Posts Tagged ‘sparrowhawk


Sparrowhawk shot dead in North Yorkshire: police appeal for info

North Yorkshire’s shameful catalogue of raptor killing crimes just got a bit longer.

North Yorkshire Police are appealing for information after the discovery of a shot sparrowhawk at Feldom, Richmond.

The bird is believed to have been shot some time during the last week of April in the area of High Waitgate, close to the Marske to Newsham Road, just a few miles north of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

An x-ray revealed this bird died from shotgun injuries, probably shot from close range.

Anyone with information please contact Police Wildlife Crime Officer Mark Wood (Tel: 101) quoting reference number 12170073101.

X-ray from North Yorkshire Police.


A poisoned sparrowhawk, a poisoned bait, and a Royal estate in Norfolk

A couple of months ago an article was published in the Mail on Sunday about the ‘mysterious’ death of a satellite-tagged goshawk on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk (see here).

We blogged about it (here) and mentioned a number of other raptor-related police investigations that had been undertaken on or near the estate. On the back of that blog, somebody contacted us and asked why we hadn’t included on our list ‘the confirmed illegal poisoning of a sparrowhawk a few years ago’? We hadn’t included it because we didn’t know anything about it, so we thought we’d do some digging.

First of all we did a general internet search. If there had been a confirmed raptor poisoning on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate then surely that would have made a few headlines, right? We didn’t find any record of it.

So then we started looking at the government’s database on pesticide misuse and abuse (the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme, often shortened to ‘the WIIS database’). In that database we found the following entry:

Although this entry showed that a poisoned sparrowhawk and a poisoned bait had been discovered in Norfolk in October 2009, as usual, no specific location was given. We were, however, intrigued by the ‘Notes’ column, that said even though a confirmed poisoning had occurred, the police were ‘not taking this forward’ and instead the CRD (Chemical Regulation Directorate, which is part of the Health & Safety Executive) had ‘sent a warning letter to the estate’.

So we thought we’d submit an FoI to the CRD to ask for a copy of that warning letter, because it might reveal the name of the estate where the poisoned sparrowhawk and poisoned bait had been found. We were also curious about the content of that warning letter – if there had been a confirmed poisoning, why was a warning letter considered to be a preferred option to a prosecution?

We’ve now received the FoI response and have been working our way through the various files.

The first file we looked at was a series of correspondence letters between the CRD and the estate. The estate’s name had been redacted throughout. Hmm. The letters are really worth reading though – there are some pretty hostile attitudes on display and there’s clearly no love lost between CRD and the estate manager! Download here: CRD correspondence with Estate_2010

There’s also a letter from a Natural England officer to the estate, asking for various documents relating to pesticide risk assessments, gamekeeper contracts, and gamekeeper training certificates: Natural England letter to Estate 19Oct2009

We gathered from the CRD/estate correspondence that no further evidence of Bendiocarb had been found during a Police/Natural England search of the estate which is presumably why Norfolk Police didn’t charge anybody for the poisoned sparrowhawk and poisoned bait, because there was no way of linking it to a named individual. Anybody could have placed the poisoned bait. But a series of alleged offences relating to pesticide storage had apparently been uncovered and it was these issues to which the CRD warning letter referred, although it’s clear from the estate’s letters to CRD that the estate disputed the alleged offences.

While that’s all very interesting, we were still in the dark about the name of the estate where all this had happened. That is, until we read another file that had been released as part of the FoI: CRD_lawyer discussion of FEPA exemption

This file contains correspondence between the CRD and a number of lawyers. They were discussing whether the estate had exemption under Section 20(5) of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA). This exemption applies to land that is owned ‘in Crown interest’. There was a great deal of discussion about whether this estate (name redacted) was owned by the Crown or was privately owned by the Queen.

The lawyers decided that this estate (name redacted) was in fact privately owned by the Queen, and therefore exemption under Section 20(5) of FEPA did not apply. The lawyers had reached this conclusion after several internet searches on the status of this estate (name redacted) had been completed. What the FoI officer failed to do was redact the search phrases that had been used to reach their decision. Those search phrases included:

Now, if you Google the exact search phrase listed under (a) above (“the private home of four generations of British Monarchs“) you are directed to this website:

And if you go to the Crown Estates website and search for the exact search phrase listed in (b) above (“according to the Crown Estates website – one of Her Majesty the Queen’s private possessions handed down from previous generations“), you find this:

It’s all very interesting, isn’t it? This isn’t conclusive evidence that it was Sandringham Estate, of course, and there is no suggestion whatsoever that anyone associated with the Sandringham Estate was involved with placing a poisoned bait, although it is clear a poisoned sparrowhawk and a poisoned bait were found on a Royal estate in Norfolk (how many Royal estates are there in Norfolk?).

