Posts Tagged ‘goshawk


Head of National Wildlife Crime Unit still talking about ‘rogue’ gamekeepers

We’ve been sent some fascinating correspondence from one of our blog readers.

Following the news in February 2017 of the ‘non suspicious’ death of a tagged goshawk on the royal Sandringham Estate in Norfolk (see here), a blog reader wrote to Norfolk Constabulary as follows:

I write in reference to the Mail on Sunday’s coverage (online, Sunday 12 Feb 2017) of the radio-tagged goshawk reported to have been found (first said to be found dead, then said to have been found alive) at Sandringham. Given the confusion that surrounds this case, will the Police be making any further statements to clarify what they believe happened to the bird, to help ascertain what may have caused its decline and then death (important to know as part of the study being carried out on the species) and why its body was incinerated when it had only just died, and was obviously part of a tagging project? A lot of people obviously think there are grounds for suspicion here, and would be interested to know why the Police are said to have taken a different view. I am sure the estate would also welcome the matter to be cleared up. Many thanks for your help in this and for any reassurance you can give the public that the matter is being looked into thoroughly“.

The reply came in the form of a jointly-signed letter from Chief Inspector Martin Sims (Head of National Wildlife Crime Unit) and Inspector Jon Papworth (Wildlife Crime Coordinator, Norfolk Constabulary).

It beggars belief that the Head of the NWCU, the ‘coordinating intelligence body for wildlife crime’ is still talking in terms of ‘rogue’ gamekeepers being responsible for raptor persecution.

How does he explain the virtual extirpation of breeding hen harriers in the grouse moor areas of northern England?

How does he explain the continuing decline of breeding peregrines on the grouse moors of northern England?

How does he explain the repeated reports of shot and poisoned red kites in the grouse moor areas of North Yorkshire?

How does he explain the continued suppression of the golden eagle breeding population in the grouse moor areas of central, eastern and southern Scotland?

How does he explain the continued suppression of the red kite breeding population in the grouse moor areas of northern Scotland?

How does he explain the almost continuous reports of satellite-tagged raptors that ‘disappear’ disproportionately on land managed for driven grouse shooting in England and Scotland?

This isn’t the work of a few ‘rogue’ gamekeepers; this is the result of systematic persecution, affecting entire regional (and sometimes national) raptor populations, at the hands of the game shooting industry. It is industrial scale criminality and the sooner Chief Inspector Sims gets his head around this, the sooner we might see an improvement in enforcement action.

He says that media commentary on these crimes ‘appears to have polarised two sections of society’. Which two sections of society are they, then? The criminals and the law-abiding public? He seems to think we should all stop talking about this criminality and instead place our trust in the game-shooting sector. Yeah, great idea. Let’s not talk about the crimes that criminals commit, whether they be gamekeepers, drug dealers, burglars, rapists, murderers or thieves. Instead, let’s hold support groups, sit around with tambourines and all sing Kumbaya. That’ll sort it.

He talks about trying ‘a different approach’ and refers to the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) as an example of this. And what has the RPPDG delivered since its inception in 2010? Bugger all. We’ve recently seen some minutes from these RPPDG meetings, obtained via FOI, and all the meetings seem to achieve is to provide an opportunity for the gameshooting industry ‘partners’ to consistently challenge the confirmed persecution data recorded by the RSPB. Presumably that’s why we haven’t seen any national persecution incident maps from the RPPDG since 2011. It’s pathetic.

He talks about the law-abiding gamekeepers within the industry. There must be some, but where are they? How are we expected to tell the difference between the criminals and the law-abiders? How much intelligence on raptor persecution is supplied by gamekeepers to the police? How often do you see gamekeepers and their representative organisations highlighting raptor crimes or calling for tighter regulation?

With views like those of Chief Inspector Sims, it’s no wonder the NWCU hasn’t made even the tiniest dent in addressing illegal raptor persecution. It definitely is time for a different approach.

Here’s a pie chart for CI Sims to contemplate while he’s dreaming up ways of supporting the game shooting industry. It shows the occupations/interests of 176 individuals convicted of bird of prey related offences 1990-2016 (from the RSPB’s 2015 Birdcrime report).




Goshawk dies in ‘mysterious circumstances’ on Queen’s Sandringham Estate

Not for the first time, the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk has been at the centre of a police investigation in relation to a raptor incident.

