Investigations

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.

  • Mourinho’s gone - will Bird Registration be next?

    Jose Mourinho's departure may be seen as an 'own goal' for Chelsea by some pundits, but are the government about to score another one in the fight against wildlife crime?

    One of our big success stories over recent years is that we have managed to largely crack the problem of wild birds of prey being stolen for the illegal falconry trade. It was almost impossible to catch the nest robbers in the act of stealing baby peregrines, goshawks and merlins. There were just too many vulnerable sites to protect and it only takes a few minutes to rob a nest.

    So it was a massive boon for the enforcers when DNA technology came to the rescue in the early 1990's. Most stolen birds are 'laundered' into the lucrative market for falconry birds by being passed off as legally captive bred. But DNA fingerprinting put an end to all that. Simply by taking blood samples from suspect juvenile birds and comparing them with samples taken from their 'parents' we were able to prove that a number of so-called 'captive bred' juvenile raptors were not actually related to their 'parents'. They were actually stolen from the wild.

    A number of raptor keepers were subsequently sent to prison in a series of high profile court cases. This seemed to act as a big deterrent because the number of these kind of prosecutions plummeted and peregrine nest robberies declined as well. So, we won that war, right? Wrong!

    DNA testing depends on knowing exactly where all the captive birds are. Many birds of prey as well as other rare species like choughs and bearded tits have to be registered with the government if they are kept in captivity. This enables the police and the RSPB to locate all the birds that need testing – both the suspect birds and their alleged relatives. Without this Bird Registration Scheme there would be no DNA testing and no deterrent.

    But now, in a cost cutting exercise, DEFRA have indicated that they would like to abolish the Bird Registration Scheme altogether! The RSPB, the Police and even the government's own scientific advisors on wildlife are all battling to stop them from this act of vandalism, but we are not confident they are listening.

    If you agree with us, you can help by writing to your MP to ask him/her to raise the issue with the Biodiversity Minister, Joan Ruddock, asking her not to scrap Bird Registration.

    You can find the contact details of your MP at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/
  • Swan massacre in Bedford

    I was called yesterday to a lake at Radwell, Bedfordshire, where workmen had discovered the bodies of 29 freshly dead mute swans buried in a pit. Preliminary examination suggests the birds have injuries consistent with having been shot. The bodies of a grey heron and an as-yet unidentified bird of prey (probably a harrier) were also found in the pit.
     
    A number of birds were collected from the site and are currently being examined by the RSPCA to ascertain certain cause of death.
     
    This is by far the worst incident I have dealt with in the last 10 years. Someone has attempted to hide the killing of these birds but the body of at least one swan was visible and on excavation with a machine it soon became apparent this was a mass grave containing numerous swan bodies.
     
    This is not the work of youths. We are dealing with an organised and deliberate act to eradicate swans from this particular lake. We are now appealing for the public's help as we believe this incident took place over the past weekend. The case has received good TV coverage and will feature as the main news item on regional ITV Anglia news this evening.

    Someone must have seen what happened - we urge these people to come forward with information.
     
    Bedfordshire Police are assisting with the enquiry and can be contacted on 01234 841212.