on Sunday.

Please do tune in and let us know your views.

And finally, please do keep your eyes and ears open in the countryside. We need you to do that.

Thank you as ever.



Buzzard illegally poisoned in North Yorkshire’s Nidderdale AONB

A couple of weeks ago North Yorkshire Police was warning Nidderdale residents about potential poisonous baits in the community after two dogs fell ill and one subsequently died – an investigation is ongoing but a veterinary expert suspected poisoning (see here).

Now North Yorkshire Police are having to warn the public again after toxicology analysis has confirmed that a buzzard found near Pateley Bridge in March had been illegally poisoned.

Here is the North Yorkshire Police press statement (27 May 2020):

Analysis shows buzzard killed by combination of four different pesticides

North Yorkshire Police is urging pet owners to be vigilant after analysis of a dead buzzard found near Pateley Bridge showed the presence of four pesticides in its system which are believed to be the cause of death.

In March 2020, a member of the public saw a buzzard fall out of a tree in Pateley Bridge, Nidderdale. It was taken straight to a local vet but sadly died soon after. The buzzard was sent to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS), administered by Natural England, for further analysis due to the circumstances surrounding its death.

[The illegally poisoned buzzard, barely still alive. Photo via North Yorkshire Police]

This analysis identified the presence of three pesticides in the buzzard’s gizzard and crop with a fourth pesticide detected in its kidney. The report received by the police from WIIS noted the bird’s good body condition and the fact there was a good quantity of mixed food in its crop – two factors which indicate it likely died as a result of exposure to the pesticides.

The pesticides identified in the buzzard’s system were; Bendiocarb, Carbofuran, Isofenphos, and Chloralose. Bendiocarb is licenced for use in England as an ingredient in a number of insect control products but should not be released into an environment where wildlife could come into contact with them. Carbofuran, Isofenphos and Chloralose are all banned substances which should not be used under any circumstances.

Unfortunately several birds of prey have been the victim of poisoning in Nidderdale over the past few years with similar mixtures of poisons found in the dead birds in the past.

North Yorkshire Police is investigating this incident and has so far not found any evidence to suggest how the pesticides reached the buzzard in this case or previous cases. Often, the poison may be laid on bait such as a rabbit carcass or other so police urge dog owners to be careful and not allow their dogs to eat any dead animals they might come across on a walk or during exercise.

Anyone with any information which could help the police track down those responsible for the illegal use of these is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police, quoting reference 12200084524.

Anyone misusing pesticides may 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 touch it. Instead take lots of photos of the scene and a detailed grid reference if possible. Report the situation immediately to the police giving all the information collected and why you suspect involvement of a poison.

The buzzard population has recovered in Yorkshire over the past few decades and they are now a common sight in Nidderdale.  All birds are protected by law and it is a crime to intentionally kill, injure, or take any wild bird.  Persecution of birds of prey is one of the five priority crimes for the National Wildlife Crime Unit.  If anybody has information about persecution of birds of prey please call North Yorkshire Police on 101.

Find out more about how to recognise the signs of bird of prey persecution here:


The combination of four poisons used in the latest crime is interesting – it’s a familiar lethal cocktail that has been used on various grouse moors across the UK in recent years. It’s almost as though a batch has been pre-prepared and then distributed. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the geography of these occurrences matched the movements of, say, certain gamekeepers moving between jobs? There’s an analysis for the National Wildlife Crime Unit to undertake….

The Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a well-known raptor persecution hotspot and Nidderdale residents will be used to receiving these warnings about illegal poisonous baits; there have been several police warnings in recent years (e.g. see hereherehereherehereherehere) as poison has been used routinely to kill off red kites inside this AONB and the surrounding area (e.g. see here).

And it’s not just red kites that are targeted here. We’ve blogged about Nidderdale many, many times including the poisoning and shooting of red kiteshen harriersbuzzardsmarsh harriers on Nidderdale grouse moors (as reported by the AONB partnership in September 2019). As recently as January this year the police were appealing for information after a kestrel had been found shot and just three weeks ago they appealed for information after the shooting of a buzzard.

The shooting industry’s claimed stance of ‘zero tolerance’ on the illegal killing of birds of prey becomes more discredited every single day.

[Nidderdale AONB sign, photo by Ruth Tingay]


Police ask public to be vigilant after buzzard & two peregrines found dead in Staffordshire Moorlands

Press release from Staffordshire Police (20 May 2020)

Three birds of prey found dead in Staffordshire Moorlands

Police have raised concerns after three birds of prey were found dead in the Staffordshire Moorlands [inside the Peak District National Park].