According to an article in today’s Mail on Sunday (here) a police investigation was launched after Sandringham Estate staff mailed a young goshawk’s tracking tag back to the BTO on 11 August last year, but without the corpse. When the BTO contacted Sandringham Estate to ask what had happened to the bird, they were told the bird had been ‘disposed of’ because ‘it had been dead for a long time’ and was ‘decomposing’. However, the GPS tag data revealed the bird had still been alive on the evening of 8th August, in some trees close to Sandringham House.

During the Police investigation, Sandringham Estate staff changed their story and said the goshawk had been found alive by a gardener beside a perimeter fence but that ‘it was in a poor condition and quickly died’. They told Police the bird had been incinerated.


Estate staff justified these contrasting stories about what had happened by saying there had been ‘a breakdown in communication’ amongst Estate staff.


Norfolk Police issued a statement: “A thorough investigation was carried out and no wrong doing was identified“.

Norfolk Police also told the BTO: ‘There were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the bird’s death‘.

Hmm. Perhaps they’d turned up with a white stick and a dog.

Without having this goshawk’s corpse available for post-mortem it is impossible to determine how it died, so it’s no surprise that Norfolk Police said ‘no wrong doing was identified’. Of course no wrong doing was identified because any potential evidence had been conveniently incinerated!

Sandringham Estate was at the centre of a police investigation in 2005 when a tawny owl was caught in an illegally-set trap. A Sandringham Estate gamekeeper was convicted and fined, but wasn’t sacked (see here, pages 3-4).

In 2007 Sandringham Estate was at the centre of another police investigation after the alleged shooting of two hen harriers. Prince Harry, his friend William van Cutsem (whose family own the now infamous Mossdale Estate), and an unnamed gamekeeper were questioned but denied all knowledge of the incident. The hen harrier corpses were never found.

In 2014, a satellite-tagged Montagu’s harrier called Mo ‘disappeared’ on land next door to Sandringham Estate and police launched an investigation. Mo’s corpse has never been found.

Photo of a young Norfolk goshawk with its GPS tag, part of the Heritage Lottery funded BTO goshawk tracking study (photographer unknown).


Goshawks still under threat in Peak District National Park

An interesting blog (here) has just been posted about the tentative success of goshawks this year in the Peak District National Park.

Written by Mark Thomas of the RSPB Investigations Team, the blog documents the appalling persecution of goshawks that has taken place within the boundary of this National Park over the years. It discusses how several active goshawk nests have been visited at night by masked, armed men (an identical tactic has been used to persecute goshawks within the Cairngorms National Park – e.g. see here) resulting in nest failures.

This year, four active goshawk nests have been discovered in the Upper Derwent Valley within the Peak District National Park and three of those are still active, now with recently-fledged young. Another goshawk nest within the NP is known to have failed with all the evidence pointing towards the adults being shot (see here).

Now, some might/undoubtedly will jump on these results (i.e. the three ‘successful’ nests) and use them to claim that raptor persecution is on the decline within the Park. They’d be fools to do so.

Just because these nests have successfully fledged young, it doesn’t mean that those young birds are now safe. Far from it. Cast your minds back to 2010 and another apparently ‘successful’ goshawk nest in the Peak District National Park. Here is what happened to them:

3 dead gos

The above is an excerpt from the Peak Nest Watch 2010 end of season report, which is a(nother) sorry catalogue of raptor persecution involving goshawks and other raptor species within this National Park. The full report can be downloaded here: peak_nestwatch_2010

The RSPB Investigations Team are no fools and their latest blog mentions that their cameras will remain in place at these 2016 nests and monitoring will continue for some considerable time, to find out whether these young birds will be left alone.

As they say, time will tell.


More raptor persecution at Moy

Moy chicksPolice Scotland has issued an appeal for information following the discovery of disturbed and abandoned buzzard and goshawk nests in the Moy Forest near Tomatin in the Scottish Highlands.

During May this year, one goshawk and four buzzard nests have been abandoned in suspicious circumstances, with some evidence of illegal disturbance. These nests were being monitored by staff from Forestry Enterprise Scotland.

Further details and an appeal for information here

This area is no stranger to illegal raptor persecution. In 2010, a 20-year old gamekeeper employed by Moy Estate was convicted for possession of a dead red kite that was found in the back of his vehicle. It had two broken legs and it’s head had been smashed in.

During the police raid on the grouse moors of Moy Estate, the following was also found:

  • The remains of a further two dead red kites.
  • A red kite’s severed leg, along with wing tags that had been fitted to a sateliite-tracked red kite, hidden in holes covered with moss.
  • Six baited spring traps illegally set in the open.
  • A trapped hen harrier (still alive) caught in an illegally set spring trap.
  • A poisoned bait.
  • Four leg rings previously fitted to golden eagle chicks found in the possession of a gamekeeper.

