Posts Tagged ‘peregrine


Suffolk Police warn public to be vigilant for peregrine egg thieves

Article from Stowmarket Mercury (May 25th 2021)

Thieves will go to ‘extreme lengths’ to steal rare birds’ eggs, police warn

By Michael Steward

The theft of rare birds’ eggs is still a problem in Suffolk and wildlife enthusiasts are being urged to stay vigilant to any suspicious behaviour. 

Although the crime is rare, egg thieves will travel the country to target rare species, according to Suffolk police. 

The peregrine is a particularly targeted bird for nest robberies, and is prized by both egg collectors and illegal falconers.  

It is believed that peregrine eggs can fetch up to £70,000 in the Middle East. 

[Peregrine nest in Yorkshire, photo by Glenn Kilpatrick]

Sergeant Brian Calver, from Suffolk police’s rural crime team, said thieves will go to “extreme lengths” to get their hands on prized eggs. 

He said: “It’s very rare these days for people to want to collect them but there are still a few hardcore people out there who have got an obsession and take them for their own collections and to swap among their close circles.

But also, further up the scale, you have got those who will take them for financial gain and that’s normally around raptors

Specifically things like peregrines because in the Middle East you’ve got people out there who will pay a vast amount of money for a wild peregrine

So there are egg thieves who will go to extreme lengths to get them and smuggle them out of the country to trade in the Middle East where it’s almost like gold within an egg shell. They are worth an awful lot of money.

Those people are rare but they are willing to travel the country to target certain species.”

Operation Easter, which runs across the UK throughout the bird nesting season, targets egg thieves and allows intelligence to be shared with police forces. 

Sgt Calver said Suffolk has seen incidents in recent years and urged the county’s birdwatching community to stay vigilant. 

A couple of years ago now we had some stone curlew eggs go missing from the Cavenham nature reserve,” he said. 

So I would like to get a message out to the public and the birdwatching community to be vigilant to anyone who does look out of place or look suspicious

Those who are out there to steal, there will be something about their behaviour which will stand out and look suspicious. It is worth reporting

If they do take them, especially a bird which has got a very bespoke need in terms of its habitat, you’ve only got to take one year’s set of eggs and that can have a massive impact on the species numbers for the future.”



Police officer charged with alleged wildlife crime offences after multi-agency raid in Scotland

From an article in today’s Daily Record:

Scots cop charged after dawn raid uncovers ‘peregrine falcon eggs’ kept at rural home

Police Scotland have confirmed that a total of three people have been arrested and charged in connection with wildlife offences at a property in Berwick-upon-Tweed

By Sarah Vesty, reporter

[Peregrine falcon with chicks. Photo by Getty Images]

A serving Police Scotland officer has been charged in connection with alleged wildlife offences after an early-morning raid at her home.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is set to appear at Jedburgh Sheriff Court alongside two men, aged 45 and 20, on an undertaking next week.

Officers swooped on the rural property in Berwick-upon-Tweed on Tuesday, May 18, as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of serious organised crime.

Joined by the Scottish SPCA, they are understood to have seized a number of peregrine falcon eggs and chicks from the address.

Police Scotland have confirmed that three people have been arrested in connection with the recovery and that their “enquiries remain ongoing”.

A force spokesperson said: “Officers executed a warrant in the early hours of Tuesday, 18, May, at a property in Lamberton Holdings in Berwick-upon-Tweed in connection with an ongoing investigation.

Two men, aged 20 and 45 years, and a 43-year-old woman have been arrested and charged in connection with wildlife offences.

They are due to appear at Jedburgh Sheriff Court at a later date. Enquiries are continuing.”

A Scottish SPCA special investigations unit inspector, who cannot be named due to undercover operations, said: “We can confirm we assisted Police Scotland in relation to a warrant regarding wildlife offences at a property in Lamberton Holdings in Berwick-upon-Tweed.”

Peregrine falcons are protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act meaning it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb them near or on an active nest.

The species has historically suffered from persecution and pesticide poisoning with their numbers dwindling to their lowest levels in the 1960s.

Scottish specimens of the bird – which can dive at more than 200mph – are highly prized in the Middle East where they are used for racing by wealthy sheikhs.

Stronger legislation has helped increase the number of falcons in the wild however they are still persecuted for preying on game birds and racing pigeons.

Their eggs have also previously been stolen to order for private collections and falconry.


Please note: as this is a live investigation and individuals have been charged I will not be accepting comments on this article until legal proceedings have ended. Thanks.


Peregrine found critically injured with shotgun injuries in North Yorkshire

Press statement from North Yorkshire Police (20th May 2021)

Police appeal for information after peregrine falcon found shot near Selby Abbey

On 7 May 2021, an 8 year old female peregrine falcon was discovered in the grounds of Selby Abbey with injuries which meant she was unable to fly.

