Shot buzzard in Essex succumbs to its injuries

The buzzard that was found shot in Colchester, Essex, earlier this month has unfortunately not survived its injuries.

It was found on 11th January 2023 near to Hardy’s Green and Heckford Bridge and was picked up by a member of the public.

The buzzard had suffered a broken wing and internal injuries and was being cared for by professionals at Colchester Owl Rescue. It succumbed to its injuries over the weekend.

Thanks to Essex Police’s Rural, Wildlife & Heritage Crime team for the update.

Essex Police’s investigation into the shooting of this buzzard is ongoing. If anyone has any information please contact Essex Police on Tel: 101, quoting incident reference # 42/13298/23.

The shot buzzard. Photo: Essex Police Wildlife Team & Colchester Owl Rescue
X-ray showing at least 3 shotgun pellets (highlighted by RPUK). Photo: Essex Police Wildlife Team & Colchester Owl Rescue

National Gamekeepers Organisation is latest from shooting industry to attack police & RSPB for raptor crime reporting

Last week I blogged about how a major shooting industry organisation, BASC, had attacked Suffolk Police for what BASC perceived to be an ‘offensive’ police appeal for information about the shooting of five young goshawks found dead at the edge of woodland near Thetford (here).

BASC complained that the police’s appeal was “disparaging to the shooting community” simply because the police had asked the shooting community for help to identify the shot gun-wielding criminal(!). Astonishingly, BASC’s complaint resulted in the police’s tweet/appeal for information being deleted.

Later, Suffolk Police released a joint press release with the RSPB, which seemed to enrage BASC even further. Bizarrely, BASC wrote on a blog:

Can we assume the RSPB has more information on the matter than BASC as they were very quick yesterday to offer a £5,000 reward for information leading to conviction; shortly followed by a similar pledge from Wild Justice? It would be useful to know whether RSPB are complainants, victims, witnesses or have any other relationship with Suffolk Constabulary“.

I would argue that this is a cack-handed but sinister attempt by BASC to try and influence the narrative on raptor persecution crimes. If the police are too scared to publicise a raptor persecution incident or appeal for information about it, because they’re scared of a backlash from the industry who are, let’s not forget, responsible for 73% of convictions for raptor persecution crimes, then it’s job done for the shooting industry. No reports = no publicity = no bad press = no public pressure on politicians to tackle these relentless, systemic crimes.

And it’s not just BASC that appears to be at it. The National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) has recently written on its website its dissatisfaction with Lincolnshire Police and the RSPB about the reporting of raptor persecution offences in that county. It’s mostly about a recent incident where the remains of three barn owls, one tawny owl and one red kite were found dumped in a ditch (here), and the NGO incorrectly accuses RSPB Investigations Officer Howard Jones of ‘insinuating that a gamekeeper might be to blame for the Lincolnshire incident‘ in a BBC news article.

Actually, Howard Jones did no such thing, he was talking about raptor persecution crimes in general and he was simply stating facts – the “vast majority” of raptor persecution cases being dealt with by the courts involve gamekeepers. That is a factually accurate statement from Howard, however unpalatable/embarrassing that may be to the NGO. Neither the RSPB or Lincolnshire Police laid any blame on anybody after the discovery of those bird of prey remains in Lincolnshire – they simply said it was an ‘unusual’ case and were appealing for information (here).

The ridiculous NGO, though, has written on its website:

The NGO are in contact with DC Flint of Lincolnshire Police and are hoping to meet with him in the near future to discuss both this case and to highlight our concerns about the reporting surrounding this case“.   

Meanwhile, the NGO has failed (refused?) to publicise the recent conviction of Dorset gamekeeper Paul Allen, who pleaded guilty to multiple wildlife, poisons and firearms offences after the discovery of six shot buzzards, the burnt remains of three more buzzards, and three different types of banned poisons on his pheasant shoot and a loaded shotgun found propped up behind his kitchen door with rounds of unlicensed ammunition in an out-building.

The NGO has also remained silent about the discovery of the five shot goshawks found dumped in Suffolk last week.

Like BASC, you’ll know that the NGO is a member of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), a so-called partnership (it’s a sham) whose main objective is to help eradicate raptor persecution by highlighting these crimes and publicly condemning the criminals involved.

Long-term blog readers will know this attempted manipulation of the narrative by the game-shooting industry is nothing new and has been going on for years, mostly behind the scenes and only uncovered via Freedom of Information requests (e.g. see here and here).