No charges were brought against anybody for these additional crimes.

Our previous blogs on Moy can be read here.

Moy is also home of the annual Highland Game Fair, regularly attended by certain MSPs, Scottish Land & Estates and the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association to ‘celebrate’ the activities of the game-shooting industry.

The petition to ban driven grouse shooting can be found here


Goshawk suspected shot in Peak District National Park

Goshawk,_Northern_SteveGarvieThe RSPB has just issued this press statement:

Goshawk nest fails in suspicious circumstances in Peak District

The RSPB is appealing for information after a goshawk nest failed in suspicious circumstances at Dove Stone in the Peak District.

On 10 May, a local raptor worker discovered the freshly abandoned goshawk nest in conifer woodland in the Longendale Valley, which the RSPB co-manages with landowner United Utilities. There were three cold eggs in the nest, one of which was broken.  Damaged goshawk body feathers and a spent plastic shotgun cartridge were found in the immediate vicinity.

Both Derbyshire Police and the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative were informed.

A local birdwatcher observed the female goshawk near to the nest on 8 May so it’s thought that the nest failed sometime between the afternoon of 8 May and the morning of 10 May.

Goshawks have been subjected to a high level of illegal persecution in the northern Peak District where they are now teetering on the brink of extinction. In 2015, there were only three known nests in the Dark Peak, one of which successfully fledged young.

Dave O’Hara, RSPB Site Manager at Dove Stone, said: “Due to illegal persecution goshawks are really struggling in the Dark Peak so we are deeply concerned that this nest has failed in suspicious circumstances on land that we manage. We would urge anyone with information to report it to the Police immediately by calling 101.”


GOS NEST pdnp may 2016 - CopyWhat this press release doesn’t say is that this goshawk site is a historical one (i.e. goshawks have attempted to breed here in the past) although strangely the site has never been successful, with breeding attempts always failing by the incubation stage. Perhaps not so strange when you realise that the site is adjacent to a driven grouse moor.

Once again, the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative (perhaps a more apt name would be the Peak District Lack of Bird of Prey Initiative) has failed to respond, leaving it up to the RSPB to issue a press statement. That’s very odd, especially when you consider the Lack of Bird of Prey Initiative recently decided to include goshawk on its list of raptor species that would receive improved protection within the Dark Peak area of the National Park.

The RSPB statement hints at some annoyance with both the Peak District Lack of Bird Prey Initiative and Derbyshire Constabulary for failing to report this suspected shooting, but it really is just a subtle hint.

So why no timely public appeal from the Peak District Lack of Bird of Prey Initiative or the police? Is there a lack of leadership? Is there some internal issue? A disagreement on the choice of words? Or just an inability or unwillingness to communicate bad news? Perhaps they’re still shell-shocked from the recent news of the armed man sitting next to a decoy hen harrier on a grouse moor within the National Park – a grouse moor that was supposedly signed up to the aims of the Bird of Prey Initiative?

What is clear is that raptor persecution within the Peak District National Park is out of control and has been for many years (e.g. see here and here). It’s also abundantly clear that the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative isn’t working and is simply providing a convenient cover for the grouse-shooting industry who use their membership of it as ‘evidence’ of their support for raptor conservation. Sorry, but we can all see straight through it. It’s time for the good guys to step away from this failed Initiative and stop giving the criminals such cover.

Over 39,000 people have now signed the petition to ban driven grouse shooting. That’s over 39,000 people who have made the link between driven grouse shooting and illegal raptor persecution. There will be many more thousands who sign this petition as these raptor persecution crimes are increasingly exposed. Please sign HERE.

Goshawk photo by Steve Garvie

Photo of the failed goshawk nest (via digiscope) sent to us by a Peak District raptor worker


Statement from Cairngorms National Park Authority re: shot goshawk

mon-15-june-copyGrant Moir, Chief Executive of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, has today issued a statement about the recent shooting of a goshawk (here) on land within the National Park:

We are incredibly frustrated to again be putting out a statement condemning the shooting of a raptor in the National Park. We must ensure such crimes become a thing of the past. We will be working with the new Minister for Environment to consider what else we can do in the National Park, building on public support for our wildlife and finding ways of getting more eyes and ears on the ground. We encourage anyone with information relating to this incident to contact the police by calling 101”.

The condemnation is good and is the least we should expect. However, the bit about “We will be working with the new Minister for Environment to consider what else we can do….” shows good intent, but in reality amounts to little more than a PR soundbite.

