Peregrine found shot in Cambridge

Police are appealing for information after the discovery of a shot peregrine on the outskirts of Cambridge.

The young bird was discovered injured on 18 September 2017 and was reported to the Raptor Foundation. A veterinary x-ray revealed a pellet from an air rifle lodged in its shoulder and a metal fragment also lodged in its wing, preventing the bird from flying. Vets believe the bird could have been shot up to 10-14 days earlier based on its low weight.

Information from the peregrine’s leg ring revealed this bird fledged from a nest on the outskirts of Cambridge earlier this year.

The peregrine is currently receiving expert care at the Raptor Foundation but it’s not yet known whether it will recover sufficiently to be released back to the wild.

PC Alun Bradshaw of Cambridgeshire Police is urging anyone with information to come forward. Tel 101 and use incident reference number CF0539270917.

Media coverage:

Cambridge Independent News here

BBC News here

RSPB Investigations blog here

ITV news here

The Natural England Hen Harrier satellite tag cover up: part 2

Last month we blogged about how Natural England is continuing to withhold information about the last known locations of 43 hen harriers that were satellite-tagged between 2007 – 2017 and that are listed by Natural England as ‘Missing, fate unknown’. Natural England’s explanation for what might have happened to these ‘missing’ hen harriers included a suggestion that they could have died on their backs, thus preventing the tag from transmitting further data. Unbelievably, Natural England did NOT suggest that illegal persecution on driven grouse moors might be a contributory factor in these disappearances (see here). This is plainly absurd. We know that Natural England acknowledges illegal persecution on driven grouse moors is the main cause of this species’ catastrophic decline, otherwise why instigate, as part of the Hen Harrier Action Plan, the controversial brood meddling scheme on, er driven grouse moors?

Photo: a dead, satellite-tagged hen harrier. A post-mortem revealed it had been shot.

We argued that Natural England has a duty to release this information as the tags (and their data) have been paid for by us, the tax-payers, as part of a 15-year study on hen harrier dispersal, a project for which the public has seen no meaningful output/results. We also argued that by continuing to withhold these data, Natural England is either being incompetent or being deliberately obstructive, or both. The intention is clearly to shield the criminals within the driven grouse shooting industry.

We suggested that at the very least, Natural England could publish a map showing the locations and habitat type of where these 43 ‘missing, fate unknown’ hen harriers went off the radar, at such a resolution that it wouldn’t compromise sensitive nest/roost site locations. By doing this, we might be able to detect some patterns to see whether these hen harriers disappeared at random locations across the landscape (which you’d expect if the birds had died on their backs of natural causes) or, rather like satellite-tagged golden eagles, they disappeared in suspicious clusters in certain grouse moor areas.

We encouraged blog readers to submit formal FoI requests to Natural England to ask for the release of these data. Many of you did – well done, and thank you. Over the last week or so, Natural England has been sending out a generic response to these requests, as follows:

Needless to say, we don’t accept this explanation.

Fist of all Natural England claims not to hold the maps. Eh? Are they trying to tell us that after 15 years of study, nobody, not even the PhD student that was supposed to be analysing these data (and who, we were told at various conferences over the years, was ‘on the verge’ of submitting his thesis), has ever bothered to map the last known locations of these ‘missing’ hen harriers?!! And even if that is the case (which seems highly implausible), all Natural England has to do to generate such a map is to input the location of the last known sat tag signals in to a simple GIS programme and voila! There’s the map! This would take an undergrad less than five minutes to complete.

Natural England then claims that the release of these data would ‘endanger hen harriers’. Er, these hen harriers are already dead (probably)! NE claims that the data would ‘compromise the locations of sensitive breeding and roosting sites’. Not if the data were released at such a low resolution that the actual sites couldn’t be identified.

Natural England then argues that the data are ‘intended to be used to collaborate with highly respected academics’ (and who might they be?) and that these academics need ‘a safe space to do the research’. Eh? How would releasing partial, low resolution data threaten the academics’ ‘safe space’ (whatever that may be)?

We could go on. However, let’s cut to the chase.

