Peregrine & two buzzards found poisoned: police appeal for info

Press release from South Wales Police (Bridgend & Vale of Glamorgan), 29th June 2018:

We are appealing for witnesses after three birds of prey were poisoned.

We are investigating the deaths of a peregrine falcon and two buzzards at Ruthin Quarry in the Vale of Glamorgan. The birds were found dead in the quarry on March 26.

[RPUK map]

A toxicology report confirmed that the birds were killed using a poisoned bait bird which was laced with a banned pesticide.

PC Mark Goulding, wildlife and environmental crime officer, said: “The killing of birds of prey is a serious wildlife offence. Raptor persecution is a National Wildlife Crime priority.

The poisoned birds ingested bait laced with the banned pesticide which was deliberately set out. I would urge anyone who may have witnessed this crime or who has information about this incident to come forward.

Anyone with information on illegal use of pesticides against wildlife can call us on 101 quoting 1800106122 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111“.


The police press release didn’t include any photographs but from what has been described (“using a poisoned bait bird”) and given the location, it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that this crime involved a live pigeon smothered in poison and tethered to a rock so that its helpless flapping attracted predators. This is a well-known barbaric persecution method that has been used for years, especially in Wales and Ireland, by some involved in pigeon racing who want to take out peregrines on the pigeon racing routes (e.g. see here).

Photo of a poison-smeared tethered pigeon at a quarry in Wales in 2012 (photographer unknown)

Species Champion Andy Wightman visits golden eagle satellite-tagging team

Earlier this year Scottish Greens MSP Andy Wightman took on the role of Golden Eagle Species Champion.

Species Champions are members of the Scottish Parliament who have agreed to lend their political support to the protection of Scottish wildlife, in an award-winning scheme organised by Scottish Environment LINK.

[Photo: Ruth Tingay]

As a long-time reader and supporter of this blog, Andy shares our concerns about the on-going threat to golden eagles from illegal persecution in some areas of Scotland. He’s also well aware of the compelling evidence published in the Scottish Government-commissioned review of the fate of satellite-tagged golden eagles, which demonstrated that almost one-third (n = 41) of sat-tagged eagles in Scotland have ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances, most of them on or close to intensively managed driven grouse moors.

As many of you will know, last year in partnership with Chris Packham we satellite-tagged a shedload of golden eagles as part of a wider collaborative scientific study on the dispersal and land-use of juvenile golden eagles, to help inform conservation planning for this species. One of those eagles, Fred, ‘disappeared’ from the Pentlands in January this year in the same highly suspicious circumstances as the other 41 ‘missing’ eagles (and this grim tally has since increased following the recent suspicious disappearance of golden and white-tailed eagles on grouse moors in the Monadhliaths (here), the Cairngorms National Park (here), and the Strathbraan area of Perthshire (here)).

This year we’ve satellite-tagged more eagles (another shedload) and Andy joined a team of expert licensed fieldworkers from the Scottish Raptor Study Group, who, with support from local landowners, have been visiting nest sites across Scotland.

We anticipate releasing a short film and an interview with Andy in due course.

Meanwhile, here’s one of this year’s satellite-tagged golden eagles. This is ‘Adam’, named by Andy in tribute to Dr Adam Watson, an influential character during Andy’s formative years on the hill!

[Photo: Ruth Tingay]

British Game Alliance: more greenwash from the shooting industry?

The UK gamebird-shooting industry is in crisis at the moment, with ever-increasing numbers of gamebirds being reared and released (estimated in the region of 50+ million pheasants & red-legged partridge each year) but supply is outstripping demand as game dealers struggle to sell the shot birds for human consumption. This has resulted in the widespread and illegal dumping of shot birds in the countryside (e.g. see here, here, here, here) which is causing serious damage to the reputation of the shooting industry.

Fearing enforced regulation, the shooting industry has come up with ‘the way forward’ and has established an organisation called the British Game Alliance, ‘the official marketing board for the UK game industry’, which, according to the Countryside Alliance, “aims to run a ‘British Game’ assurance scheme to ensure our game meets the highest standards“.

The British Game Alliance’s standards are quite high (see here for what is expected) and apparently compliance with these standards will be regulated and monitored by external auditors.