[Photograph from North Yorkshire Police]

The peregrine was rescued and x-rayed by a local falconry specialist vet, Mark Naguib, who found a number of shotgun pellets throughout the bird’s body. The peregrine is ringed by the British Ornithology Trust so was able to be traced back to being released as a chick near Newark eight years ago.

The peregrine falcon is now in the expert care of local wildlife rehabilitator, Jean Thorpe, who will give her the best possible chance of making a recovery.

[X-ray from North Yorkshire Police]

North Yorkshire Police Constable Sarah Ward said:

“Peregrine falcons are a protected schedule one species and it is shocking that anyone would target one in this cruel and callous way.

“Our county should be a haven for birds of prey and this type of cruelty will not be tolerated.

“If anyone has information about this worrying incident please get in touch and report to us. You can either call 101 or if you wish to remain anonymous please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

RSPB Investigations Officer, Jack Ashton-Booth said:

“We are appalled at this deliberate and illegal attack on a protected peregrine falcon. The bird was riddled with shot, including one piece lodged in its head. Incredibly, it is still alive but it’s touch and go.

“We urge anyone with information to contact North Yorkshire Police immediately. Alternatively, if you wish to speak out in confidence, please don’t hesitate to call our Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

“Peregrines are incredibly good at adapting and are increasingly living alongside us in our towns and cities, and are a joy to see nesting on tall buildings like cathedrals. Nature is in trouble, and we must embrace it or risk losing it.”

If you have any information about this incident please call North Yorkshire Police on 101 quoting ref: 12210119786.



X-ray of injured peregrine reveals he had previously been shot

A peregrine falcon that suffered injury after colliding with a window was found to have previously been shot.

In a shoddy piece of reporting on the LeicestershireLive website, the RSPCA has apparently claimed the peregrine ‘died after it was shot with an airgun and the pellet became embedded in its wing’ and that they are now appealing for information about the ‘airgun thug’ responsible (see here).

However, if you look at the accompanying x-ray released by the RSPCA, there is what appears to be a pellet embedded in the bird’s right ulna but it doesn’t have the shape of an air gun pellet – it looks more like the spherical shape of a shotgun pellet (see red circle, added by RPUK).

The examining vet thought it was an old injury and you can see there aren’t any associated bone breaks with the pellet, whereas the peregrine has clearly fractured its left radius and there was damage to its neck, presumably caused by the window collision (see the yellow circles, added by RPUK).

The peregrine didn’t survive its injuries.

In what must be the most optimistic appeal for information ever, given that nobody knows when or where the peregrine had previously been shot, the RSPCA is appealing for information!


Police appeal as peregrines believed to have been poisoned again at notorious Shropshire blackspot

Press release from West Mercia Police (6th May 2021)

Appeal following protected bird deaths

On the morning of Saturday 1 May, officers received information that a female peregrine had been found dead on the hillside below the nest near to Clee Hill Quarry.

PC Grant said: “The body was recovered together with a pigeon that had been used as bait. The male bird has not been found, but is also believed to have been killed. The baited pigeon at the scene indicates that poison was used to kill both birds. The incident is currently under investigation by both West Mercia Police and RSPB Investigations.

[This is a photograph of another peregrine found poisoned at this site in 2017 (see here). Photo by RSPB]

Peregrine Falcons are specifically protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, and the maximum penalty for killing or deliberately injuring a protected species is a fine of £5,000 and six months imprisonment.

We are asking members of the public walking on Clee Hill common with children and pets to be aware and to take care that poison bait may still be around and not to touch any dead animals that they may come across if they do see any such animals or anything suspicious, to please call police.  

If anyone has any information regarding this incident please contact the police on 101 and quote incident number 258i of 1 May 2021 or contact us via our ‘Tell us about’ section on our website.”

If you do have information but don’t feel comfortable speaking to police, you can speak to the independent charity Crimestoppers. It is 100% anonymous, they never ask your name and they cannot trace your call or I.P address. You can contact them online or by calling 0800 555 111.


There is also an article in the Shropshire Star (here) about this latest poisoning crime at Clee Hill. It’s well worth a read and includes commentary from John Turner, Chair of the Shropshire Peregrine Group, about the use of tethered pigeons smeared with poison to lure the peregrines and how this has happened over and over again at this site (2010, 2011, 2015, 2017, 2021)…

We are shocked that it’s happened again. The deadly poison being used is a danger to people walking their dogs and to animals in the area and somehow we are going to have to inform Defra to get the place decontaminated as it should not be scattered in the countryside like it has been and is contaminating the moorland where these pigeons were found.

On Wednesday evening another poisoned pigeon was found along with a dead fox which had eaten it.

We know who is responsible, and local people know who is responsible. I urge local residents of Clee Hill to call out the individuals responsible for these crimes, many of whom are well known in the area, and provide the police with information about their criminal activities which are bringing shame to the village.”