The bottom line is that we disagree with Natural England’s reasons for continuing to withhold the data and we intend to challenge them on it. The next step in this process is to complain to Natural England about this response and ask Natural England to undertake an ‘internal review’. Natural England then has a duty to ask another member of staff to review NE’s original response.

If the internal review results in the same decision (i.e. that NE will continue to withhold the data), then the next step after that will be to submit an official complaint to the Information Commissioner.

However, before we can complain to the Information Commissioner, we have to exhaust the official route of complaining to NE and asking for an internal review.

So, if you’ve received one of these letters (as above) from Natural England, we’d encourage you to write back to them and say you find NE’s original response unsatisfactory (and explain why), and ask for a formal internal review.

Thank you.

Raptor persecution in the Peak District National Park: last night’s programme

The BBC’s Inside Out programme last night featured an excellent piece on driven grouse shooting and its association with illegal raptor persecution in the Peak District National Park.

If you missed it, it’s available to watch on BBC iPlayer here for the next 29 days.

There were some great quotes, that we’ll record here for posterity:

Tim Birch (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust): “People love this place. And it is a national disgrace that we do not have the kind of birds of prey that should belong back in this landscape“.

Mistress of the understatement, Blanaid Denman (RSPB Skydancer Project): “Six years ago in 2011 there were four successful [hen harrier] nests in England. This year there were three. So I think it’s safe to say things are not going very well“.

Mark Avery (talking about driven grouse shooting): “More and more people are becoming aware of the problems and agitated about what’s happening in our National Parks“.

Andy Beer (Midlands Director, National Trust) talking about the NT’s advertisement for a new tenant on the Hope Woodlands & Park Hall Estate following the imminent removal of their current tenant:We won’t settle for a partner who we can’t have 100% confidence in. We haven’t been prescriptive in our tender about whether it should be driven grouse shooting or not, but certainly very intensive forms of land use are difficult to square with our outcomes, including increasing numbers of birds of prey“.

The current shooting tenant at Hope Woodlands & Park Hall Estate (believed to be Mark Osborne) apparently declined to comment about the removal of the shooting lease.

Steve Bloomfield (Director of Operations, BASC), talking about raptor persecution: “We’ve seen people that have broken the law. There’s always a minority in any profession that brings it in to disrepute, and we want to get rid of them from our profession“. Fine words, but what action, exactly, has BASC ever taken to oust the criminals from the grouse shooting industry? Perhaps if BASC spent more time focusing on that instead of campaigning with the Countryside Alliance to get Chris Packham silenced (e.g. here, here, here), or if the BASC Chairman (in his capacity as a lawyer) hadn’t defended the right of a gamekeeper to keep his firearms certificates even though the keeper was known to have placed poisons in an underground stash on a grouse moor (here), Steve Bloomfield’s statement might be more credible.

Surprisingly, the Moorland Association, which represents grouse moor owners, did not make an appearance in this film, but apparently told the BBC it “fully supports efforts to encourage numbers of hen harriers“. Really? Is this the same Moorland Association whose Director said last year,

If we let the hen harrier in, we will soon have nothing else. That is why we need this brood management plan“.

One other interviewee worthy of mention here was a chap called Ian Gregory, listed as ‘grouse shooting spokesman’. We don’t know if this is the same Ian Gregory as the Ian Gregory from You Forgot the Birds but judging by the poor quality of his comments in last night’s film, it may well be.

Commenting on footage of a Moscar Estate gamekeeper trying to release a badger from a snare by shooting at the snare, Ian Gregory said:

In these pictures we’re seeing a badger being released from a trap which was intended for foxes. Foxes are a nightmare for ground-nesting birds and that’s the reason that gamekeepers try to reduce the number of foxes that we have“.

Apart from revealing his woeful ignorance of ecological food webs, Ian Gregory forgot to mention that snares must never be set on runs where there is evidence of regular recent use by non-target species such as badgers, as they may be caught or injured by the snare. And, according to BASC’s Code of Best Practice, ‘Knowledge of the tracks, trails and signs of both target and non-target species [i.e. badgers] is essential. If you are not competent in identifying the tracks, trails and signs of non-target species, you must not set snares‘.

As an aside, it’s worth reading former Police Wildlife Crime Officer Alan Stewart’s blog about the CPS’s decision not to prosecute the Moscar Estate gamekeepers, here.

