Sadly, despite the introduction of various laws and a greater understanding of potential damage, the illegal activities of egg collecting, disturbance of birds of prey and trade in wild birds of prey in the UK have not yet died out.
Egg collecting (also known as Oology) was a popular hobby of many children and adults in the early 1900’s to collect eggs and trade eggs of any species. In those early days, a lot of bird populations didn’t face the same pressures they do now, but never the less egg collecting certainly led to the demise of certain species, especially our native birds of prey. With the introduction of the Wild birds act in 1954 and the Wildlife and Countryside act in 1981, egg collecting became illegal and thankfully it became a less fashionable country pursuit. Sadly, however, although a minority, there are still people who continue to collect eggs and often eggs belonging to nationally rare species. This has huge implications on the breeding success and range of such species including several of our bird of prey species. All we can do is remain vigilant to any suspicious activities and report appropriately.
The number of cases of illegal trade in birds of prey in the UK is again something that has seen a massive drop in the last decade. Falconry (the sport of hunting with birds of prey) was once a sport of the well heeled and, before birds of prey were officially protected, falconers would obtain their birds from the wild. The introduction of new laws in 1954 & 1981 brought a change in how falconers could obtain their birds, but sadly some still wanted wild birds of prey. This has also stemmed from high prices being paid for certain birds on the continent and middle east. Captive breeding of birds of prey has subsequently improved dramatically over the last 20 years and the need to steal birds from the wild is far outweighed by the risk of prosecution. There is always a risk though of the uneducated thinking they can get around the law and make some quick money so again we must remain vigilant.
Out of the three topics in the page title this is probably the one that has seen an increase in the last decade or more. Of course disturbance is part of illegal persecution, but there are other aspects of it. Many British birds of prey are also afforded increased protection as Schedule 1 species meaning they are protected against activities carried out by photographers and wildlife watchers. You might be surprised to think people interested in wildlife and birds of prey would want to break the law, but unfortunately this is not the case. Some photographers will go to great lengths, without the appropriate licences or care and consideration for the target species, in order to obtain the image they require, often during the breeding season and at the nest site. Disturbance can also include recreational activities, for example orienteering and mountain bike events too close to nesting Goshawks within forests, and rock climbing activities near Peregrine nest sites. The majority of people enjoying the countryside and wild birds of prey abide by the law, but again vigilance is the key. If you require any further advice please feel free to get in touch.