I’ve just been sent yet another example of it, this time in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. More on that shortly…

Reward for info on who shot five goshawks has passed £14,000

The reward for information leading to the conviction of whoever shot five goshawks and dumped them in Suffolk last week (see here) has now passed £14,000.

The RSPB has provided £5,000, Wild Justice has provided £5,000, and Rare Bird Alert’s crowdfunder appeal has so far accrued over £4,000.

I haven’t seen any effort by any of the game-shooting organisations to contribute to the reward; most of them haven’t even drawn to their members’ attention the police appeal for information, let alone told them about the reward (apart from BASC, whose response was to wail, loudly, about how offensive it was for the police to ask the shooting community for help to identify a criminal with a shotgun, here)!

There may be coverage of BASC’s histrionics in The Guardian tomorrow.

If you’d like to contribute to the reward, please visit the crowdfunder here.

If you have any information about this appalling crime, please call Suffolk Police on 101 and quote crime reference 37/3027/23. Alternatively, you can provide anonymous information via the RSPB’s dedicated Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

Buzzard found shot in Essex – police appeal for information

A buzzard has been found shot in Colchester, Essex. It is still alive and is undergoing treatment for its injuries.

It was found on 11th January 2023 near to Hardy’s Green and Heckford Bridge. Essex Police’s Rural, Wildlife & Heritage Crime Team has put out an appeal for information on Twitter:

The shot buzzard. Photo: Essex Police Wildlife Team & Colchester Owl Rescue
X-ray showing at least 3 shotgun pellets (highlighted by RPUK). Photo: Essex Police Wildlife Team & Colchester Owl Rescue

This isn’t the first raptor persecution crime in Essex and certainly won’t be the last. Previous crimes against birds of prey in this county in recent years include the shooting of red kites (e.g. here and here), the shooting of a hobby (here) and the shooting of buzzards (e.g. here, here and here).

If anyone has any information about this latest shot buzzard, please contact Essex Police on Tel: 101, quoting incident reference # 42/13298/23.

UPDATE 31st January 2023: Shot buzzard in Essex succumbs to its injuries (here)

Shooting industry ‘offended’ about being asked to help identify the person who shot five goshawks

At the beginning of this week, Suffolk Police put out an appeal on Twitter asking the shooting community to help identify the person who shot dead five young goshawks, which had been dumped at the edge of the King’s Forest near Thetford on Monday (see here).

The following day, Suffolk Police’s tweet was deleted without explanation. It soon became clear why – BASC, a prominent shooting organisation, had demanded it be removed because apparently it was offensive to ask the shooting community to help identify someone who had committed a crime with a shotgun! In a misjudged PR move, BASC even bragged about getting the police tweet removed:

I don’t think it’s disparaging in any way to ask the shooting community for help to solve a wildlife crime committed by someone with a shotgun. And let’s be honest, given the long history of goshawk persecution in the UK by members of the game-shooting industry, it’s perfectly logical to suspect that a member of that industry might be the perpetrator.

At this stage, Suffolk Police, quite rightly, hasn’t drawn any conclusions other than all five goshawks contained shotgun pellets (as revealed by x-ray).

My own view, for what it’s worth at this early stage of the investigation, is that the x-ray provided by the police shows that at least one of the dead goshawks had an enlarged crop, indicating that it had eaten recently. It’s not beyond the realms of possibly, or indeed probability, that these young goshawks had been enticed into a trap, over a period of time, by a decoy bird and then shot by whoever was operating the trap.

We know that goshawks are easily enticed into such traps (e.g. see here, here, here and here). We also know that many gamekeepers generally despise goshawks, due to their perceived threat to gamebirds; a view not helped by idiotic and inaccurate commentary about the species by senior members of the gamekeeping community including Alex Hogg, the Chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, who once wrote, “I strongly believe the goshawk never was indigenous to the United Kingdom and there is absolutely no hard evidence to suggest otherwise” (see here). Goshawk persecution is so rife in the UK, even inside some of our National Parks (e.g. see here and here) that the species has been identified as a ‘national wildlife crime priority’ by the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

Why were the dead goshawks dumped in a car park next to a public wood? Only the person who dumped them there can answer that, but again, it’s not the first time that illegally-killed goshawks have been placed to await discovery, as some kind of two-fingered salute by the killer(s).