But what this does highlight, again, is the complete lack of transparency when the authorities investigate the discovery of highly toxic poisonous baits laid out on private estates with game-shooting interests, or the discovery of illegally killed raptors on privately owned estates with game-shooting interests.

Why has this case been kept secret since 2009?


Gamekeepers want sea eagles, kites, buzzards, sparrowhawks & ravens added to General Licences

Further to this morning’s blog about RSPB Scotland’s damning response to SNH’s General Licence consultation (see here), we said we’d write a separate blog about some of the other responses that SNH received.

SNH has now published all the responses, and they’re well worth a read: all-responses-to-snh-general-licence-consultation-2016

There are many organisations and individuals calling for ravens to be added to the General Licences (no surprise) and, yet again, there are a number of requests for buzzards and sparrowhawks to also be added, which would allow these species to be casually killed across Scotland without any monitoring or regulation, although some have suggested these raptors should be on ‘regional’ General Licences to limit the casual killing to a particular area. How thoughtful.

One of the reasons given for adding ravens and buzzards to the General Licences was this: “There are arguably too many of them around and they cloud the skies in our local area“.

Here’s a photograph of some ravens and buzzards clouding the skies:

Actually, this is a photograph (by Richard Barnes) of Dunlin flocking on the coast of North America but it could just as easily be a plague of swarming raptors over a Scottish grouse moor, if you happen to be a pathological raptor hater stuck with an 18th century attitude, that is.

Take a look at the consultation response from Garry MacLennan. Surely not the same Garry MacLennan, Head Gamekeeper at Invermark Estate? Aren’t raptors supposed to be ‘thriving’ there? Perhaps the headline should have read ‘Raptors are thriving on Scottish grouse moors and we want licences to kill them’.

Also have a look at the responses from Iain Hepburn (the same Iain Hepburn as the head gamekeeper at Dunmaglass Estate?), Duncan Mackenzie and Calum Kippen (the same Corrybrough Estate gamekeepers who attended the recent meeting between the Cairngorms National Park Authority & the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association?). Aren’t these the gamekeepers who want licences to monitor and ring raptors? Don’t they see a bit of a conflict of interest there if they also want licences to kill these raptors?

Best of all though, is the response from Bert Burnett (presumably of the SGA). Bert suggests that ravens should be added to the General Licences and argues that regional general licences “could be rolled out for various species that may start to cause problems like sea eagles and kites etc“. Ah yes, that very serious problem of sea eagles mistaking small children for prey.

Of course, these calls for licences to cull raptors are nothing new. Scottish (and English) gamekeepers and land owners have been asking for these for 20 years (see here, here, here, here, hereherehere). So far, SNH has resisted but given Natural England’s recent capitulation on buzzard-killing licences, how much longer before we see the same in Scotland?


Pigeon racing men convicted of poisoning peregrines & sparrowhawks

Four men associated with a pigeon racing club in County Waterford, Ireland, have been convicted of illegally poisoning peregrines and sparrowhawks, and other associated wildlife crimes.

The convictions are the result of surveillance and investigation by conservation rangers from the Irish Republic’s National Parks & Wildlife Service at three quarries in March and April 2014: Cappagh Quarry, Keereen Quarry and Carroll’s Cross Quarry. Live pigeon baits, smeared with poison and tied to stones or stakes had been found on a number of occasions at the top of the quarry cliffs, designed to lure in raptors. Four poisoned peregrines and two poisoned sparrowhawks had also been found.

pigeon poison wales 2012

On March 9th 2016 at Dungarvan District Court, the following individuals were convicted:

Stephen O’Brien, of 58 Congress Villas, Dungarvan, was convicted of 20 offences, including the use of a live decoy on five separate dates. He was fined 1500 Euros for each of the five dates (7,500 Euros in total) and the other 15 charges were recorded as ‘proven’.

Kevin Crotty (Chairman of Dungarvan Premier Pigeon Club) of 16 Lismore Avenue, Dungarvan, was convicted of 10 offences on five separate dates. He was fined 600 Euros for two offences and the remaining eight charges were recorded as ‘proven’.

