Brilliant response from North Pennines AONB to illegal buzzard shootings

On Thursday we blogged about two separate wildlife crimes that had occurred recently in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) where two buzzards had been shot – one near Steel and one near Blanchland (see here), an area with a growing reputation for raptor persecution.

[Photo of one of the shot buzzards and an x-ray by Hadrian Vets]

This is an area where the landscape is dominated by grouse moors and we commented on the number of ‘official’ signs in the region offering public information on access rules and warning of ‘dangerous mine or quarry excavations’. We suggested that in addition to these signs, the North Pennines AONB Partnership team might consider putting up other signs, warning the public that they were entering a known raptor persecution hotspot, offering tips on what to look out and providing information about how to report any suspicious activity.

This led to a short discussion on Twitter with the Director of the AONB Partnership, Chris Woodley-Stewart , who told us there weren’t any plans to put up new signs because he “doubted we’d get permission“. Presumably that means permission from the land owners.

It’s difficult to understand why grouse moor owners in a raptor persecution hotspot might not want to encourage members of the public to keep an extra eye out for raptor killers, isn’t it? Aren’t they all supposed to find raptor persecution abhorrent? Aren’t they all supposed to be doing their utmost to fight it? Aren’t they represented by the Moorland Association on the police-led Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG)? Isn’t their Moorland Association rep, Amanda Anderson, chomping at the bit looking for ways her members can contribute to the objectives of the RPPDG (e.g. raising awareness about raptor persecution)? Isn’t one of the conditions of being an RPPDG member the need to provide evidence of either proactive or reactive responses to raptor crime? The Moorland Association hasn’t even published a statement on its own website to raise awareness about these latest crimes against two birds of prey. We fully expect RPPDG Chair Nick Lyall to hold the Moorland Association to account at the next RPPDG meeting.

In complete contrast to the Moorland Association’s apparent silence, the North Pennines AONB Partnership (also a member of the RPPDG) has responded brilliantly, and, refusing to be deterred by the constraints of potentially unhelpful private landowners, the Partnership has instead taken the initiative to distribute posters on public land, and deliver leaflets to shops and pubs, alerting the public to the buzzard shootings, appealing for information, and informing people what to do if they suspect raptor crime in their area.

[Photo of a North Pennines AONB Partnership team member posting an appeal for information on a public notice board. Image from @NorthPennAONB]

Not only that, but Chris Woodley-Stewart has written an angry statement that’s been posted on the front page of the North Pennines AONB website, as follows:


Comment from Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director, North Pennines AONB Partnership

Two buzzards – a protected species – have been shot in the north eastern part of the North Pennines (24th April at Steel, Hexhamshire and 13th May near Blanchland). One bird survived the shooting but its injuries meant it had to be euthanised. But that’s a euphemism – it had to be killed, which was the vile intention of the person who shot it.

We hear a lot (though actually not enough) about the potentially catastrophic long-term declines in our wildlife populations, but buzzards have bucked the trend. There’s been a tremendous eastward recolonisation by buzzards over the past 20 or so years and they are now a daily sight here in the North Pennines, when once they were very scarce. There are around 65,000 pairs of buzzard in the UK now and it’s our most common raptor; I find that a cause for great joy – these are magical birds, for me symbols of freedom and wild places.

We have no idea who killed these birds, though logically it is someone with access to a shotgun. Regardless of who is responsible, or why they did it, this is not merely objectionable, it is a crime and whoever did this is a criminal.

This corner of the North Pennines is gaining a reputation as a raptor crime hotspot, these two buzzard deaths adding to the eight red kites that have been illegally killed in the Muggleswick area (5 miles from Blanchland) since 2010. The killers are breaking the law, tarnishing the reputation of the place they live in and, most importantly, needlessly killing our precious native wildlife.