 “It [the female peregrine] was found by the site warden on Saturday morning. There was the body of a poisoned pigeon very near the dead female peregrine. The male will have been killed as well but we have not recovered the body yet.

We think this is a repeat of what happened four years ago in 2017. We thought we had put a stop to it. We have had at least a dozen peregrines poisoned since 2010 – we have lost about a quarter of the Shropshire population of about 40 peregrines.


In previous poisoning offences at Clee Hill the toxin Diazinon has been used. Suspicion has been laid at the door of the local pigeon racing community but nobody has ever been prosecuted.

Previous blogs on these poisoning crimes here, here, here, here


Peregrine shot & killed in North Wales

North Wales Police have published a tweet about a peregrine that was found dying on Tuesday lunchtime near the Osprey Centre at Porthmadog, North Wales.

It was taken to the RSPCA’s Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre for a veterinary examination.

According to the Police, the vets said it had ‘probably been shot’ as there was an entry and exit wound. There are no further details.

Unfortunately this young peregrine died of its injuries.

If you have any information that could help this investigation, please contact North Wales Police and quote reference 21000222577.


Emmerdale actor speaks out against grouse moor burning & raptor persecution

Hot on the heels of her last article on how burning Britain’s moorland is ‘an environmental disaster’ (here), the Daily Mirror’s Environment Editor, Nada Farhoud has a follow up article out today.

This time she interviews Emmerdale actor Nick Miles, who lives in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and has been a long-time supporter of conservation campaigns such as Hen Harrier Day.

Nick talks about his village ‘disappearing under a blanket of smoke’ when the gamekeepers have set the moors alight and how letters to his MP, Rishi Sunak, have fallen on deaf ears.

He also talks about how few red kites he sees in Upper Wharfdale (hardly surprising given its proximity to Nidderdale, where killing red kites on grouse moors is de rigueur) in comparison to Harewood, where Emmerdale is filmed and from where red kites were reintroduced and are doing well.

Read today’s article in the Mirror here (and watch out for the comedy input from Moorland Association Director Amanda Anderson).

Meanwhile in Scotland the fires also continue. I’ve been sent some horrific photographs that were taken in the Angus Glens two days ago – I’ll be publishing those later this weekend.

And here’s a photo sent in by another blog reader (thank you) taken yesterday in Manor Valley in the Borders:

It’s astonishing that not only is this burning still legal (although for how much longer remains to be seen) even though we’re in a climate and nature emergency, but that gamekeepers in Scotland can lawfully continue to set the moors alight until 15th April, and then with landowner’s permission can continue to light fires until 30th April.

Still, it’s a cracking wheeze for torching out hen harrier nests, peregrine breeding ledges and golden eagle eyries, which can then be explained away as ‘accidents’ (see here).

Pass the matches.


Peregrine found poisoned on grouse moor in Peak District National Park

Press release from RSPB (2nd March 2021)

Peregrine poisoned in Peak District National Park

A peregrine falcon, which was found dead on a driven grouse moor in the Upper Derwent Valley, has just been confirmed as illegally poisoned following official toxicology analysis – adding to the growing list of protected birds of prey illegally killed during 2020’s spring lockdown – many of which were in the Peak District National Park.

The adult male bird was found dead, on top of the remains of a wood pigeon, on 31 May 2020 by a fell runner on National Trust land. This was close to a known nest site which, like several other sites in the Dark Peak, has a long history of poor breeding success.

[The poisoned peregrine, photo by the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group]

It was reported to Derbyshire Police, who recovered the carcass assisted by raptor workers, and the body was submitted for government toxicology testing. The results have just been published and confirm that the peregrine was illegally poisoned with the toxic insecticide bendiocarb: a substance we know is illegally used to kill birds of prey.

Mark Thomas, Head of RSPB Investigations, said: “This latest incident adds to an appallingly long and growing list of crimes against birds of prey which took place during the first national Covid lockdown in 2020. At the time, the RSPB was working flat-out with police to investigate a high volume of incidents, the details of which are now beginning to emerge.

It is clear that certain criminals took lockdown as an excuse to ramp up their efforts to kill birds of prey, wilfully ignoring lockdown and the laws which protect these birds.

Time and again, we are seeing birds of prey shot, trapped or poisoned on grouse moors. The link between illegal killing of peregrines and other raptor species and driven grouse shooting has never been clearer, and we urge the UK government to implement a licensing system for grouse moors in England, as is proposed in Scotland. Law-abiding estates would have nothing to fear from this, and it would act as a greater deterrent, keeping birds safe, in the sky, for all to enjoy.”