On Saturday (16 May) a buzzard and peregrine falcon were sadly discovered dead in a wooded area of Longnor, and yesterday (Tuesday 19 May) a second peregrine falcon was found dead near Wetton.

As there were no visible signs of injury, the birds will now be forensically examined to establish the cause of death. At this time officers cannot rule out the possibility that the birds were poisoned.

A police investigation is on-going as under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take wild birds.

[Photo by Staffordshire Police]

Officers are asking local residents and visitors to these areas to report of any suspicious behaviour and be vigilant for the signs of criminal activity, including dead or injured birds, poisoned bait and traps.

Reports are handled in the strictest of confidence – so anyone with any information is asked to get in touch by calling 101, or completing an online form at; quoting incident number 284 of 19 May.

Staffordshire Police continues to support Operation Owl – a national initiative to raise awareness and prevent the persecution of birds of prey in our countryside.

Chief Inspector Mark Thorley, commander of the Staffordshire Moorlands Neighbourhood Policing Team and rural crime lead, said:

If the birds have been specifically targeted, this is a dreadful crime and those responsible must be brought to justice.

If you come across a dead bird or suspicious object, this could be a wildlife crime scene. Please do not touch or move anything. Every piece of information may be crucial in prosecuting an offender so please take photographs if you can and make a note of your surroundings and landmarks to help officers to locate it.

Any information, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem, could help with our on-going investigation so please get in touch with us directly or any of our partners listed below.”

Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.
Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme hotline 0800 321 600.
RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime hotline 0300 999 0101.



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.”



Local politician seeks ‘full investigation’ in to mass poisoning of buzzards

Further to yesterday’s blog about the reported illegal poisoning of 23 buzzards in County Cork and the apparent subsequent silence of the investigating authorities (see here), today there’s some encouraging news.

Local politician Christopher O’Sullivan TD (Teachta Dala, the equivalent of an MP) in whose constituency the poisoned buzzards were found, has just tweeted the following:

According to our sources, this is a very significant move. As discussed in yesterday’s blog, there have long been concerns about the lack of enforcement measures against raptor persecution in some parts of Ireland and particularly in the south where this latest crime was recorded.

Yesterday’s statement from BirdWatch Ireland highlighted these concerns and they’ve been re-emphasised in a statement from the Golden Eagle Trust (GET), the wildlife charity behind the reintroduction of golden eagles, white-tailed eagles and other important conservation projects across the Irish Republic. Here’s what GET had to say about this on Friday:

An attack on nature protection in Cork

Carbofuran is a banned root crop pesticide that continues to be used to deliberately kill birds of prey across Ireland. Some months ago, a landowner discovered dead Buzzards on his property, near Timoleague, County Cork and contacted the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). 23 dead Common Buzzards were found during subsequent searches of the adjacent land. Toxicology tests, carried out by the State Laboratory, showed that the Buzzards had consumed Carbofuran, we believe. The landowner was completely unaware that a third party was leaving out poison nearby. This is the biggest illegal act against birds of prey in Ireland, over the last two decades.

The continued wilful persecution of birds of prey is decreasing the population of Peregrines, Hen Harriers, Buzzards and the reintroduced native populations of Eagles and Kites, in some parts of Ireland. It can be very difficult to find the evidence that could link an individual with an act of poisoning and thereby present sufficient evidence before a judge in order to secure a successful prosecution.

Therefore, the Golden Eagle Trust is calling on Government Departments to draft and enact a defined piece of legislation which makes it illegal for anybody to be in possession of Carbofuran and several other lethal substances, whose former agricultural uses have been banned and phased out. We are also calling on the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to revisit their discussion on whether it would be helpful to establish a small (one or two person) Wildlife Crime Unit within NPWS, in order to provide specialized advice and expertise in responding to reported wildlife crime incidents and presenting a strong legal case to the State Solicitors and to be put before the Courts; whenever the evidence allows a case to be initiated.

It is difficult to assess the effectiveness and enforcement of National and European wildlife legislation in Ireland and the degree of deterrent it might offer, arising from successful Irish wildlife court cases; as court cases or successful wildlife crime prosecution figures are not readily available. However, a crude review of available internet media sources, might suggest that there has not been any successful wildlife crime court case, over the last 4 or 5 years, in Counties Cork or Kerry, for example. The general public have a very important role in reporting dead birds of prey to NPWS and they in turn, need appropriate laws, staff resources and appropriate management facilitation in implementing the law, where the evidence allows it, in some of these ongoing poisoning incidents.

