Buzzard found shot dead in Suffolk

From East Anglian Daily Times (26 Feb 2018)


Police are investigating the shooting of at least one Common buzzard – a legally protected bird of prey – that was found dead in a Suffolk wood.

Two buzzard corpses were reported to Suffolk Constabulary’s wildlife crime team in an incident described by naturalists as “appalling and abhorrent.” The bodies were found in woodland known as Little Carr, “on the edge of a shooting estate” on the banks of the River Dove, near Hoxne, the team’s Sgt Brian Calver said yesterday.

The discovery was reported by “a person with shooting rights”, but when a police officer visited the site only one corpse could be found. It was believed that the birds died in January, he said.

At first it was thought the bird that was found may have died as a result of poisoning but analysis of X-rays has proven that the bird was shot. We are in the process of looking into this and we will be as absolutely thorough in our investigations, as we are with all wildlife crime – and we will be trying to secure a prosecution,” said Sgt Calver.

He urged members of the public who discovered any bird of prey corpse in the countryside to report their find and its exact location to police. Any corpse should not be handled, because of the risk of poison being involved, but photographic evidence would be helpful, he added.

[Buzzard photo by RPUK]

Gi Grieco, chairman of the 400-strong Suffolk Ornithologists’ Group, said the latest persecution case was “appalling and abhorrent.”

The illegal persecution of birds of prey on the grouse moors of upland Britain is a well-documented, ongoing and major conservation issue but cases such as this latest one in Suffolk – which is certainly not the first of its kind – shows that this illegal activity is also a problem in lowland Britain,” said Mr Grieco.

This is a disgraceful incident and we hope that the police investigation results in a prosecution that ends with the appropriate penalty imposed on the perpetrator.”

The site of the incident is in Waveney Bird Club’s catchment area and club founder Steve Piotrowski, the author of The Birds of Suffolk, said: “This is yet another upsetting case of raptor persecution. It’s a shame that countryside thugs are tarnishing the name of the shooting estates that do stick to the law and do some good things for conservation.

The criminals think they can get away with it. The police do seem to struggle with prosecutions and they need all the help a vigilant public can give them.

Common buzzards were rare in Suffolk up to the 1980s because of heavy persecution that took place previously but now they are recovering, hopefully, to the level they should be at. For them to still be persecuted is not just upsetting, it’s illegal.”

Lewis Thornley,the British Association for Shooting and Conservation’s director for central England, said: “While it’s important to remember that an investigation is ongoing, BASC utterly condemns crimes against protected raptors and would urge anyone with information to assist the police.

Anyone shooting a protected species damages shooting’s reputation and puts at risk the freedoms currently enjoyed by those who shoot legally and sustainably. Such actions have no place among the law-abiding shooting community.”

Anyone with information relating to the buzzard deaths is asked to contact Suffolk police on 101 and ask for Pc Lee Andrews-Pearce, quoting the crime reference 37/8990/18


Sparrowhawk shot dead nr Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Press release from North Yorkshire Police:


Police are appealing for information after a sparrowhawk was found shot near Knaresborough.

The dead female sparrowhawk was found by a member of the public north of the village of Nidd, between Knaresborough and Ripley, with a fresh, bloodied injury, on Sunday 25 February.

The results from a subsequent x-ray showed that the bird had a smashed and broken wing. The x-ray also revealed a piece of shot lodged in the bird’s body. A police investigation is now underway.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take wild birds. Nevertheless birds of prey (raptors) are still shot, poisoned and trapped, and North Yorkshire has more confirmed incidents of raptor persecution than any other county in England. As part of a bid to tackle this, in February North Yorkshire Police teamed up with the RSPB, RSPCA, and North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks to launch ‘Operation Owl’. The joint initiative saw staff distribute flyers and posters to local businesses and talk to members of the public about raptor crime, to raise awareness of the issue.

Sergeant Kevin Kelly, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said: “Our wonderful countryside is host to many specially-protected birds of prey. It is absolutely unacceptable that people think they can ignore the law and subject these birds to poisonings, shootings, nest destruction and the illegal use of spring traps without consequence. We will be doing everything in our power to catch these offenders, supported by our colleagues in the RSPB and the volunteers in the national parks.”