Peer reviewed studies, crime data and court convictions show that raptor persecution is more concentrated on and near driven grouse moors, where birds of prey are seen by some as a threat to commercially managed red grouse stocks. In fact, a recent paper statistically linked crimes against birds of prey in the Peak District National Park with land managed for Driven Grouse Shooting.

It is believed that the wood pigeon was a poison bait, laid deliberately with the intention of killing any bird of prey or raven which fed on it.

Steve Downing, Chair of the Northern England Raptor Forum, said: “Incidents like this are sadly not uncommon in the Dark Peak, where peregrine populations have crashed in recent years. What’s more, a poison bait like this, on open-access land, could easily be picked up by someone’s dog with disastrous consequences.”

Jon Stewart, National Trust General Manager, said: “We protect and care for places so nature and people can thrive. In a year when three pairs of peregrine successfully raised young on Trust land in the Dark Peak, half of all successful pairs on the Peak District moors, we were very upset to hear of this incident.

We continue to work closely with the RSPB, police and statutory agencies to take action to combat wildlife crime. We urge anyone with relevant information about this incident to contact the police and help end the illegal persecution of birds of prey.’’

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Derbyshire Police on 101.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB Investigations on or fill in the online form:

If you know of someone killing birds of prey, please don’t stay silent: call the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.


This latest crime should come as no surprise whatsoever to anyone even vaguely familiar with the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park. Dominated by driven grouse moors, this Park is notorious for raptor persecution and has been for decades, particularly impacting on goshawk and peregrine populations (e.g. see here), despite all the years of so-called ‘partnership’ efforts that have led to…..well, nothing but more of the same.

What is disappointing is that the poisoned bait and the dead peregrine were found on National Trust land – the NT has worked hard in the Park to restore raptor populations, even booting off a prominent sporting tenant three years ago (see here).

The press release is interesting, though. Once again, Derbyshire Police are conspicuously absent, the RSPB has had to lead on the publicity, and once again there has been a ridiculously long time lag between the commission of the crime and the publicising of it. There was a similar case in Derbyshire not so very long ago (see here) when this police force said that the circumstances of a poisoned buzzard being found dead next to a poisoned bait were ‘inconclusive’!

The 10-month time delay in publicising this latest poisoning case is very poor. The peregrine was found poisoned in May 2020 and the public isn’t made aware until March 2021? Now, we all know that Covid has had an impact on laboratory work and that’s unavoidable but I don’t believe for one second that it has taken the WIIS lab this long to produce the results. I think there’s more to it than that and I just wonder whether Derbyshire Police have played a role in the delay.

Something isn’t right and it needs sorting out, pronto.

UPDATE 11.30hrs: Mark Thomas, Head of RSPB Investigations has just tweeted:

The falcon was found on top of a plucked Wood Pigeon on National Trust land. Despite the investigation being closed, Derbyshire Police declined the opportunity to put this release out, we feel it is critical that the public are made aware due to the risk to them and their dogs‘.

I’ve asked Derbyshire Police’s Rural Crime Team, and the Chief Constable, why they refused to publicise this crime. Not only are there obvious public safety concerns but wildlife crime is supposed to be national wildlife crime priority.

Responses awaited.


Trial date set as man pleads not guilty to theft of peregrine eggs in Peak District National Park

A trial date has been set after a 60-year-old man pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges relating to the alleged theft of peregrine eggs in the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire last spring (see here).

Proceedings were brought following an investigation by Derbyshire Constabulary, supported by video evidence provided by the RSPB.

A trial date has been set for 28th July 2021.

NB: As this is a live case comments won’t be published until criminal proceedings have ended, thanks.

[Photo by Barb Baldinger]


Wildlife crime on grouse moors in the Peak District National Park – an illustrated talk by Bob Berzins

Bob Berzins is a conservation campaigner who has spent a number of years highlighting the ecological damage caused by grouse-shooting interests on the moors of the Peak District National Park (e.g. see guest blogs he’s written for Mark Avery here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

Regular blog readers will be well aware that the Peak District National Park has been identified as a hotbed of illegal raptor persecution for many years (e.g. see here) and this reputation continued, in and around this National Park (!) even when the country was in lockdown last spring (see here).

[A shot buzzard found critically injured at Rushup Edge, near Mam Tor in the Peak District National Park on 13th January 2020. It had to be euthanised. Photo via Derbyshire Constabulary]

Bob’s willingness to speak out about his findings on these Peak District grouse moors has led to him being targeted, like so many of us, by a campaign of harassment and intimidation from members of the grouse shooting industry, presumably in an attempt to silence him.

It’s a measure of the man that he hasn’t quietly slinked off, even in the face of the most malicious abuse, but has instead stood his ground and continued to share his experience and knowledge.

A few days ago he gave an illustrated presentation (online, of course) to the Sheffield Green Party. His talk was entitled ‘Wildlife Crime in the Peak District’ and it’s now available to watch on YouTube:

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