Sounds good, eh? In principle, yes, but our expectations were low in March 2018 when the Shooting Times revealed some of the individuals involved, including one name that made us laugh out loud given his links to estates with long histories of alleged (and sometimes proven) wildlife crime.

The British Game Alliance was launched with much fanfare and political support in May 2018 and we’ve been watching its website to find out which shoots (and sporting agents) have met the organisation’s ‘shoot standards’ to become listed as an ‘assured’ member. So far, the website hasn’t listed any of its assured members but promises that registered members will be ‘listed soon‘.

However, the British Game Alliance’s twitter feed (@BritishGame) has been more forthcoming. We were scrolling through this morning and were surprised to read this:

A police investigation took place at Wemmergill in 2015 after the discovery of two short-eared owls which had been shot and their corpses shoved inside a pothole (see here). There wasn’t a prosecution.

Another police investigation took place at Wemmergill in February this year following the sudden and explicable ‘disappearance’ of satellite-tagged hen harrier Marc (see here).

Even more surprising to read on the British Game Alliance’s twitter feed was this:

Edradynate Estate will be a familiar name to regular readers of this blog.

It is currently serving a three-year General Licence restriction imposed by SNH following sufficient evidence (substantiated by Police Scotland) that raptor persecution has taken place but insufficient evidence to prosecute a named individual (see here).

Edradynate Estate has been at the centre of investigations for alleged wildlife crime for a very, very long time. It’s well worth reading an earlier summary we wrote (here) which includes some fascinating commentary about the estate by former RSPB Investigator Dave Dick, who claimed as far back as 2004 that the estate was “among the worst in Scotland for wildlife crime“, and commentary by former Police Wildlife Crime Officer Alan Stewart, who said in 2005, “Edraynate Estate has probably the worst record in Scotland for poisoning incidents, going back more than a decade“.

The details involve a disturbingly high number of poisoned birds and poisoned baits that were found over the years, as well as a number of dropped prosecution cases. The most recent dropped prosecution case came just last year, when the Crown Office refused to prosecute an Edradynate gamekeeper for alleged buzzard poisoning, despite Police Scotland urging otherwise (see here).

Despite at least 22 police investigations over several decades (according to Alan Stewart), nobody from Edradynate Estate has ever been successfully prosecuted for any of these alleged wildlife crimes.

And there lies the problem with the British Game Alliance’s shoot standards. If you look at shoot standard #19, ‘Where a shoot or its employees are successfully prosecuted for wildlife crimes, the shoot will be expelled from the BGA and their membership revoked‘.

Given the well-documented difficulties of securing a successful prosecution for wildlife crime, which is an issue even recognised by the Scottish Government, hence the recent introduction of General Licence restrictions, it’s quite clear that some undeserving estates will get the official seal of approval from the British Game Alliance, thus reducing any confidence the public may have had in this well-intentioned scheme.

The people’s walk for wildlife: join Chris Packham in London on 22 September 2018

Chris Packham is organising The People’s Walk for Wildlife in London on Saturday 22nd September 2018.

Here’s why:

There’s much more detail to come and there’ll be a few surprises in store!

Be there and be part of this revolution.

Keep an eye on Chris’s website for further news.

Job vacancy: Director, OneKind

Harry Huyton, the current Director of Scottish animal welfare charity OneKind will be leaving his position later this summer to join the Scottish Greens as Director of Political Strategy, working in the Scottish Parliament to deliver the Greens’ agenda.

Harry has worked tirelessly at OneKind and has brought the charity significant prominence recently, especially with its campaign against the culling of mountain hares on driven grouse moors. This campaign included the creative stunt of parking a truckful of soft cuddly toy mountain hares outside the Scottish Parliament to replicate the now infamous image of the truckload of shot mountain hares, slaughtered by gamekeepers in the Cairngorms National Park.

[Photo by Stuart Spray]

It’s good to know that Harry’s new job will see him continue to work on many of the same issues, incuding grouse moor management, but this time from within Parliament. We wish him every success and look forward to further collaboration in the coming years.

Harry’s impending departure means that OneKind are now recruiting for a new director. Here is the job advert:

Position: Director (full time, permanent)

Location: Edinburgh

Salary: c £40k

OneKind was founded in 1911 to advance animal welfare, the protection of animals from cruelty and the prevention of animal suffering.