Ian Gregory had more unsubstantiated tosh to impart to the viewer. Talking about hen harriers, he said:

There is a problem about their populations in the UK. Some of that may be down to illegal activity but it’s also down to the pressure of human beings wanting more places for recreation, more countryside for recreation, more for their homes, so it’s not just a question of persecution, this is a much more complicated issue“.

Ah, so the demand for new housing on driven grouse moors is responsible for the catastophic decline of breeding hen harriers in England? And the scientific evidence for that claim is…..where, exactly? We had a look in the Conservation Framework for Hen Harriers which set out very clearly that illegal persecution was the biggest single factor affecting the hen harrier population’s chance of survival. Funnily enough, new housing estates being built on grouse moors didn’t feature.

All in all, this was an excellent film by the BBC’s Inside Out film and even more members of the public will now be aware of the disgraceful activities of the grouse shooting industry.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider signing this new e-petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting. PLEASE SIGN HERE.

Environment Committee to seek ‘detailed update’ on gamebird shoot licensing petition

As mentioned on yesterday’s blog (here), the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee met this morning and discussed progress on Logan Steele’s petition (on behalf of the Scottish Raptor Study Group) calling for the introduction of a licensing scheme for gamebird hunting.

The discussion was over in a flash and the Committee agreed to keep the petition open and write to the Scottish Government / Cabinet Secretary for a “detailed update” about the progress that has been made on the proposed package of measures announced by the Cabinet Secretary in May 2017, including the establishment of an independent group to look at the environmental impacts of grouse moor management.

Good. We’re all eager to hear about what progress has been made.

Well done, Environment Committee, for not letting this slip off the radar.

Ban driven grouse shooting – new petition launched!

Persistence is a beautiful thing….

Gavin Gamble has lodged a new epetition on the UK Government website calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting [in England]:

Gavin has also set up a website to provide further background reading on this issue – here

Mark Avery blogged about the imminent launch of this new petition last week, while the Westminster Petitions Committee was still checking that it met the required petition standards. His blog attracted a fair few comments and they’re well worth a read.

Gavin’s petition has now gone live and will be open until 2 April 2018 (assuming there isn’t another general election before then in which case the petition will be closed early).


Gamebird shoot licensing: Environment Committee to review progress tomorrow

The Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee will meet tomorrow to discuss progress on the petition calling for the introduction of state-regulated licensing for gamebird hunting.

As you know, this petition was lodged with the Public Petitions Committee in the summer of 2016 by Logan Steele, on behalf of the Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG). The Petitions Committee took evidence in October 2016 from the SRSG and RSPB Scotland (see here) and then evidence from the Scottish Moorland Group and BASC in December 2016 (see here) before deciding to pass the petition to the Environment Committee for further consideration.

The Environment Committee first considered the petition in January 2017 (here) and then heard evidence from various organisations (SRSG, RSPB Scotland, SNH, SGA and SLE) in April 2017 (here).

On the basis of those evidence sessions, on 23 May 2017 the Environment Committee agreed to keep the petition open and to write to Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham (see letter here) to recommend that the Scottish Government explores the implementation of a licensing scheme for grouse moor shooting, much to the disappointment of the grouse shooting industry which doesn’t think licensing is necessary and basically just wants to maintain the status quo.

The following week, on 31 May 2017, the Environment Secretary announced a significant package of measures designed to protect raptors and to investigate the wider environmental and economic impacts of grouse moor management:

Since that announcement on 31 May 2017 we’ve heard very little more, although in mid-September Roseanna Cunningham told the Scottish Parliament that “good progress is being made” and that she will “announce further details shortly“.

Perhaps we’ll get an announcement this week? It’s good to see the Environment Committee isn’t letting this issue slide.

Tomorrow’s meeting will be available to watch live on Scottish Parliament TV (here) (Committee Room 1 from 10am) and we’ll post an archive of the video and the official transcript when available.

UPDATE 3 October 2017: Environment Committee to seek ‘detailed update’ on licensing petition (here)

Raptor persecution in Peak District National Park – BBC 1 this evening

Tonight’s BBC’s Inside Out programme will feature an investigation in to raptor persecution that’s taking place in the Peak District National Park.