Guy Shorrock, RSPB Senior Investigations Officer, added: “Two years ago a red kite was found shot in this same area, so there is clearly a problem here. We believe there will be someone out there who has information about what is going on in this area. We urge you to come forward and call us, in complete confidence, on our Raptor Crime Hotline.”

Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to call North Yorkshire Police on 101, choose option 1 and be ready to quote reference 12180034821.

Alternatively email If you wish to remain anonymous, call the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline for free on 0300 999 0101.


An impressively detailed and quick press release & clear evidence of genuine partnership working. Great stuff from North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce.

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

UPDATE 16 March 2018: Case against grouse moor gamekeeper Timothy Cowin part 2 (see here)

UPDATE 14 May 2018: Case against grouse moor gamekeeper Timothy Cowin part 3 (see here)

Legal challenge against Hen harrier brood meddling – crowdfunder launched

Do you want to see justice for Hen harriers?

Do you oppose DEFRA’s outrageous Hen harrier brood meddling scheme?

Do you want to support a legal challenge against the brood meddling licence that Natural England has recently issued?

Here’s how you can help.


Edinburgh Council called to action following suspicious disappearance of golden eagle Fred

Press release from Edinburgh Green Party:

Edinburgh Green councillors have called on the City Council to take action following the suspicious disappearance of Fred the Golden Eagle from the Pentlands in January. The council’s environment committee will consider a motion on Thursday 1 March from Green councillor Chas Booth to raise the issue with the Scottish Government. The motion also urges the Pentland Hills Regional Park to write to landowners in the area urging them to report suspicious activity to the police.

Chas Booth, Green councillor for Leith, and a member of the council’s environment committee, said,

I was walking with my family just a few fields away from Fred’s last GPS location near Currie the day before his disappearance was made public. It is heart-breaking to think that, had it not been for his suspicious disappearance, my children might have witnessed this spectacular bird soaring over the Pentlands. And it appears no other Edinburgh resident will witness that amazing sight either, at least in the short term.

So I would encourage anyone who has any knowledge of the disappearance of this magnificent bird to contact Police Scotland on 101 or the RSPB raptor persecution hotline on on 0300 999 0101, to ensure that, if a wildlife crime has indeed happened in this case, that those responsible can be brought to justice.

And I hope the council will approve my motion on Thursday, to send a clear message that wildlife crime will not be tolerated in Scotland’s capital. I also urge the Pentlands Hills Regional Park authority to engage with landowners in the area to encourage them to report any suspicious behaviour to police.”

The full text of the motion to be considered by the council’s environment committee is below:

City of Edinburgh Council

Transport and Environment Committee

1 March 2018

Green Motion – Suspicious disappearance of ‘Fred’ the Golden Eagle in Pentland Hills


  1. Notes with grave concern reports of the suspicious disappearance of ‘Fred’ the Golden Eagle, who hatched from a nest in the Scottish Borders to the only breeding pair of Golden Eagles in the region, and who, according to his satellite tag, was in woodland near Currie in January 2018, within the Edinburgh Council boundary; 2.
  2.  Notes that Fred’s satellite tracker is reported to have suddenly and inexplicably stopped transmitting on 21 January 2018, and then to have mysteriously started transmitting again on 24 January 2018, with a GPS location some 15 miles offshore of St Andrews, Fife.
  3. Further notes that RSPB Scotland and Raptor Persecution UK regard Fred’s disappearance as highly suspicious and believe it is likely that he has been illegally killed;
  4. Notes that the Golden Eagle is a magnificent and majestic bird and one of the largest birds of prey in the British Isles, notes that it is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but notes that nonetheless it has been illegally killed and persecuted in the past;
  5. Notes that a Scottish Government-commissioned study in 2017 found that 41 of 131 satellite-tagged Golden Eagles had disappeared in suspicious circumstances, most of them at or near to managed grouse moors;
  6. Notes that the Scottish Government have established a working group with a view to establishing a licensing regime for game-shooting estates;
  7. Agrees that the suspicious disappearance of Fred is deeply regrettable, and urges anyone with any knowledge of this incident, or any other incidents of possible wildlife crime, to contact Police Scotland on 101 or alternatively call the RSPB’s new confidential raptor crime hotline on 0300 999 0101;
  8. Agrees that the Council Leader will write to the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment expressing the council’s grave concern at this incident, asking her to outline a timetable for the introduction of the licensing of game-shooting estates; offering the council’s cooperation with any such licensing regime, and offering the council’s support for consideration of stiffer penalties for wildlife crime;
  9. Agrees to refer the matter to the Pentland Hills Regional Park Joint Committee, to ask them to consider writing to landowners in the region highlighting this incident and encouraging them to report any suspicious activity to Police Scotland or the RSPB.