Our vision is for people to live in harmony with animals, ending cruelty in Scotland and working with others to deliver better animal welfare across the UK and globally. We achieve this by giving animals a voice through campaigning and lobbying for laws that will protect animals forever, and by inspiring people to make changes in their lives to reduce their negative impact on animals.

OneKind works in the mainstream of the animal protection movement to deliver positive change for animals in Scotland, and, through working with others, across the UK, Europe and beyond. We have decades of experience in helping to shape the legislative and cultural landscapes through high-profile campaigns, political lobbying, investigations and public education. We take a practical, evidence-based approach to understanding and developing solutions to animal welfare problems.

As Director you will lead the OneKind team, developing and delivering high-profile and impactful campaigns and research, and continuing to grow support and fundraising income for OneKind. Reporting to and working with the Board of Trustees, you will ensure OneKind meets the highest standards of governance and provide the staff team and volunteers with an inspiring and supportive working environment.

For more information please contact Alan Surgeon (Trustee) at AWS Recruitment: / 0131 344 4646

  • Applicants must have a passion for Animal Welfare and ideally experience within Policy / Campaigning. An understanding of Fundraising would also be an advantage.

Deadline: Thursday 12th July
Interviews: Friday 20th July
Application: CV & Cover Letter to: Alan Surgeon /


Environment gains new junior minister in Government reshuffle

Cabinet Secretaries Roseanna Cunningham (Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform) and Fergus Ewing (Rural Economy & Connectivity) both retained their senior positions in the Scottish Government after yesterday’s reshuffle, despite strong rumours that one or both would go.

We’re delighted to see Roseanna is still in post.

And as an indication of the importance of the Scottish Government’s Environment portfolio, we’re also pleased to see today’s announcement of a new appointment (subject to Parliamentary approval) – congratulations to Mairi Gougeon for a well-deserved promotion to become Minister for Rural Affairs & Natural Environment.

Having to report to both the Environment Secretary and the Rural Economy Secretary, this looks to be a challenging junior ministerial role, especially given the very apparent divisions between protecting wildlife & the environment and the often selfish financial interests of the game-shooting industry, amongst others. But Mairi Gougeon is no stranger to a challenge – she’s the Species Champion for the Hen Harrier!

Well done, Mairi, we look forward to seeing you continue to speak up for raptors and other protected species.

[Photo from Mairi Gougeon’s twitter feed after a visit to watch hen harriers at an RSPB reserve]

Raptor rehab expert gets funding support from both Yorkshire National Parks

A bit of a good news story for a change! Yorkshire’s two National Park Authorities have found a creative way of providing funding support to Jean Thorpe, an expert wildlife rehabilitator who works tirelessly (and voluntarily) to care for the victims of illegal raptor persecution across the region.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the North York Moors National Park Authority have come up with a plan to make Jean an ‘official volunteer’, which means that they can now cover her travel expenses when she’s called out to help rescue birds of prey and owls within the Parks’ boundaries.

Given the region’s consistent reputation as the worst county in England for illegal raptor persecution, these funds will help Jean’s work considerably.

Of course, there shouldn’t be any raptor persecution within these two National Parks and some may argue that the funds should be directed towards targeting the criminals and enforcing the law. It’s a fair point, but also an idealistic one. In recent months we have seen some significant movement from the National Park Authorities (particularly the Yorkshire Dales NPA) who have stopped pretending raptor persecution doesn’t happen and instead have begun to focus on how to address it (e.g. see here and here), but there’s a long way to go.

Until raptor persecution has been eradicated from these two National Parks, finding a way to provide financial support for Jean’s work is a welcome move and we applaud the two Park Authorities for their creative thinking.

Press release from Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority:

Birds of prey specialist Jean Thorpe has become an official volunteer for the two National Park Authorities in North Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors, meaning that they can cover her travel expenses while she helps rescue and rehabilitate injured birds.

The Malton-based ‘Raptor Rescue Rehabilitator’ provides specialist care for injured raptors and owls.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund has also awarded Mrs Thorpe £150 for a first response kit.  This ‘first aid kit for birds’ will help her provide initial on scene care.

The birds that come to Mrs Thorpe’s attention are from a variety of sources, including road traffic collisions, overhead wire collisions, as well as birds displaying signs of being illegally shot, trapped or poisoned.

A successful example of her work can viewed here.