John Crotty, of 23 Congress Villas, Dungarvan, was convicted of four offences. He was fined 700 Euros for one offence and the remaining three charges were recorded as ‘proven’.

Christopher O’Brien, of 79 Congress Villas, Dungarvan, was convicted of obstructing an Authorised Person during a search of his premises and with the illegal possession of protected wild finches. He was convicted of 16 offences. He was fined 700 Euros for one offence and the remaining 15 charges were recorded as ‘proven’. He was also ordered to forfeit a stuffed peregrine that had been found at his house.

The National Parks & Wildlife Service believes raptor persecution is a significant problem in Co Waterford and said peregrines had been a particular target, resulting in reduced breeding success. They encourage farmers and members of the public to report suspicious incidents, in confidence, to: Tel (01) 888 3242 or email

The photo shows a live pigeon decoy, smeared in poison and tied to a rock in a similar poisoning case in Wales in 2012 (photographer unknown).


Hooks attached to pigeon’s legs designed to injure raptors

The RSPCA is appealing for information after the discovery of a pigeon that had sharp hooks attached to its legs. The bird was found stuck in someone’s garden in Poolfield Road, Lichfield on Tuesday.

There’s only one reason for attaching hooks like this to a pigeon, and that’s to cause serious damage to any raptor, like a sparrowhawk or a peregrine, that might try to prey on the pigeon.

Pigeon hook 1

pigeon hook 2

Presumably the RSPCA has paid a visit to the local pigeon racing lofts in the Lichfield area as part of their investigation.

Full article in the Lichfield Mercury here


Stody Estate subsidy penalty confirmed

Following on from our blog five days ago about the subsidy penalty imposed against the Stody Estate as a result of their gamekeeper’s criminal poisoning activities (see here), the Rural Payments Agency has now clarified the actual size of the penalty:

RPA Stody Estate subsidy penalty - Copy

There’s something odd about this. Converting the penalty from Euros to Sterling using a currency converter app, the subsidy penalty amounts to £184, 745.08 (although the app used by Mark Avery has calculated the conversion to be £192, 160.63). Whatevs! Whichever calculation is accurate, it’s still a huge penalty and that’s good. And it still represents the highest known subsidy penalty imposed in the UK for cross-compliance breaches related to raptor persecution offences.

However, both of these amounts are considerably less than the amount we had calculated in our earlier blog five days ago.

We had previously calculated the penalty to be £221,946.75, which was 75% of the SPS subsidy that Stody Estate had received in 2014. We got the information about the amount of subsidy the Stody Estate had received in 2014 by doing a search on CAP Payments.

When you compare our first calculation of what the penalty was (£221, 946.75), with the amount the Rural Payments Agency now say the penalty is (£184, 745.08 OR £192, 160.63), it becomes clear that around £37,000 worth of potential subsidy penalty has apparently gone missing.

So either the data on the CAP Payments website are inaccurate, or the Rural Payments Agency has miscalculated and imposed a smaller penalty than they should.

Not sure we have the appetite for going back to the RPA to ask for clarification – it’s too much like hard work for a Friday afternoon. We’re quite content just to know that the penalty has finally been imposed and that the Stody Estate has had to suffer serious financial consequences as a result of the criminal actions of their gamekeeper. Good stuff.


Stody Estate receives £221,000 subsidy penalty for mass raptor poisoning

stody buzzardsRegular blog readers will know that in October 2014, gamekeeper Allen Lambert was convicted of a series of wildlife crime offences on the Stody Estate, Norfolk, including the mass poisoning of birds of prey (10 buzzards and one sparrowhawk) which had been found dead on the estate in April 2013. He was also convicted of storing banned pesticides and other items capable of preparing poisoned baits (a ‘poisoner’s kit’) and a firearms offence (see here and here).

Lambert got off pretty lightly when he was sentenced in November 2014. Even though the judge acknowledged that Lambert’s crimes had passed the custody threshold, Lambert received a 10-week suspended sentence for poisoning 11 raptors (suspended for one year), a six-week suspended sentence for possession of firearms and dead buzzards (suspended for one year) and was ordered to pay £930 prosecution costs and an £80 victim surcharge. In our opinion (see here), this was absurdly lenient for one of England’s biggest known mass raptor poisoning incidents, and on top of that, Lambert wasn’t even sacked – it was reported that he’d been allowed to take early retirement from the Stody Estate.