AONB Partnership staff have been out leafleting the area this morning, putting up posters and giving flyers to shops and pubs, calling for information on the recent crimes. We have written to the relevant Parish Councils today to draw their attention to these incidents. If you have relevant information, you can come forward confidentially and use the RSPB’s Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101 or contact the police on 101, quoting log 722 14/05/19. You can also provide information through

Whoever is doing this, for whatever reason, it simply has to stop.


The speed with which the AONB Partnership has reacted, and the unequivocal condemnation of these wildlife crimes, including a public acknowledgement of the area’s growing reputation as a raptor persecution hotspot, is to be applauded. This is a first class response, entirely what should be expected of a genuine RPPDG member, determined to play their part in the fight against raptor persecution. Well done to all at the North Pennines AONB.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen clear public condemnation of raptor crime by an AONB being despoiled by ongoing raptor persecution. In recent years we’ve also heard from the Chair of the Nidderdale AONB (here), the Chair of the Bowland AONB (here) as well as the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (here) and the Peak District National Park Authority (here).

Public awareness is growing, the pressure is mounting all the time.

UPDATE 25 May 2019: The second buzzard shooting incident was originally reported as being on 14 May 2019. We’ve now been advised (by North Pennines AONB Director Chris Woodley-Stewart), that the bird was found on 13 May 2019. Text now amended above.

9 thoughts on “Brilliant response from North Pennines AONB to illegal buzzard shootings”

  1. Incredible !
    A public body actually doing something i.e. putting up posters, in relation to the raptor massacre.
    We should all take our hats off to them.
    Perhaps we are turning a small corner ?

    Keep up the pressure !

  2. Great response: I wonder if the Cairngorms lot will ever have the bottle to do something similar?

  3. What a refreshing response. But what a shame we can’t expect this as the norm from nature organisations. Thanks to North Pennines AONB!

  4. Where have the beavers in the Forest of Dean gone? ask DEFRA. Civil Servannts have to be very careful in what they say and do. Play safe do not ruffle feathers hence the unwillingness of putting in place posters regarding raptor killings in National Parks.

  5. Yes a refreshing response. Meanwhile on the Cumbrian side of the North Pennines AONB on Thursday the 10 mile walk from Kirkland up onto Cross Fell, Greg’s Hut and back, which is on sheep and cattle grazed desert where the grouse Moor has given way, yielded not a single bird of prey in 5 hours. The same route a fortnight ago scored the same nil result for birds of prey, as did 3 hours up the road onto Great Dun Fell. That’s not a buzzard, not a kestrel, indeed the peace on the hills is wonderful but I like peace punctuated by bird calls and not wall to wall silence until a few pairs of golden plover near the top rendered the silence mournful. One curlew called as I left the valley, one lapwing took flight as I returned to the valley and in between a maximum of 7 skylarks and even fewer meadow pipits, no wheatear, 1 pair of Dunlin at the top. O.K. There were early morning gun shots as I left the valley but let’s assume that to be for rabbits, I couldn’t see the crow trap of the previous visit but this documents a very sad tally for what should be a fine upland area. It wasn’t as if I was distracted in conversation, I was scanning through binoculars, searching in the hope that there might be some vestige of life to show. Bleak! The North Pennines houses some iconic species but between grouse and sheep how can this patch be regarded as of ‘natural beauty’?

  6. This is good news.

    I hope the parish councils and MPs in the area start to pay more attention to the issue than they have for the last 28 years or so that one local resident – John Gill – has tireless tried to highlight the matter.

    Over the last 7 weeks or so, John has covered the entire front of his house and gate with photos of some of the many animals and birds he has found and rescued or reported dead during that period. His determination to expose the terrible scale of wildlife killing in this particular area is incredible.

    I’d like to think that his brave stand has encouraged others to start to do more to publicise these scandals that seem to be allowed to take place time and time again.

    [Ed: This paragraph deleted as potentially libellous (infers a named estate owner’s involvement)]

    The pressure is building! Keep up the great work!

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