Posts Tagged ‘short-eared owl


Case against grouse moor gamekeeper Timothy Cowin: part 2

Legal proceedings continued at Preston Magistrates Court yesterday in the case against gamekeeper Timothy David Cowin, 44, who is alleged to have shot two protected short-eared owls in April 2017 at Whernside, Cumbria in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is further alleged he was in possession of items (a shotgun and an electronic calling device) capable of being used to kill wild birds (see here for first blog about this case).

At a case management hearing yesterday Mr Cowin was invited to enter a plea but was stopped by his defence lawyer, Michael Kenyon. There followed an extraordinarily fractious series of submissions by the defence and the CPS prosecutor, Ms Parker.

The defence argued that not all the paperwork had been received from the CPS, despite many requests, and that some of the paperwork that had been received was “defective in its wording” and some witness statements were incorrectly dated. The defence submitted that the case should be dismissed on these technicalities.

The prosecution argued that some papers hadn’t been served because of the uncertainty of the address that had been provided (Mr Kenyon’s home address as opposed to a legal company’s business address) and that some communication from the defence had not been answered promptly due to the prosecutor being on annual leave. The issue of missing paperwork and incorrectly dated statements had been raised with the police and the CPS was awaiting a response.

District Judge Goodwin, looking quite exasperated by this farcical and ill-tempered display, suggested the lawyers improve their communications with each other. She directed the CPS to review the evidence by 29 March 2018. Once reviewed and revised as appropriate, the defence was directed to submit skeleton arguments and provide documents in support. The CPS was directed to serve a skeleton argument in response and provide documents in support, to be lodged with the court by 26 April 2018.

Mr Cowin was released on unconditional bail and was told he must attend the next court hearing, scheduled for 11 May 2018.


Gamekeeper accused of killing owls on grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park

A grouse moor gamekeeper appeared at Lancaster Magistrates Court this morning to face a series of charges linked to alleged wildlife crime.

Timothy David Cowin, 44, is alleged to have shot two protected short-eared owls in April 2017 at Whernside, Cumbria in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is further alleged he was in possession of items (a shotgun and an electronic calling device) capable of being used to kill wild birds.

Mr Cowin’s solicitor, Michael Kenyon, requested an adjournment and no plea was entered.

Mr Cowin will be invited to submit a plea at a case management hearing scheduled for 15th March 2018.

PLEASE NOTE: For legal reasons, we will not be accepting comments on this post at this stage. Thanks.

Photo of Lancaster Magistrates Court by Ruth Tingay


Short-eared owl shot on Leadhills Estate – police appeal for info

Police Scotland are appealing for information after the shooting of a short-eared owl was witnessed on the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate, South Lanarkshire.

According to this article in the Carluke Gazette, the shooting was witnessed about 11.45am on 31 May 2017 (ironically, the day Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced a package of new measures to clamp down on the illegal persecution of raptors on Scottish grouse moors).

Photo of a short-eared owl by Jamie MacArthur

The suspect/culprit is described by Police as “being small or medium build, driving a black 4×4 type vehicle with a dark canopy on it. The vehicle thereafter drove off to the B7040 Elvanfoot Road“.

Witnesses are sought, and those with information are urged to call Police Scotland 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Well done Police Scotland for getting this news out and not sitting on it for three years. More of this, please.

The location given is the same as described in an earlier Police appeal for information following the witnessed shooting of a hen harrier earlier in May 2017 (see earlier blogs here and here).

Here’s a map of the Leadhills Estate (Leadhills Estate in block red, dotted line denotes neighbouring Buccleuch Estate boundary, info from Who Owns Scotland).

And here is a map showing the B7040 Elvanfoot Road, which runs right across the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate:

We’ve blogged extensively about this estate (see here) and we’d particularly encourage new readers to have a look at the very long list of raptor persecution crimes recorded (49 incidents [now 50] recorded over the last 14 years see here). There have only ever been two convictions of estate gamekeepers.

We’ll be blogging more about this place shortly.

In the meantime, we need to see an immediate response from the Scottish Government. On 31 May 2017 the Cabinet Secretary told the world that the Government would “Immediately review all available legal measures which could be used to target geographical areas of concern“.

Has that been done? What are the legal measures available, and when will they be implemented?


Gas gun in use on grouse moor in Peak District National Park

As regular blog readers will know, we have an interest in the use of propane gas guns on grouse moors in the English and Scottish uplands.

For those who don’t know, propane gas guns are routinely used for scaring birds (e.g. pigeons, geese) from agricultural crops – they are set up to deliver an intermittent booming noise and the audible bangs can apparently reach volumes in excess of 150 decibels. According to the Purdue University website, 150 decibels is the equivalent noise produced by a jet taking off from 25 metres away and can result in eardrum rupture. That’s quite loud!

