A little a later than planned sorry about that.
The RSPB released their annual bird crime report a few weeks ago and as you might imagine it doesn’t make for great reading when it comes to birds of prey in fact its all pretty much based on birds of prey and the continued persecution facing them. This blog actually coincides with a talk I went to last night by head of investigations at the RSPB, Guy Shorrock for the Gloucestershire Raptor Study Group. It was free talk and was fantastically well attended with over 100 people present, I’ve come across Guy on several occasions but never met him so it was great to meet him briefly and hear what someone with 26 years of investigations and detective work had to say about life at the sharp end of wildlife crime.
Who are the RSPB Investigations team? Well from what I learnt last night and have previously heard they are a small team of 10 members of staff within the RSPB’s circa 2000 staff who are committed to uncovering and helping police fight bird persecution. When you hear some of the details Guy shares its quite staggering what they achieve despite not having the same powers as our police forces and they are often showing the Police how to do it. It is also worth bearing in mind that what makes up the Bird Crime report is only the tip of the iceberg, as Guy mentioned in his talk he made the shocking statement that the worst estates he knows could be killing upwards of 200 birds of prey a year and some of the lesser estates 100 birds of prey. He demonstrated this with one particular case study of an estate where they had killed 102 Buzzards in one year along with other species (Based on the gamekeepers vermin diary).
I have personally experienced first hand the animosity which gamekeepers have towards raptors, one of which told me in no uncertain terms to stay away from his shoot and that he wouldn’t think twice about killing Buzzards around his release pen and there’s nothing I can do about it. In some respects he’s not wrong, it is incredibly difficult to police these quite corners of the countryside. In the 2015 Birdcrime report there is a pie chart covering 176 cases of convicted persecution cases from 1990 – 2016, from these case’s over two thirds were uncovered by the RSPB Investigations team alone. Many cases don’t make it to court including incredibly ones that have shown someone on film shooting a Hen Harrier.
We could spend all day on UK raptor persecution but there are some blogs who do it so much better so if you want to learn more check out the Bird Crime report 2016 here and visit Raptor Persecution UK blog here. You can also play a part though by keeping your eyes open whilst out in the countryside and reporting anything suspicious to the RSPB Investigations Team here.
In other news for Raptor Aid we have been busy with the formation of a new raptor study group in our home county of Cheshire. Our first meeting was well attended with a fantastic mix of ages, experience and backgrounds. We have already been involved in the start up of one raptor study group so know the tremendous hard work that goes in to making it a success. We need the young and old raptor enthusiasts of Cheshire to pull together to make their group work. We certainly have to much on our plate to do all the leg work. We have also been advising a couple of people on projects and further chasing and pursuing our own unique nest box plans, I would say watch this space but its just seems to go on and is getting very tedious.
Whilst down in Gloucestershire we managed to put up three of the final nest boxes we had as part of the Little owl nest box scheme for the GRMG and gave 4 more to Gareth and Gordon in the group to erect at sites they have in the county. The three boxes I placed up were all in and around the town I used to live and have fond memories of so it was really nice to drive around and see familiar places. One of the sites was a lovely old orchard which the county is famed for and a favorite for Little owls, I haven’t seen or heard Little owls there but it was classic habitat and the landowner was made up to receive a box. Lets see if my intuition proves right over the next couple of years for that site.
I also couldn’t resist taking a look at a couple of Tawny owl boxes and checking a Goshawk territory/nest site. There is no chance of really disturbing the birds as we are out of the breeding season but I came across a massive wind blown tree in the woods, it reinforced why we don’t climb in windy weather! I did a short video on it all which you can check out on our Facebook page.
Don’t forget now is the time to replace/repair, tidy up or even put up a nest box for the coming season, feel free to ask us if you need some advice. Make the most of the winter and get out watching the birds, we’ve already been treated to daily Sparrow hawk sightings and the local Ravens are getting particularly vocal so it won’t be long before they are showing off their incredible courtship aerial displays.