Whilst there may be several legitimate administrative reasons for the lack of clarity surrounding Ireland’s biggest raptor persecution case, arising from the current Coronavirus crisis; there is also a competing responsibility to keep communities informed of nearby risks related to illegal poisoning activity. The wider context reveals an unfortunate pattern of Peregrines being killed at the same nests annually and Common Buzzards and Red Kites being poisoned, in localized areas, on a regular basis. It can be extremely difficult to identify the perpetrators of these crimes against nature and therefore the legislation needs to keep abreast of the collated RAPTOR Protocol dataset and counter, the primary threats that the accruing results suggest.

[The corpses of several buzzards found poisoned by Carbofuran in Co Cork in 2018. See here for details. Photo by NPWS]

In July 2010, the Grant Thornton, ‘Organisational Review of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), suggested in Section 4.5.1 (Page 55) that:

Enforcement and prosecution activity is represented as being low with only some 30 cases per annum being prosecuted. Progress in this area seems to vary depending on Division.”

The Golden Eagle Trust wonder if the level of nature protection enforcement activity might have fallen even further since 2010? We are concerned that a lack of Ministerial, Departmental or Party-Political support, for some aspects of the Law, may have weakened NPWS managerial resolve, in some areas, over the last decade. In a small number of places, recreational family groups, dog walkers and landowners may need to be especially vigilant as regards the possibility that poisoned meat baits have been left out in the open. This incident revives the independent expert opinion and concern (as set out in the Grant Thornton Organisational Review) whether some NPWS managers need more support and resources in progressing illegal wildlife activity cases? The unpalatable alternative, is that the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht transparently seek to repeal defined aspects of Irish or European Wildlife Legislation, which they may no longer endorse.

Regardless of the context; we are shocked by the number of dead Buzzards found in Cork and the 23 associated positive toxicology results – it is a wake-up call to us all.


Full credit to Christopher O’Sullivan TD – let’s hope his calls for an investigation lead to significant change, with improvements in investigation and enforcement responses. Judging by the reaction to the news that 23 buzzards were poisoned, he’ll have a great deal of public support.


23 buzzards illegally poisoned with Carbofuran in single incident

The Irish Raptor Study Group and BirdWatch Ireland have reported the illegal poisoning of 23 buzzards in a single incident in Co Cork.

The following statement has been published by BirdWatch Ireland:

Mass poisoning of buzzards in County Cork

We have recently learned of the illegal poisoning of 23 Buzzards in County Cork. This incident is the single largest poisoning of birds of prey in this country in decades and the largest since the legislation was amended to ban the use of poison meat baits in 2010. We understand that the 23 Buzzards were recovered at the scene last December and were sent for testing under the Raptor Protocol, which subsequently confirmed that all had died due to ingesting the highly toxic and banned substance, Carbofuran.

[Photo via Irish Raptor Study Group]

The targeted use of bait laced with poison to kill protected birds of prey remains widespread and one of the most common substances used is Carbofuran, despite being banned. This incident follows the death of Mary, the satellite-tagged Hen Harrier, late last year, also illegally poisoned, also by Carbofuran (for more details see here and here).

These incidents, along with the countless other similar horrific poisonings of birds of prey, demonstrate that current efforts are simply not sufficient in stopping the persecution of our birds of prey. History dictates that incidents such as this mass poisoning will continue to occur unless appropriate action is taken. While we do not know who is responsible for this incident, we do know that the motives of those that persecute birds of prey are inherently flawed and display an ignorance and lack of understanding of our environment. Buzzards and other birds of prey are indicators of a healthy countryside and perform a vital role in the ecosystem, we cannot and should not tolerate the damaging actions of a minority to eradicate them from our countryside.

We understand that NPWS held an investigation, but that similar to the poisoning of Mary, those responsible were not held accountable. Why is more action not being taken to tackle Carbofuran and other illegal poisons, which are horrendously toxic and pose a serious threat to humans as well as to wildlife? Does an unwitting person trying to assist a stricken bird have to die before the State finally takes action?

We will be liaising with NPWS, we offer our support to them and urge a unified approach to tackling wildlife crimes. Unless proper resources are allocated, to include an established wildlife crime unit and greater powers and resources to investigate and enforce the legislation, incidents such as this one will continue without consequence. We will bring you more on this incident once we have further details.


UPDATE 10 May 2020: Local politician seeks ‘full investigation’ in to mass poisoning of buzzards (here)

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