• Operation Easter (1 of 3): the beginnings

    Last week saw the conviction of egg collector James North from Devon. This was a timely reminder that this spring marks 21 years since the launch of Operation Easter, an intelligence-led operation to target the UK’s egg thieves. At the start it was run jointly by Tayside Police and RSPB, with the NWCU later picking up the baton. In a series of three blogs, I’ll be reflecting on the development of Operation Easter…

    • 9 May 2018
  • All goes south for North

    On 3 May 2018, Jason North pleaded guilty at Plymouth Magistrates to eight charges of disturbing rare breeding birds (golden eagle, osprey, peregrine falcon and little-ringed plover) in Devon and Highland, Scotland and the taking of three osprey eggs from Scotland. All offences occurred during the 2016 breeding season. North received six weeks jail on each charge (to run concurrently) suspended for a year. He was also…

    • 4 May 2018
  • Raptor Persecution in the Peak District National Park

    Mark Thomas of RSPB Investigations is one of the authors of a new paper published today (28 April 2018) in the journal British Birds. Read his account of what the results of this paper mean to him, and for all of us.

    Watch Mark's video here.

    Like so many birders, nature lovers and tourists I have at times sought both mental and physical wellbeing in one of the UK’s amazing National Parks. A peaceful, beautiful…

    • 29 Apr 2018
  • Shot through the heart, but who's to blame?

    We see some shocking images in our team, but this week a photo came in that will stick with all of us for a long time.

    This is a picture of the heart of a red kite, following a post-mortem examination. On the left, there’s a silver item lodged in the muscle: it’s a piece of shot. But incredibly, this isn’t the piece of shot that killed the bird.

    Image: Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

    Last April…

    • 4 Apr 2018
  • The goshawks and the gunshots: a grim Easter story

    Guest blog by Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer

    Goshawk, credit Roy Mangersnes

    My job as an investigations officer can take you into some privileged positions. One moment that particularly sticks in my mind, is the time when I arrived with a couple of my colleagues to check on an active goshawk nest in the Peak District that we had been a putting a considerable amount effort into protecting that spring. We…

    • 26 Mar 2018
  • Operation Owl: Fighting raptor crime in North Yorkshire

    Operation Owl assembles in Helmsley, North Yorkshire

    RSPB staff took arms against the ongoing problem of raptor persecution in North Yorkshire last weekend as our Investigations team joined North Yorkshire Police on a mission known as ‘Operation Owl’.

    On Saturday 18 February, we joined police officers and staff from the RSPCA, Yorkshire Dales National Park and North York Moors National Park at Brimham…

    • 21 Feb 2018
  • In praise of the wildlife crusaders

    People have just about had enough of raptor persecution.

    With hen harriers down to just a handful of pairs in England, and no peregrines breeding in the Dark Peak in 2017 for the first time since 1984, clearly something needs to be done. Newspapers are catching on; the public are becoming increasingly environmentally astute; the Government is pledging to restore nature in a generation (no mention of raptor persecution…

    • 9 Feb 2018
  • Marsh harrier persecution - North Yorkshire update

    Back in August we reported on disturbing events at a marsh harrier nesting site on Denton Moor in North Yorkshire where a series of visits resulted in shots being fired, eggs being removed and the breeding attempt not surprisingly being unsuccessful.  Some of those events can be viewed here.

    Two armed men leaving the marsh harrier nest, male on the right believed to be carrying at least one marsh harrier egg.


    • 1 Feb 2018
  • Heavy sentences for Cyprus bird trappers

    The problem with illegal bird trapping on Cyprus has been well documented with a long term involvement in this issue by RSPB, BirdLife Cyprus and the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS). In the last few years there has been further profile raising by Chris Packham and recent 'Conservation hero of the Year' Ruth Peacey.

    I have blogged previously about the use of covert cameras by RSPB Investigations and Sovereign…

    • 19 Jan 2018
  • Birdcrime 2016: Reactions and reflections

    When you launch a report like Birdcrime, after months of hard work and careful thought, you’re never quite sure what the reaction will be once it enters the big wide world. It’s like shouting into a crowd then waiting for the response; hoping for cries of support and an echoing of our calls for greater action.

    Last week we published Birdcrime 2016, detailing crimes against birds of prey throughout 2016…

    • 10 Nov 2017
  • Cyprus undercover - some encouraging news on bird trapping

    A few days ago Chris Packham reported the encouraging news that, this autumn, there appears to have been a reduction in the level of bird trapping within the Eastern Sovereign Base Area (ESBA), a British military base on Cyprus close to the holiday resort of Ayia Napa.

    Having recently returned from Cyprus myself, I can confirm the signs do indeed look encouraging and believe the main reason for this more positive outlook…

    • 26 Oct 2017
  • Young peregrine shot in Cambridge faces uncertain future

    It’s October, and by now the fledglings of spring will be on the wing, making their own way in the world and ready to face their first winter.

    But one of the class of 2017 has hit a worrying bump in the road to adulthood.

    Last month (September), a juvenile peregrine falcon was discovered by a member of the public on the outskirts of Cambridge. It appeared the bird had been grounded for several days. The peregrine…

    • 7 Oct 2017
  • Cyprus - scores on the doors

    Back in June I blogged about the work RSPB Investigations undertook in Cyprus last year with the Sovereign Base Area (SBA) police. This involved installing covert cameras to catch bird trappers on the British Military base. 