The grouse-shooting industry has claimed these are used for scaring ravens, but we argue they are more likely to be used (illegally) to disturb hen harrier breeding attempts. We are interested in the deployment of these bird scarers in relation to (a) their proximity to Schedule 1 (and in Scotland, Schedule 1A bird species) and thus any potential disturbance to these specially protected species and (b) their use in designated Special Protection Areas and thus any potential disturbance caused.

We, and others, have previously blogged about specific instances of gas gun use on grouse moors (e.g. see here and here) and we’ve been pressing the statutory nature conservation organisations (Natural England & Scottish Natural Heritage) to issue urgent guidelines on their use, so far without much success (see here, here, herehere and here).

Meanwhile, grouse moor managers are still using these gas guns. The following photographs were taken on Sunday 22 May 2016 in the Peak District National Park:

Gas gun 1 Broomhead - Copy

Gas gun 2 Broomhead - Copy

Gas gun 3 Broomhead - Copy

Gas gun 4 Broomhead - Copy

This gas gun is on the Barnside Moor, which is part of the Broomhead Estate, owned by Ben Rimington Wilson, a spokesman (see here) for the grouse-shooting industry’s lobby group the Moorland Association. The grouse moors of the Broomhead Estate are part of a regional Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Area (SPA), designated as a site of importance for short-eared owl, merlin, and golden plover.

Now, what’s interesting about the placement of this particular gas gun is that it lies a few metres outside of the SPA boundary, although the gas gun is pointing towards the SPA:

SPA OS - Copy

SPA close up - google map - Copy

What’s interesting is whether this gas gun was deliberately placed outside of the SPA boundary, to avoid having to ask Natural England for deployment consent? Although we would argue that even though the gas gun isn’t placed directly within the SPA, it is placed directly adjacent to it and the noise from that gas gun will definitely resonate across the SPA boundary line, potentially disturbing ground-nesting species such as short-eared owl, merlin and golden plover, for which the site was designated. (Hen harrier is not on the site’s designation list, presumably because when the site was designated, there weren’t any hen harriers nesting there, even though this is prime hen harrier habitat!).

But even though the gun isn’t directly placed within the SPA, it does sit (just) within the SSSI boundary:

SSSI close up - google map - Copy

This leads us to believe that the deployment of this gas gun will require consent from Natural England as it falls under the list of ‘operations likely to damage the special interest of the site’, namely, ‘change in game management and hunting practice’.

Has Natural England given consent for the deployment of this gas gun at this site? If so, how has it justified that deployment? If Natural England hasn’t given consent, is the deployment of this gas gun contrary to section 28 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act?

We don’t know the answers to these questions because we’re still waiting for Natural England to publish its policy on gas gun use, even though this guidance document was promised before the start of the 2016 breeding season!

Natural England needs to pull its finger out, pronto, and publish clear guidelines for use. If you’d like to email Alan Law, Natural England’s Chief Strategy & Reform Officer (he’s the guy who last September told us the guidelines would be available by early 2016) and ask him where that guidance document is, here’s his email address:

You may also remember that a couple of weeks ago, SNH gave their opinion of what we should do if we found a gas gun being deployed on a grouse moor (see here). It was a very confused statement, but part of their advice was that intentional or reckless disturbance of a Schedule 1 species (such as hen harrier or merlin) is an offence and any suspected incidents of this through gas gun use should be reported to the police.

In our view, this would be a big waste of time – we can’t see the police having any interest in investigating gas gun use, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t know where to start. But, just as a test case, why don’t we report this gas gun to South Yorkshire Police as a suspected wildlife crime (potential reckless or intentional disturbance of a Schedule 1 species) and let’s see what they do with it.

Here is the information you need:

Gas gun grid reference: SK233978, Barnside Moor, Peak District National Park

Date observed in use: 22 May 2016

Please report this to Chief Superintendent David Hartley, South Yorkshire Police’s lead on wildlife crime:

We’d be very interested in any responses you receive!

And if you’re in email-sending mode, you might also want to sent one to Sarah Fowler, Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Authority and ask her whether there is a policy for the deployment of bird scaring devices on sensitive moorlands within the National Park. Email:


Two short-eared owls shot dead nr grouse moor in County Durham

Durham Police are appealing for information following the discovery of two dead short-eared owls in Co Durham.

The birds, found on 2nd March, had been shoved inside a pothole near to Selset Reservoir near Middleton-in-Teesdale. Their corpses were sent for post mortem which revealed they had been shot.

