We were devastated to learn of yet another suspected poisoning incident at Titterstone Clee, Shropshire, resulting in the death of at least one peregrine and the failure of any eggs they were incubating.

 The Shropshire Peregrine Group, who had been observing the site, were glad to see the return of a pair of peregrines to the disused quarry in early April this year. This is a nest site which has been used in the past, but also has a history of persecution. Since 2017, when two birds were found illegally poisoned, no more birds had bred here. But this year, hopes were high that this new pair would successfully raise a brood.

The female laid and began incubating her eggs only a few weeks ago. But on 1 May 2021, she was discovered dead, lying on the hill below her nest. A suspected pigeon bait was also discovered. The male has not been seen since and is thought to have also been killed. It is believed that both birds were poisoned, having fed on the poisoned bait.

Peregrines are protected by law under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. The incident is currently being investigated by West Mercia Police Wildlife Crime Unit, NWCU (National Wildlife Crime Unit) and RSPB Investigations, and appeal for information has been issued to the public. The Shropshire Peregrine Group have offered £1,000 for information which leads to a successful prosecution, which the RSPB will match.

Since 2010, the RSPB has recorded seven confirmed incidents of poisoning at Clee Hill. This is despite the diligent work of the Group, who have installed cameras and been monitoring the site, and who have seen a notable impact on the local population of these protected birds of prey. It is unfathomable to think that, while some people are capable of such care, others are capable of such calculated and considered destruction and lack of regard for the life of a wild animal.

In 2017, the RSPB orchestrated the rescue of the three chicks left orphaned after their parents were found poisoned. Two were fostered into wild nests, and the smallest chick was placed into the nest on Salisbury Cathedral. Watch the video here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hfam2308mQ8 All three chicks fledged, but the story remains clouded with sadness as the poisoners were never found. This time, unfortunately it was not possible to save the eggs which would have become cold within a matter of hours.

In their press statement, West Mercia Police cautioned locals, especially dog walkers or those with young children, to be aware that other poisoned baits may still be around.

If you do find a dead animal which could be a poisoned bait, do not touch it but call the police immediately on 101, note the location and take photos.

Mark Thomas, Head of Investigations, said: “This incident is targeted and pernicious, poison baits left out in the open pose a huge risk not only to wildlife but to people and pets. It is not only illegal, but extremely irresponsible and dangerous. I have no doubt the successful conclusion of this investigation lies with information held by the pigeon racing community and I urge those with information to contact the police, especially with a £2,000 reward now on offer.”

A spokesperson for the Shropshire Peregrine Group said: “I urge local residents of Clee Hill to call out the individuals responsible for these crimes, many of whom are well known in the area, and provide the police with information about their criminal activities which are bringing shame to the village. In this way the peregrines at Clee Hill and elsewhere will have the opportunity to live and breed undisturbed by human persecution as is their right. Thank you.”

If you have any information, to prevent further incidents like this occurring please contact West Mercia Police and quote incident number 258i of 1 May 2021.

There is also the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline, if you wish to pass on information on this or any other raptor crime anonymously. Call 0300 999 0101 at any time. Thank you.