Regular blog readers will also know that for the last year, we’ve turned our attention to the minted Stody Estate to try and find out whether the Rural Payments Agency had penalised the estate for breaches in cross-compliance and had removed any of their £MILLIONS of agricultural subsidies as punishment. To receive these tax-payer handouts, estates must comply with a number of measures (like don’t poison raptors) and if they don’t comply, then cross-compliance subsidies can be removed.

It’s taken a while to get any useful information about potential subsidy penalties at Stody Estate. Getting the RPA to reveal anything about this case has been like getting blood out of a stone, or the truth out of Allen Lambert. The RPA has wriggled and squirmed and done its best to avoid answering straightforward questions: see here for previous blogs about our correspondence with the RPA. However, we’re pretty much there now, although not quite there.

Our latest FoI received a response this week. We had asked the RPA (again) whether they’d now enforced a cross-compliance penalty on Stody Estate. They answered: “Yes“.

We asked what the penalty was for, exactly. They answered: “The penalty that has been applied was for a breach of farmer requirement A1, of the pre-2015 Statutory Management Requirement 1 (wild birds). The requirement reads: ‘You must not intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird‘”.

We asked how much was the penalty applied to Stody Estate for this breach. They answered: “The financial amount has yet to be confirmed, however the penalty is 75% of the Single Payment Scheme payments made to the Estate in 2014“.

So, we now know a penalty has been imposed, but, unconvincingly, the RPA still claims it isn’t able to tell us how much that penalty is. Either they’re incompetent or unwilling to embarrass the Estate. Or maybe both.

Anyway, we’ve done a bit of digging. We’ve discovered that the Stody Estate received £295,929.01 from the Single Payment Scheme in 2014:

Stody SPS 2014 - Copy

75% of £295,929.01 is £221,946.75.

That’s a massive subsidy penalty! As far as we’re aware, this is the biggest ever civil penalty imposed for cross-compliance breaches in relation to raptor persecution crimes. Previously, the largest was £107,000 imposed on Glenogil Estate in 2008 following the discovery of 32 poisoned baits suspected of being used to target birds of prey (see here). Earlier this year, we blogged about the £66,000 subsidy penalty imposed on vicarious liability landowner Ninian Johnston Stewart, whose gamekeeper had been convicted of poisoning a buzzard (see here).

There may well have been other cases where a penalty greater than £221,946.75 has been imposed for cross-compliance breaches related to raptor persecution, but we’ve been unable to find any information. We’ve blogged previously (here) about why increased publicity is needed when these penalties are applied – the realistic threat of having thousands of pounds worth of subsidies removed from your business has got to be a far greater deterrent than the pathetically weak sanctions handed down in the criminal courts.

For this reason, over the next few months we intend to re-visit some other recent cases where a successful conviction has been secured for raptor persecution crimes and start asking some questions about whether those estates involved have also received a subsidy penalty (e.g. Kildrummy Estate, Cardross Estate for a start, and there are others).

There has previously been some discussion in the comments section of this blog about whether the new system for the Single Payment Scheme (replaced this year by the Basic Payment Scheme) would still allow for subsidy penalties for cross-compliance breaches relating to raptor persecution. Some readers thought the new system wouldn’t allow for penalties and other readers thought it would. It’s our understanding that the cross compliance rules for BPS in England still contain a Statutory Management Requirement (SMR) for Wild Birds (SMR2) stating that you must protect all wild birds, their eggs and their nests, so technically any recipient of BPS could still be fined for non-compliance with SMR2 if they were liable, vicariously or otherwise, for raptor persecution on their land.

However, the new system seems to be slightly different in Scotland where SMR2 states that you must protect all wild birds, their eggs and nests if you have land classified as a Special Protection Area. That could mean that a Scottish recipient of BPS could only be fined for breaching SMR2 if the breach took place in an SPA. If that interpretation is correct, it would exclude rather a lot of land. We’ll be seeking clarification from the Scottish Government about whether raptor persecution on non-SPA land would be considered a breach of the new SMR2.

A final word – thank you to all the blog readers who have exerted pressure on the RPA over the last year regarding the Stody Estate case; we know that a number of you have been involved. Had it not been for this sustained effort, the Stody Estate may well have escaped a penalty altogether, or perhaps been given a much smaller penalty. Well done!

Photo of some of the poisoned buzzards found at Stody Estate is by Guy Shorrock (RSPB Investigations)

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