• The Illegal Killing of Birds of Prey in Scotland 2015-17

    Scotland’s laws are failing to adequately protect birds of prey, as a new report highlights. Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, explains why those in power must act now to end illegal persecution.

    Scotland’s birds of prey are an integral part of our national heritage. Our country is a key stronghold for many species like hen harriers, ospreys and golden eagles, attracting tourism and bringing…

    • 14 Dec 2018
  • The 30th Wildlife Crime Enforcers’ Conference

    A reflection on this year's conference, held in North Yorkshire

    Building on the work of Chief Superintendent Terry Rands of Essex Police in setting up the Wildlife Crime Officers’ (WCO) network, back in 1989 the RSPB organised the first Wildlife Crime Enforcers’ Conference with support from RSNC, Wildlife Trusts, WWF and the NCC (Nature Conservancy Council – now Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural…

    • 11 Dec 2018
  • Two owls found shot in Peak District

    This is the latest in a catalogue of crimes against birds of prey, which is blackening the National Park’s reputation

    Police are on the trail after two owls were found shot within the Peak District National Park this autumn.

    On 11 September 2018 a local runner witnessed a short-eared owl flying overhead, followed by what sounded like gunshots. The following morning she returned to the spot, near Wessenden Head…

    • 6 Dec 2018
  • Hobby and buzzard found with spring trap injuries


    Buzzard with severed foot

    The police and the RSPB are investigating the illegal killing of two protected birds of prey on the Isle of Wight. The birds, a hobby and a buzzard, were found with horrific injuries in woodland near Littletown. Both had lost a foot as a result of becoming caught in a spring trap.

    The buzzard was found dead in March 2018 with a missing foot. The hobby – a small falcon similar to a kestrel –…

    • 4 Dec 2018
  • Rail traps - kryptonite for super-ouzels?

    In August I wrote a blog following the illegal killing of a merlin in a spring trap set on a driven grouse moor in Northumberland. I also raised some wider concerns about the use of spring traps and whether they were actually legal when set as a ‘rail trap’; furthermore about possible impacts on ring ouzels, a declining 'red-listed' species, following several reports of birds being killed in these…

    • 5 Nov 2018
  • Egg collecting: a dangerous obsession

    This summer police made the biggest seizure of eggs in a decade. Jenny Shelton of RSPB Investigations explains more about this deadly obsession which puts declining species at risk.

    Nature is in trouble and needs all the help it can get, which is why any efforts to harm wildlife or prevent it flourishing are particularly worrying.

    Until recently, egg collecting was one of the biggest wildlife crimes the RSPB's Investigations…

    • 16 Oct 2018
  • Goodbye, Bob

    Today we wave goodbye to our fantastic Head of Investigations, Bob Elliot, who on 15 October takes up the post of Director at animal welfare charity OneKind, based in Edinburgh. A passionate conservationist and natural, personable leader, he’s been a key driving force in many of the teams’ successes.

    Bob joined the RSPB Scotland Investigations unit as head of the team in 2007 and quickly established himself…

    • 5 Oct 2018
  • Shot red kite sadly euthanised

    The stark contrast between the terrible actions of one human being and the kindness of another can sometimes knock you sideways. We see this a lot when dealing with incidents involving birds of prey that have been deliberately (and illegally) killed or injured.

    Earlier this month, a red kite which was shot and injured, and cared for by vets and raptor workers, sadly had to be euthanised.

    The bird, a female, was found…

    • 18 Sep 2018
  • Short-eared owl shooting - A tale of the unexpected

    The one thing I really like about my job is the unexpected. It can be a bit inconvenient at times – but when certain jobs come in, you’ve got to drop everything if you’re to have a chance of securing that all-essential piece of evidence to bring a wildlife case to court. During my career, this has involved some really memorable moments and some long adrenaline-fuelled days. But few can top one particularly unexpected…

    • 28 Aug 2018
  • Spring traps and grouse moors - a bridge too far?

    A range of environmental concerns have been raised about land intensively managed for driven grouse shooting and RSPB is calling for a licensing system to promote accountability and good practice. A recent incident has also highlighted concerns about the use of spring traps for predator control.

    On 12 July this year, a fell runner was out on a large driven grouse moor in Northumberland when he came across this trap containing…

    • 17 Aug 2018
  • Mapping raptor persecution in the UK

    Sometimes the extent of a problem becomes much clearer once it’s visualised.

    Today, we’re very pleased to be launching the Raptor Persecution Map Hub – a set of online maps which we believe provide the most complete picture of known, confirmed raptor persecution incidents across the UK.

    For some time, we’ve felt the need for a centralised ‘hub’ for raptor persecution data to sit, and be easily accessed…

    • 16 Aug 2018
  • Peregrine persecution filmed in Bowland

    As the red grouse shooting season approaches the RSPB are once more calling on the government to consider extra legislative measures to tackle raptor persecution. The following case continues to show just how difficult it is to investigate and prosecute for offences occurring in remote parts of our uplands.

    Despite plenty of available habitat, food and nesting sites, peregrine falcons are not doing well in Lancashire…

    • 8 Aug 2018
  • Persecuted peregrine goes on to raise chicks

    A peregrine that dodged death has gone on to raise two chicks this summer. 

    This morning we had an update on a male peregrine which we reported on last year, after it was found shot but still alive in King Somborne, Hampshire. The bird had a broken wing, which an Xray confirmed was caused by shooting. Police have identified no leads as to who was responsible.

    After some rest and rehabilitation at Andover Hawk Conservancy…

    • 16 Jul 2018
  • Op Easter (3 of 3) – nearly cracked!

    In the previous two blogs I outlined the background to egg collecting when I started at the RSPB in 1991 and the formation of Operation Easter in 1997. So, the police were now getting organised to tackle the threat of egg thieves – but it was clear that court sentencing options were no meaningful deterrent for persistent serial offenders. Things needed to change.

    In a rather timely reminder that egg collecting has…

    • 23 May 2018
  • Operation Easter (2 of 3) - Hatching a plan!

    The second of three blogs about the formation of Operation Easter – an initiative started 21 years ago to tackle the scourge of egg thieves.

    Barn doors and bad guys

    White-tailed eagles are big birds. Whoever first christened them as flying ‘barn doors’ probably did not expect this phrase to be so well-used to describe these magnificent birds.

    But like many raptors, they have been subject to extensive…

    • 14 May 2018
  • 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