For example, here is what happened to three young fledged goshawks from a nest in the Peak District National Park . The image below is an excerpt from the Peak Nest Watch 2010 end of season report, which can be downloaded here: peak_nestwatch_2010

Were the five shot goshawks found in Suffolk this week all from the same brood? DNA analysis can answer that. When were they shot and had the carcasses been frozen prior to being dumped? Again, forensic analyses will help. Until then, all we know is that a wildlife crime has been committed and Suffolk Police are to be congratulated for putting out an appeal for information within 24 hours of the shot birds being discovered.

I’ve seen other members of the shooting community make some ridiculous claims about this case over the last few days. One suggests that shotgun pellets ‘can easily be introduced into a carcass’, inferring that these birds weren’t shot at all but are the result of some kind of ‘set up’. He’s bonkers if he thinks anyone will believe that. Another former Head Gamekeeper, who routinely brags on social media about his supposed superior expertise on natural history, concluded that these were buzzards, not goshawks (he’s wrong, as usual) but even if he was right, it would still be a wildlife crime to shoot them. Bizarrely, the BASC Scotland twitter account ‘liked’ this post (thanks to blog reader Dr Rob Thomas @RobThomas14 for pointing this out):

Not content with forcing Suffolk Police to remove its original appeal for information on this case, BASC has now published an astonishing article on its website in an attempt to justify its action and also seems to be very cross about the £10,000 reward offered by the RSPB and Wild Justice. You can read the BASC article here.

In my opinion, it’s staggering that BASC can so easily influence the narrative about raptor persecution crimes as it has done here, and it’s not the first time. I’ll be blogging shortly about another example that has recently come to light.

It’s also a little bit strange that BASC should feel offended about being asked to help find the criminal who shot these goshawks. BASC, you’ll recall, is a member of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG), the police-led ‘partnership’ designed to help tackle illegal bird of prey persecution in England & Wales. If BASC is so offended about the shooting industry being linked to raptor persecution, why on earth is it a member of the RPPDG?

Meanwhile, the crowdfunder to increase the £10,000 reward for information, launched by those decent people at Rare Bird Alert, is doing well. If you’d like to contribute, the crowdfunder page can be found here.

If you have any information about this appalling crime, please call Suffolk Police on 101 and quote crime reference 37/3027/23. Alternatively, to get in touch anonymously, call the RSPB’s dedicated Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

Crowdfunder launched to increase reward for information on five shot goshawks found in Suffolk

Further to the news that the RSPB and Wild Justice have put up a £10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person who shot five young goshawks and dumped their bodies at the edge of The King’s Wood in Suffolk on Monday (see here), the bird news service Rare Bird Alert has launched a crowdfunder to increase the reward.

Here’s the wording of the crowdfunder, that went live earlier this morning:

On Monday 16th January 2023 officers from Suffolk Constabulary discovered the bodies of five dead Goshawks in Kings Forest, Suffolk.

Police have revealed that x-ray examination has shown all five birds had been shot. Further investigations are on-going.

A reward of £10,000 has been offered by the RSPB and Wild Justice for information leading to a conviction in connection with the birds.

Rare Bird Alert is setting up this appeal to increase that reward. If the reward is not paid out after a determinate period of time then it will be donated to the RSPB Investigations team for their continuing fight against raptor persecution.

We will not be silenced by those who kill birds of prey.

ENDS

Rare Bird Alert launched a similar fundraising appeal in 2015 after a rare Red-footed falcon was shot in Cambridgeshire (here), and that appeal raised over £2,700. It is hoped that this latest fundraiser provides the birding community with a constructive outlet for its anger at yet another appalling case of raptor persecution.

If you’d like to contribute, the crowdfunder page can be found here.

Wild Justice partners with RSPB to offer £10,000 reward for info on five shot goshawks

Further to the news that Suffolk Police have found five shot goshawks, dumped at the edge of the King’s Forest near Thetford (see here), conservation campaign group Wild Justice has partnered with the RSPB to increase the reward for information from £5,000 (here) to £10,000 (see here).

The five shot goshawks found by Suffolk Police on Monday 16th January 2023

In a statement, Wild Justice said:

We are sick to the back teeth of the relentless illegal persecution of birds of prey in the UK, which is mostly associated with land managed for gamebird shooting, be that red grouse, pheasants or partridges. Indeed, it was our strength of feeling about raptor persecution, and our frustration at the failure of the Westminster and the devolved governments to tackle it effectively, that led to us founding Wild Justice in 2018. In partnership with the RSPB, we hope this substantial reward will encourage someone to come forward with information about whoever was responsible for this heinous crime, and that that information leads to a successful conviction“.