Moved by            Cllr Chas Booth


[Photo of Fred by Ruth Tingay]

Raptor persecution: Chris Packham’s extended interview with Ian Thomson

Ten days ago we published a video about the highly suspicious disappearance of Fred, one of our satellite-tagged golden eagles.

The video included a number of interviews that had to be edited due to time contraints in the original film. One of those interviews was Chris Packham talking with Ian Thomson (Head of Investigations, RSPB Scoland) about the continued illegal persecution of golden eagles in Scotland.

Here is the full interview:

Buzzard found shot dead near Powys

From ITV News:

A buzzard which was found illegally shot near Powys has prompted concern by the RSPB and police.

The bird was found dead on the ground by a walker near Llanrhaeadr-ym-mochnant on 10 February, and it was reported to the police.

The bird was X-rayed by a local vet and found to contain at least eight pieces of shot.

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

Jenny Shelton of the RSPB said: “It is saddening and concerning to hear that another protected bird of prey has been shot. This is a serious problem in Wales and the rest of the UK, and one which the RSPB employs a specialist team to tackle. We recently launched a hotline to provide a means of reporting crimes against birds of prey in complete confidence. Someone out there will know what has happened to this bird – please speak out and help end this brutal and illegal behavior“.

41 reports of wild bird crime in Wales were made to the RSPB’s Investigations unit in 2016, according to the 2016 Birdcrime report, published last November.

The report also revealed that there were no prosecutions for bird of prey persecution in the UK during 2016.

RSB Cymru Biodiversity Manager Stephen Bladwell said: “Knowing another bird of prey has fallen foul to persecution in Wales is disheartening. The latest Birdcrime report showed Powys was joint second highest UK County for raptor persecution from 2012-16 – with 22 confirmed incidents during the period. It seems there is a real problem in the county that needs addressing quickly if we are to protect the area’s wildlife. Our investigations team will continue to support Natural Resources Wales and the Rural Crime Team to address the issue“.


Raptor persecution: Chris Packham’s extended interview with Roseanna Cunningham

Last week we published a video about the highly suspicious disappearance of Fred, one of our satellite-tagged golden eagles.

The video included a number of interviews that had to be edited due to time contraints in the original video. One of those interviews was Chris Packham talking with Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham about her reaction to the continued illegal killing of golden eagles and other raptors on or near to land managed for driven grouse shooting.

Here is the full interview.

Golden eagle Fred makes it to First Minister’s Questions in Scottish Parliament

Many thanks to Alison Johnstone MSP for raising the issue of Golden eagle Fred’s highly suspicious disappearance, at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliamentary chamber this lunchtime.

Here’s what Alison said, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s response:

Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green): In 2017, a rare and beautiful young golden eagle was raised in the Scottish borders by the only pair of breeding adults there. He was satellite tagged, and last month he left home for the first time. Less than a week later, he disappeared in the Pentland hills near Currie. His tag stopped sending data for three days, then started again, this time in the North Sea off St Andrews. RSPB Scotland and Raptor Persecution UK regard the disappearance as highly suspicious, and I believe it is likely that the young eagle has been illegally killed.

Donald Dewar described the persecution of birds of prey as “a national disgrace”, but it is still going on. What is the Scottish Government doing in response to the reports? Will the First Minister finally commit to a licensing regime for game bird shooting?

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon): First, I agree that the persecution of birds of prey is unacceptable, and I absolutely associate myself with the comments that Alison Johnstone has made in that regard. The Government treats this and sees it as an extremely serious issue.