Remember the Cairngorms Nature action plan, aimed at restoring raptor populations & managing mountain hares for the benefit of golden eagles within the Cairngorms National Park (CNP), launched with great fanfare in May 2013 (see here)?

A resounding failure, as evidenced in May 2013 by the mysterious ‘disappearance’ of a young sat-tagged golden eagle on a CNP grouse moor (here); in May 2013 by the alleged ‘coordinated hunting’ and subsequent shooting of a hen harrier on a CNP grouse moor (here); in April 2014 by the mysterious ‘disappearance’ on a CNP grouse moor of East Scotland’s first fledged white-tailed eagle in ~200 years (here); in May 2014 by this video of masked armed gunmen attacking a goshawk nest within the CNP (here); in October 2015 by the publication of a scientific study documenting the long term decline of breeding peregrines on grouse moors in the eastern portion of the CNP (see here); in February 2016 by the publication of a scientific study documenting the catastrophic decline of breeding hen harriers in the eastern portion of the CNP (here); in March 2016 by the discovery of a dead hen harrier ‘Lad’, suspected shot, found on a grouse moor within the CNP (here); in March 2016 by the news that mountain hares were being massacred on grouse moors within the CNP (here); and again in March 2016 by news that further mountain hare massacres were taking place on grouse moors within the CNP (here); and now in May 2016 by the news that a goshawk was shot on an estate within the CNP (here).

And also remember, the CNPA has already met with the (now former) Environment Minister in January 2015 to discuss the issue of raptor persecution and moorland management within the NP – we blogged about that meeting here. The Environment Minister said afterwards that she ‘welcomed the positive collaboration shown between the CNPA and landowners and looked forward to seeing a real difference on the ground‘.

What is the point of the CNPA having further discussions with another naive Environment Minister? It’s utterly pointless. The grouse moor managers within the Cairngorms National Park are running rings around the Park Authority, and have been doing so for years: Golden eagles poisoned, golden eagles ‘disappearing’, white-tailed eagles ‘disappearing’, hen harriers being shot, breeding hen harriers in catastrophic decline, goshawks being shot, goshawk nests being attacked, breeding peregrines in long-term decline, mountain hares massacred. All within the Cairngorms National Park, the so-called ‘jewel’ of Scottish wildlife. It’s scandalous.

What we need, urgently, from the CNPA is action, not more hand-wringing and platitudes. For a start, the CNPA could be looking at the Sandford Principle (see here and here). There’s an excellent blog called Parks Watch Scotland that has also suggested some courses of action the CNPA could take: see here and here.

The CNPA CEO said today he was ‘incredibly frustrated’. We all are, but the difference is the CNPA has the power to do something about it.

Actually, we do have some power, albeit more indirect than the powers of the CNPA. We have the power to blog about the rampant and persistent persecution of wildlife within the National Park and by doing so, raise awareness amongst an unsuspecting general public of just what is happening to THEIR wildlife within the boundary of THEIR National Park. We’re pretty sure that as more people get to hear about it, the vast majority will be outraged and will join the call for further action to be taken against those grouse moor estates.

Please sign the petition and join 35,000+ calling for a parliamentary debate on the banning of driven grouse shooting: HERE


Goshawk shot on sporting estate in Cairngorms National Park

A goshawk has been shot on an Aberdeenshire sporting estate inside the Cairngorms National Park.

The shooting was witnessed by a man walking his dogs in the Strathdon area in April. The bird was shot approx 30 yards away by an unseen gunman.

The witness took the bird to the New Arc wildlife sanctuary where an examination revealed severe damage to the lung and shoulder. The goshawk was euthanised.

Police Scotland are apparently investigating this crime. The name of the estate where the shooting was witnessed has not been released.

Article in P&J here

This part of the Cairngorms National Park is no stranger to illegal raptor persecution, and indeed goshawks have been targeted here before (see here). The situation is so bad in this region that in 2014 the Convenor of the Cairngorms National Park Authority wrote to the Environment Minister to warn that continued incidents of dead and ‘disappearing’ raptors threatened to undermine the reputation of the National Park as a high quality wildlife tourism destination (see here).

Land management within the Cairngorms National Park (notably driven grouse moors) has recently come under fire following the continuing mass slaughter of mountain hares (see here and here) and the discovery of a dead hen harrier, suspected to have been shot (see here).

Please sign the petition to ban driven grouse shooting HERE.

UPDATE 10th May 2016: Statement from Cairngorms National Park Authority here

Goshawk Bart x ray

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