If you have any information, please call Suffolk Police on 101 and quote crime reference 37/3027/23. Alternatively, to get in touch anonymously, call the RSPB’s dedicated Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

The BBC News website has picked up the news of this increased reward here and the Suffolk Live website has written about it here.

UPDATE 19th January 2023: Crowdfunder launched to increase reward for information on five shot goshawks found in Suffolk (here)

Five goshawks shot & dumped in King’s Forest, Suffolk: Police appeal for information

Yesterday evening, Suffolk Police’s Rural, Wildlife & Heritage Unit posted an appeal on Twitter asking for information about the discovery of five young goshawks, reportedly shot and dumped in the King’s Forest, Suffolk.

The corpses were found on Monday (16th Jan 2023) at the Brandon end of the large car park area off the B1106, North Stow. Police say all five birds were x-rayed and all were found to contain shotgun pellets.

Some idiots from the shooting industry have been complaining on Twitter about what they perceive to be an ‘anti-shooting’ tweet from the police – anything to distract attention away from this disturbing crime, I guess.

One genius is even convinced that the x-ray image provided by the police is actually of a shot parrot and not one of the shot goshawks, despite it being explained to him in very simple terms by a qualified vet (@ThatVetSean) that the word ‘parrot’ appears in the corner of the x-ray image “because it’s a digital x-ray machine & veterinary software with handy preloaded settings enabling the operator to get a quality image in a single go. They’ll have chosen parrot as it’s comparable in size/anatomy, there isn’t a Goshawk setting“.

Well done to Suffolk Police’s Rural, Wildlife & Heritage Unit for issuing an impressively quick appeal for information.

If anyone has any information about who shot and dumped these goshawks, please contact Suffolk Police.

UPDATE 16.o5hrs: Five shot goshawks in Suffolk: RSPB offers £5,ooo reward for information (here)

UPDATE 5pm: Wild Justice also offers £5,000 reward (here)

UPDATE 19th January 2023: Crowdfunder launched to increase reward for information on five shot goshawks found in Suffolk (here)

Barn owl found dead in a crow cage trap on an Angus Glens grouse moor

Over the weekend I was advised that a barn owl had reportedly been found dead inside a crow cage trap situated on a grouse moor in the notorious raptor persecution hotspot, the Angus Glens.

The discovery was apparently made during the first week of January 2023.

I understand the trap was tagged with the operator’s registration number (now a legal requirement in Scotland) and that the trap had not been disabled (i.e. the door hadn’t been removed/padlocked open) and so as far as the law is concerned, the trap was considered to be in-use, which means the trap operator has a legal obligation to check the trap at least once every 24 hours and release any non-target species. The General Licence conditions also state, ‘A check must be sufficient to determine whether there are any live or dead birds or other animals in the trap‘.

Barn owl. Photo: Anan Kaewkhammul

I asked Police Scotland to confirm the details of this case, whether a police search had been undertaken, if so, when, and what the current status is of the investigation?

After some hesitation, this afternoon a police spokesperson provided the following statement:

The incident has been reported to police and enquiries are ongoing“.

There’s more to this case than meets the eye. Watch this space…

UPDATE 19th January 2023: This blog article was picked up by The Courier, here

‘Vast’ egg collection, including hen harrier & osprey eggs, seized by Suffolk Police

Suffolk Police’s Rural, Wildlife & Heritage Team has seized what it describes as a ‘vast’ egg collection in Halesworth. The haul is thought to include clutches of hen harrier and osprey eggs.

The police raid last Friday was part of Operation Easter, a policing initiative that began in Scotland 25 years ago (see here for background) that primarily targets wild bird egg thieves, although in recent years it has been expanded to also cover related crimes such as the online trade in eggs and the disturbance of nests for photography (see here).

This initiative is a good example of partnership-working. It’s facilitated by the National Wildlife Crime Unit that leads on intelligence reports and key partners include UK police forces and the RSPB’s Investigations Team. It’s seen some major successes over the years, with convictions often including custodial sentences, and large numbers of wild bird eggs being taken out of circulation.

More information about illegal egg collections can be found on the RSPB’s website here.

Well done to Suffolk Police’s Rural, Wildlife & Heritage Team for keeping the public informed.

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