    Myself and a colleague installed covert cameras at  seven locations within the Eastern Sovereign Base Area (ESBA) at Dhekelia which caught 19 individuals. There was grisly footage of trappers removing…

    • 12 Sep 2017
  • The end of Sally

    Over the past year Sally has been the ‘poster girl’ for Montagu’s harrier conservation, especially after being filmed by the BBC Autumnwatch programme having a satellite-tag fitted.

    Sally being released by Martin Hughes Games from BBC Autumnwatch

    She was paired with Roger another satellite tagged male Montagu’s harrier and has bred successfully in Norfolk for the past two seasons, raising a total…

    • 15 Aug 2017
  • Marsh harrier and nest illegally targeted in North Yorkshire: police appeal for information

    The problems associated with birds of prey trying to breed on grouse moors are all too familiar. So when a marsh harrier nest was found on Denton Moor, North Yorkshire, it was initially cause for celebration. Until the nest was found empty. RSPB Investigations Officer Howard Jones is in search of answers.

    Last weekend saw thousands of people come together for Hen Harrier Day, a series of events across the country co-ordinated…

    • 10 Aug 2017
  • Bad news at the bee-eaters

    Since Tuesday the behaviour of the bee-eaters has changed markedly and it appears that at least two of the three nests have failed.

    Instead of individual birds regularly flying into the nest holes with food the birds are now increasingly staying as a tight group of six birds.
    We have reviewed the nest camera footage and the frequency of nest visits leading up to Tuesday is also well below the 30 visiting per hour expected…

    • 3 Aug 2017
  • A study in scarlet (and blue, green, gold...)

    While the Nottinghamshire bee-eaters are drawing a crowd, one artist is turning his artistic talents to depicting these beautiful birds in paint.

    Celebrated wildlife artist Darren Woodhead, friend of the RSPB, was invited to make studies of the birds. Having driven down from Scotland (on his birthday!) he was given special access to the quarry car park by CEMEX. Work was carrying on around him as he painted the resident…

    • 25 Jul 2017
  • New arrivals for Nottinghamshire bee-eaters!

    After touching down in East Leake quarry on 25 June, the Nottinghamshire bee-eaters have successfully hatched chicks – just the third time this has happened in a decade.

    Nearly 10,000 people have come to see these spectacular birds, some travelling from as far afield as Cornwall and County Durham. But while visitors have been enjoying the birds, behind the scenes RSPB protection staff have been guarding three active…

    • 20 Jul 2017
  • Plan B-eater

    The RSPB’s investigations unit doesn’t just deal with dead birds – sometimes our role is to prevent crimes being committed in the first place by operating species protection schemes.

    Last week the surprise arrival of seven bee-eaters provided a colourful interlude to our usual routine. The magnificent, multicoloured seven turned up at East Leake CEMEX Quarry, near Loughborough, on 25 June and quickly…

    • 4 Jul 2017
  • Update from Cyprus: Eight trappers prosecuted

    Back in March I provided an update on events in Cyprus, outlining the use of covert cameras by RSPB Investigations unit and Sovereign Base Area (SBA) police in autumn 2016 to catch bird trappers. 

    Myself and a colleague installed covert cameras at  seven locations with the Eastern Sovereign Base Area (ESBA) which showed 19  individuals removing struggling birds from mist nets, then killing them with knives before tossing…

    • 16 Jun 2017
  • Two persecuted peregrines, three surviving chicks: one successful rescue mission

    UPDATE: 8/6/17 

    Reaching new heights for conservation - guest post by Mark Thomas, RSPB Investigations 

    Yesterday the sight of a scruffy, fluffy peregrine chick gulping down a beakful of meat had a fair few of us punching the air. High atop Salisbury Cathedral’s tower (the highest in the country, as it turns out!), huddled around TV monitors, we watched as the cathedral’s nesting peregrine fed her new foster chick for…

    • 3 Jun 2017
  • Satellite tag review reveals Scotland's golden eagles are dying in suspicious circumstances on grouse moors

    Today (31 May 2017) the Scottish Government published a long-awaited report on the role of satellite tagging technology in monitoring the movements of birds of prey – and it’s a watershed moment in the battle against raptor persecution.

    The report concluded that: ‘satellite tagging of young golden eagles has revealed that many young birds have probably been illegally killed in some parts of Scotland between…

    • 31 May 2017
  • Two more shot buzzards added to North Yorkshire's bird of prey victim toll

    Usually I’m proud to be a Yorkshire lass. The land of tea and the Tour de Yorkshire, we brought home 14 of GB's 67 medals at Rio 2016. We gave the world Captain Cook, James Herriot and the Brontes. And Yorkshire puddings? You’re welcome.

    But behind the rugged beauty of our sheep-dotted hills lies a far uglier claim to fame. North Yorkshire in particular is becoming tarnished by a reputation for ruthless…

    • 31 May 2017
  • The Invisible Detective

    Recently there have been a number of depressing reports of shot peregrines. These amazing thunderbolts of evolution are clearly not appreciated by everyone, and soon we will no doubt be getting reports of eggs and chicks being taken from nest sites. This appears to be signs of a worry upturn in recent years.

    This set my mind back to when I arrived at the RSPB in 1991. Since the start of the Wildlife and Countryside…

    • 13 Apr 2017
  • Red alert: kites grounded

    After a flurry of activity surrounding peregrines last week, this week the RSPB's investigations team has been busy dealing with two instances of shot red kites. The unfortunate individual below was found dead near Toddington in Bedfordshire. The body was sent for post-mortem examination - and the resulting X-ray was something of a shock.

    As you can see, the bird has been peppered with as many as 10 pieces of shot…

    • 7 Apr 2017