As Alison Johnstone will be aware, a group was set up following a report on the issue that was commissioned and published last year, and it is looking at various aspects such as licensing and the impact of grouse shooting. I—and, I am sure, Roseanna Cunningham as the responsible minister—will be happy to meet Alison Johnstone to discuss that work in more detail. I am sure that all of us across the chamber are united in agreeing that this is unacceptable and requires to be tackled robustly.


The video of this exchange may be viewed on Scottish Parliament TV here (starts at 12.33.20).

It’s not the first time in recent months that illegal raptor persecution has been discussed at such a high level Parliamentary session. Last May, Richard Lochhead MSP raised the issue of video inadmissibility in the case of the shot hen harrier on Cabrach Estate and the Crown’s decision to drop criminal proceedings.

Golden eagle Fred: the SGA doth protest too much

The highly suspicious disappearance of our golden eagle Fred continues to make the news.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has issued the following press release today:


The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has called for an end to the ‘trial by media’ over a golden eagle which has gone missing near Edinburgh.

Last week, BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham issued a press release claiming a young satellite tagged eagle had gone missing just miles from the Scottish Parliament, in a wood in the Pentland Hills.

According to the Springwatch presenter, the tag was later found to signal in the North Sea, after appearing to stop transmitting for three days.

A video released to the media by Packham – who actively campaigns for grouse shooting to be banned- implied that the eagle, which has not been located, had been illegally killed.

The video the BBC presenter appeared in, pointed the finger at a grouse moor as it was geographically close to the wood and fields where the bird was understood to be.

Now the SGA has called for an end to what it describes as unsubstantiated speculation and for greater transparency over evidence.

Despite media claims that the area 7 miles to the south of the capital is managed for driven grouse shooting, the moor is used principally as a partridge shoot as quarry numbers are now too low to sustain viable grouse shooting due to high levels of public access.

The area is popular with hikers, dog walkers and mountain bikers from Edinburgh and beyond, with the Pentland Hills welcoming 600 000 visitors per year.

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “Trial by media has already taken place. Now everyone who has been drawn into this needs the truth as to what happened to this eagle.

It is not enough for people to be implied as being criminals and those in possession of the satellite tag evidence to walk away, after presenting their judgement to the media, then say no one will probably ever know what has happened.

If the tags are as reliable as everyone has been told, then the tag data will surely provide conclusive evidence. Many questions need to be answered including why it could not be located in the sea, if it continued to transmit locational data for several days.

There needs to be greater transparency because there are too many elements to the carefully stage-managed narrative which do not stack up despite its presentation as a fait accompli.

If, by releasing this evidence, in full, to Police Scotland, it helps to bring this to a successful conclusion or prosecution, then the SGA and others would be satisfied that justice, as we have come to expect justice to look like, will have run its course.

In the meantime, serious allegations have been made against a community of people on the basis of a running commentary of media speculation, implication and suggestion which makes a laughing stock of what looks to be a live investigation.”


We have provided a response to media enquiries, reproduced in full here:

The circumstances of Fred’s disappearance are highly suspicious and fit with the findings of the Scottish Government’s recent review of the fates of satellite-tagged golden eagles in Scotland, which demonstrated that almost one third of tagged golden eagles have disappeared without trace in areas managed for driven grouse shooting.

Since our initial press release, we have obtained further information from Fred’s tag which corroborate our earlier suspicions that Fred is a victim of illegal persecution. Far from “walking away”, as the SGA claims, this new information has been passed to the police for investigation so we cannot comment further at this stage.

It’s laughable that the SGA is complaining about ‘trial by media’ when one of its own Directors has been using social media to smear and discredit the conservationists involved in this project, suggesting we’ve fabricated the whole story. If the SGA used its time and resources more productively to root out the criminals within the game-shooting industry, eagles like Fred would stand a much better chance of survival“.


Meanwhile, we’re still waiting to hear from the SGA whether Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson, who was recently convicted of animal cruelty, was a member of the SGA at the time he committed his crime and if so, whether he has now been expelled. Strangely, the SGA has not yet commented.

Emails to: