August, 2007

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Investigations

Read about our Investigations team, working hard to keep our birds and wildlife safe
  • Montagu’s Magic!

    Working in the Investigations Section, it often seems that we are faced with lots of doom and gloom, be it shot or poisoned raptors or hoards of illegally taken wild birds’ eggs.

    Well today, we have a lot to celebrate; the national figures have just come in for breeding Montagu’s Harriers in the UK and 2007 looks like it has been a record year. Overall, 2007 saw 25 juvenile harriers fledge from 13 nesting attempts with birds present in six counties. This is slightly up on the record in 2006 when 24 young fledged from 14 attempts.

    Although the stars of the show were undoubtedly the birds present at the RSPB Aren’t Birds Brilliant viewing scheme at Digby Fen in Lincolnshire, where four juveniles successfully fledged, a huge amount of effort is put in annually by many volunteers and farmers at other sites throughout the UK – so a big thank you to them.

    The Montagu’s harrier is the UK’s rarest breeding bird of prey, preferring to nest in agricultural environments and coastal saltings particularly in East Anglia and SW England.

  • Doubting Thomas snapped in the act

    On May 7 2006, two RSPB members noticed their next-door neighbour, Steven Thomas of Haul Y Fryn, Ferwig, Cardigan, destroying an active house martin present under the gable of his house, using a hosepipe and a tall wooden pole.

    The witnesses were able to obtain three photographs of the destruction whilst it was taking place, one of which featured an adult house martin hovering just above the nest site, whilst the pole could be clearly seen positioned under the gable.

    I was contacted at RSPB Investigations and instigated a joint investigation with Dyfed-Powys Police.

    Police Wildlife Crime Officer, PC Arwyn Mason, interviewed the suspect, who claimed the nest was not active, that he was removing it in order to undertake decorating and that the bird on the image was a swallow.

    The case resulted in a one-day trial at Cardigan Magistrates Court on May 18 2007. I supported the prosecution by providing expert evidence in relation to house martin behaviour, whilst the defence employed ex-RSPB Head of Investigations, Peter Robinson, in a similar role. The court heard detailed evidence from all parties, particularly in respect of house martin breeding ecology.

    The court found the two witnesses and myself to be credible witnesses and concluded that the house martin nest was active, as the witness had been watching its construction, which was almost fully completed at the time of the incident.

    Furthermore, the court accepted that it was Steven Thomas who had destroyed the nest and commented that the photographs from the witness were useful in confirming events.

    The court found Steven Thomas guilty and he was fined £400 with £300 costs.

    In July 2007, Steven Thomas appealed against his conviction on the basis that in his opinion, the verdict of guilt did not match with the evidence heard by the court. So on Friday 3 August 2007, we were all back at court, this time at Swansea Crown Court.

    The evidence was all heard again and the Judge of this court once more found Steven Thomas guilty and ordered him to pay an additional £500 costs.

    The RSPB wishes to thank the two witnesses and PC Mason.