Jean Thorpe, who was appointed an MBE in 2014, said: “It is excellent to get support from the two National Parks in North Yorkshire.  I am very grateful. They offer some of the best habitats in the English uplands for raptors but unfortunately I do see some horrendous injuries from illegally trapped or shot birds.  Some, but by no means all, make a recovery and get released back into their natural environment ‘’

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority Area Manager Matt Neale, who works with partner organisations through Operation Owl to tackle illegal bird of prey persecution in the National Park, said:  “Jean has a great deal of knowledge built up over many years when it comes to the rehab of injured birds. This is very specialized work.   I would also like to pay tribute to a number of other individual businesses who support Jean with her work.  This has not gone unnoticed.  Jean x-rays every raptor to help diagnose injuries and to identify the possible cause.

Her biggest expense is mileage, as Yorkshire is a big place, so by signing Jean up as a volunteer we can help.  North York Moors National Park Authority have joined us and done the same.  We are all so grateful for her unstinting support for wildlife in both National Parks.”

Debbie Trafford, Head of Recreation and Ranger Services at the North York Moors National Park Authority, added: “Either through illegal persecution or accidents, injured birds of prey sometimes with appalling injuries are discovered requiring help, and that is where Jean excels.  National Parks are important areas for raptors and we are committed to improving the situation.”


Preston man receives police warning for raven cull death threat

The BBC News website is reporting that a 47 year old man from Preston has been arrested and given a formal ‘harassment warning’ following an alleged death threat sent to SNH Chair Mike Cantlay over the controversial Strathbraan raven cull licence.

Good. This sort of behaviour is wholly unacceptable and it’s a shame this individual only received a warning, given the Sentencing Council’s guidelines for those who make threats to kill.

Interestingly, the BBC article places great emphasis on the fact that Chris Packham sent an email to Mike Cantlay in which he criticised SNH’s decision to issue the raven cull licence. We’re not sure why that’s relevant given that Chris’s email did not incite anyone to attack or threaten Mr Cantlay, and given that SNH received complaints from 1247 people but only one appears to have been stupid enough to include an alleged death threat. Perhaps the BBC is playing the same game as The Times, who, tipped off by SNH, published an article about the alleged death threat and ludicrously tried to link it to Chris’s email.

Then there are the usual clowns on social media who tried to use the alleged death threat to characterise those of us opposing the raven cull licence as “sickos”, “criminals” and “animal rights vijilantees” [sic].

Sadly for them, 795 of us have chosen not to send death threats nor indeed commit any other offence in reaction to the raven cull licence, but instead have decided to exercise our democratic right and support a lawful legal challenge against SNH’s decision to issue the licence. Over £19.5k has now been raised by an on-going crowdfunding appeal that aims to raise £25k by 4th July to cover legal costs.

If you’d like to donate to help support this legal action PLEASE CLICK HERE

And don’t forget you can now order #Justice4Ravens fundraising merchandise (t-shirts & beanie hat) with 100% of profits going to the crowdfunder but hurry up, these are limited editions and are selling fast! (See here for order details).

Thank you

Red kites found illegally poisoned at nest site

Press release from RSPB, 20 June 2018:


RSPB (Northern Ireland) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are appealing for information after a pair of protected red kites died through illegal poisoning in County Down.

A male bird was found in distress close to a known nest site in the Katesbridge area on April 24. A member of the public alerted RSPB NI but the bird died shortly afterwards. When the RSPB NI red kite project officer attended the scene, she found the female parent bird immobile on the nest – she too was dead. A rescue mission was launched in an attempt to save three orphaned eggs found in the nest beneath the deceased mother.

[Photo by RSPB]

The bodies of the parent birds were collected and taken for toxicology testing by the PSNI. This has now revealed that both birds – known as Blue 21 and Red 63 because of their identifying tags – died from Carbofuran poisoning.

Red kites, along with all birds of prey, are protected in Northern Ireland under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (NI) Act 2011. Carbofuran is a highly toxic pesticide which has been banned across the EU since 2001 due to its high toxicity towards wildlife and humans.

Red kites mostly hunt within 2.5km of their nest site. The male bird brings food for the incubating female bird, so it is possible that the male bird found a poisoned bait – such as a rabbit – and likely brought this back to the nest to feed the female bird. The dead male’s first partner (Blue 13) also died by poisoning in 2014 in the same area.