This is a regional programme (BBC East Midlands) starting at 7.30pm but will be available on iPlayer shortly afterwards (see here).

To coincide with this programme, the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has today called the low number of raptors in the National Park “a national disgrace” and blamed activities relating to the driven grouse shooting industry (see BBC news article here).

The article also mentions the footage that we published in April 2016 appearing to show an armed man sitting close to a hen harrier decoy on a National Trust-leased grouse moor within the National Park. This resulted in the National Trust terminating the grouse shooting lease four years early and searching for a new tenant. The National Trust has come under increasing public pressure not to lease the moor for grouse shooting and the campaigners are expected to be included in tonight’s Inside Out programme.

Part of the Peak District National Park (mostly the grouse moors of the Dark Peak area) has been recognised as a raptor persecution hotspot for many years (e.g. see RSPB ‘Peak Malpractice‘ reports here and here). As a result of the ongoing concerns, in 2011 the National Park began hosting a Bird of Prey Initiative where ‘partners’ are supposed to have been ‘collaborating’ to increase bird of prey populations. It has failed miserably. In 2015 it was announced that none of the project targets had been met (here) but that the Iniative was going to continue with “renewed commitment” and “new rigour and energy“. Strangely, we haven’t heard any more results from this so-called partnership initiative since then, although Rhodri Thomas, an ecologist with the Peak District National Park Authority gave a very honest presentation at the Sheffield raptor conference in September 2016. His opening words were:

Has the Initiative worked? Well, we’ve not met the targets that we’d set for 2015, we’ve not met them by a fairly substantial amount in some cases, so I think the answer from that point of view is a fairly clear no“.

Meanwhile, cases of confirmed illegal raptor persecution have continued to emerge (e.g. a shot peregrine that was found critically injured next to a Peak District grouse moor in September 2016. It didn’t survive its injuries).

Don’t forget – BBC 1 (East Midlands) Inside Out tonight at 7.30pm.

Sticking with the Peak District National Park and alleged wildlife crime, did anyone see yesterday’s news that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided there will no charges relating to the alleged snaring of badgers that was filmed by the Hunt Investigation Team on the Moscar Estate earlier this year? Interesting.

Also of interest, to us, was the name of the spokesman for Moscar Estate who was cited in the article: Ian Gregory. Surely not the same Ian Gregory of You Forgot the Birds notoriety?

Buzzard shot in Hertfordshire

Press release from Hertfordshire Police, 26 September 2017:

Officers from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Rural Operational Support Team (ROST) are appealing for witnesses and information after a buzzard was found seriously injured.

The bird was found by a member of the public on a track leading off Ledgemore Lane, Great Gaddesden, Hemel Hemstead on Wednesday September 6th 2017.

The bird was recovered and examined by a veterinaty surgeon. It was concluded that the bird had been shot and sadly, due to the severity of its injuries, the animal had to be put to sleep.

PC Simon Tibbett, from ROST, said: “All British wild birds, their nests and their eggs are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. Therefore it is an offence to shoot a buzzard or interfere with their nests in any way and punishable by a fine or up to six months in jail.

As a bird of prey, buzzard persecution is monitored by DEFRA and the National Wildlife Crime Unit as raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority.

We take wildlife crime very seriously in Hertfordshire and we are keen to trace those responsible for this offence. I would urge anyone with information to please get in touch“.

Jenny Shelton, Investigations Liaisons Officer at the RSPB said, “I think we speak for most people when we say we are angry and saddened to hear that someone has shot this bird. 

Our UK population of buzzards dropped during the 20th century due to unlawful killing, and sadly persecution is still a problem today. If you know anything about this incident, please contact police on 101 or the RSPB Investigations team on 01767-680551“.

Anyone who has witnessed people shooting or carrying hunting rifles in the area, or has any further information, should contact PC Simon Tibbett on Hertfordshire Constabulary’s non-emergency number 101, quoting reference D1/17/7143.


Two more buzzard shootings were reported from nearby London Colney in April 2017, both believed to have been shot with an air rifle – see here.

Buzzard photo by RPUK