News article in the Chronicle here

You have to wonder why it’s taken the police seven months to appeal for information. It’s possible that there was a delay in receiving the post mortem results, but even so, the discovery of two owls inside a pothole surely raises suspicions of criminal behaviour? It’s ironic that the police appeal is eventually made during National Wildlife Crime Aware Week, where police forces across the country are advising the public how to spot signs of wildlife crime and encouraging them to report it. What’s the bloody point if the police then sit on the information for seven months?

Interesting to look at the land-use close to Selset Reservoir…..check out this Google map and note all those weird rectangular shapes (burnt strips of heather) – this is driven grouse moor country.

Ban driven grouse shooting: sign the petition here.

Photos of the two dead short-eared owls by RSPB.

Selset reservoir shot SEOs




Henry’s Tour day 42: Leadhills

Thurs 11th June Copy

Henry went with an armed escort to visit Leadhills in South Lanarkshire.

He looks a bit distressed. Perhaps he was being deafened by the booming gas guns that have recently been deployed on the grouse moors of the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate.

Or perhaps he’d just been told about the long list of wildlife crimes that have been discovered in this corner of South Lanarkshire; 46 confirmed since 2003, but only two resulting in successful convictions (2004 – Leadhills Estate gamekeeper convicted of shooting a short-eared owl; 2009 – Leadhills Estate gamekeeper convicted of placing out a poisoned rabbit bait).

Here’s the list, all from Leadhills unless otherwise stated:

2003 April: hen harrier shot [prosecution failed – inadmissible evidence]

2003 April: hen harrier eggs destroyed [prosecution failed – inadmissible evidence]

2004 May: buzzard shot [no prosecution]

2004 May: short-eared owl shot [gamekeeper convicted]

2004 June: buzzard poisoned (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 June: 4 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 June: crow poisoned (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2004 July: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 February: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 April: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2005 June: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 February: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 March: poisoned pigeon bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 April: dead buzzard (persecution method unknown) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 May: poisoned egg baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: 6 x poisoned rabbit baits (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 June: poisoned egg bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: 5 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2006 September: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 March: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 April: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2007 May: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2008 October: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2008 October: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2008 November: 3 x poisoned ravens (Carbofuran) [listed as ‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

2009 March: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 March: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 April: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran) [gamekeeper convicted]

2009 April: poisoned magpie (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2009 April: poisoned raven (Carbofuran) [no prosecution]

2010 October: short-eared owl shot [no prosecution]

2011 March: illegally-set clam trap [no prosecution]

2011 December: buzzard shot [no prosecution]

2012 October: golden eagle shot (just over boundary with Buccleuch Estate) [no prosecution]

2013 May: shot otter found on estate [no prosecution]

2013 June: significant cache of pre-prepared poisoned baits found on estate [no prosecution]

2013 August: red kite found shot and critically-injured in Leadhills village [no prosecution]

2014 February: poisoned peregrine (Carbofuran) [‘Nr Leadhills’] [no prosecution]

Word has it from a local informant that a suspected shot raven was found on Leadhills Estate in May 2015. Post-mortem results are awaited.

Just a few weeks ago, we were sent footage of a young man dressed in camouflage who was lying on the moor holding a firearm, looking over at a plastic decoy peregrine which had been placed on top of a small mound. When he realised he’d been spotted, he removed the decoy and took off back down the hill on a quad bike. Can’t imagine who that was or what his intentions might have been.


Henry’s Tour: Day 20

Monday 27 April  Copy

Henry’s arrived in Yorkshire in his quest to find a mate. This should be interesting.

North Yorkshire (includes North York Moors National Park & Yorkshire Dales NP) is the worst county in England for recorded incidents of bird of prey persecution.

Between 2004-2013 there were 70 confirmed raptor persecution incidents. (2014 data not yet published).

These 70 incidents included:

  • At least 26 confirmed incidents involving the illegal use of pesticides – these include the illegal poisoning of 14 red kites, six buzzards, one goshawk, one peregrine plus the finding of a number of poisoned baits; several domestic pets were also poisoned.
  • The confirmed shooting of 25 birds of prey – consisting of 10 buzzards, three red kites, three kestrels, two goshawks, two peregrines plus singles of hen harrier, sparrowhawk, short-eared owl and eagle owl.
  • The illegal trapping of seven birds of prey plus another 11 illegally set traps for raptors.

In connection with these incidents six individuals, all gamekeepers, were prosecuted.

Hen harrier last bred successfully in North Yorkshire in 2007, despite huge areas of suitable habitat.

A Natural England study between 2002 and 2008 showed that of 11 HH breeding attempts recorded in North Yorkshire, only five sites reared any young and most of the sites that failed were believed to be due to human persecution.



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