Under licence from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), the rescue operation ensured that the three eggs were fostered into two wild red kite nests, alongside other eggs, in the hope of saving them.

In one of the nests two transferred eggs failed as they were found intact (unhatched) during a follow-up inspection. In the other nest – which hosted one adoptive egg alongside two other eggs – one chick was found on the nest. As there were no egg shell remains it’s unknown if the sole chick on this nest was from the donor egg.

A nestcam was installed by RSPB NI to monitor this chick – which was named ‘Solo’ by RSPB NI red kite volunteers. This is the first time staff have been able to monitor behaviour and development as well as share the red kite’s early life with the public and schools participating in the RKites project, a funded red kite education and engagement project. A live stream on the nest is available to view at

PSNI Wildlife Liaison Officer, Emma Meredith, said, “Incidents such as this give rise to concerns, as poisons are generally very dangerous. We would have serious concerns over any poison but particularly over Carbofuran. We are disappointed that we are still dealing with cases involving Carbofuran, an incredibly dangerous substance and one which can kill birds of prey but also a child, family pet or any adult coming into contact with it. We would remind the public that if they discover a bird of prey that they suspect has been poisoned or killed in any other suspicious circumstances to leave the bird/s and/or bait in situ and call the PSNI as soon as possible. If anyone has information about the use of Carbofuran and/or the death of these protected birds then we would be really keen to hear from them. The person responsible needs to be identified to ensure that no further risk is posed to other wildlife, domestic pets, or even humans.”

Claire Barnett, RSPB NI Conservation Team Leader, added: “We are shocked and saddened by what is the loss of a generation of red kites. With only around 20 breeding pairs in Northern Ireland, our red kite population is particularly vulnerable to persecution.

Carbofuran is an illegal and deadly poison and should not be used in our countryside. It is such an incredibly dangerous substance.

We would like to once again make it clear that red kites are mostly scavengers and feed on roadkill and other dead animals they find on their foraging flights. During the breeding season, adults will often hunt young crows, magpies, rats and rabbits. They are no threat to livestock or game.”

Red kites were persecuted to extinction across the island of Ireland 200 years ago. A decade ago this summer, in 2008, the RSPB – along with project partners the Golden Eagle Trust and Welsh Kite Trust – began a reintroduction project that has been successful in encouraging the birds to breed here.

Like all birds of prey in Northern Ireland, red kites are specially protected as a Schedule 1 species under The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (as amended). As a Schedule 1 bird, red kites are protected by special penalty and their nests are also provided with protection all year under Schedule A1. Those found guilty of persecution could be given a custodial sentence and/or fines of up to £5,000 per offence.

Mark Thomas, Senior Investigations Officer at the RSPB, said: “Carbofuran has a history of being used to kill birds of prey. Like all birds of prey, red kites are protected by law.

There have been 10 confirmed red kite persecution incidents recorded in this area in the last decade. This is not acceptable. We urge anyone with information about this incident to contact the police immediately on 101.”

Claire Barnett added, “We would like to thank communities, landowners and schools across Northern Ireland – particularly in County Down and County Armagh – for their ongoing support for the red kites project. There is always an outpouring of outrage when red kite persecutions are reported. It is so disappointing that a minority of people continue to endanger red kites by using illegal poisons including Carbofuran. But the majority of people here are behind the RSPB in our work to give these remarkable birds of prey a home in Northern Ireland.”

Anyone with information can contact police on the non-emergency number 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 quoting reference number 802 of 24/4/18.


#Justice4Ravens fundraising merchandise now available

As mentioned yesterday, our friends at the Probable Bird Society (@YoloBirder & @Stewpottery) have created some #Justice4Ravens fundraising merchandise (t-shirt & beanie hat).

100% of profits are being donated to the SRSG crowdfunder, which is aiming to raise £25k to help cover the costs of a legal challenge against SNH’s decision to issue the raven cull licence.

These items are limited edition, only available to order for the next 7 days, and are already selling fast!

The t-shirt (available in ladies & mens design) is £13.99 and can be ordered here

The beanie hat is £10.99 and can be ordered here

If you’re interested in buying both the t-shirt and the hat, there’s a special bundle price of £21.99 and you can make your order here

Thanks a million @YoloBirder & @stewpottery and thanks to everyone who is helping to support the crowdfunding appeal.