Another Peregrine poisoned on a Peak District grouse moor

Another day, and the RSPB are having to write yet another press-release (posted below) describing yet another dead Peregrine found poisoned inside one of our so-called ‘national parks’ – the notorious ‘Dark Peak’ region of the Peak District National Park, a raptor persecution hotspot dominated by grouse farms and patrolled by gamekeepers. This particular Peregrine was found next to a baited Wood Pigeon by a fell runner nine months ago, and the toxicology results have only just been released. Not Carbofuran this time, but another favourite of the ‘professional poisoner’: bendiocarb, a constituent of the infamous ‘Nidderdale Cocktail’. Why the delay in letting the public know about highly potent illegal poisons being used in an open area with public access is not currently known. Let’s hope it’s a Covid-related issue and not ‘shielding’ of a more sinister type…

Anyhow, the important fact is that a poisoned bait was laid in the vicinity of a regularly-targeted Peregrine nest and so yet another protected species has been deliberately killed on the grouse moors of England. Can anyone reading this suggest even one other situation where repeated and ongoing criminality like this would be tolerated (and make no mistake, for something like raptor persecution to continue for so long means that it is being tolerated)? So-called ‘trail hunting’ perhaps…

It’s unlikely that at least in this case the poisoning will have taken place with the knowledge of the landowners, the National Trust (NT). The NT seems to have a blind spot when it comes to ‘trail hunting’ (see – National Trust and Trail Hunting 101) but while they do support blasting Red Grouse out of the sky across the ‘park’ they have worked hard to eradicate raptor persecution, removing shooting leases at Hope Woodlands and Park Hall in Derbyshire in April 2018, for example, after a video was posted online showing an armed man hiding close to a model of a male Hen Harrier being used to attract territorial harriers within range.

Clearly there is next to no chance of a conviction in this case now. Local police already know there is a pattern of crimes here (and have known for literally decades), so you have to wonder what – if anything – they’re doing to find whoever did this. We hope we’re wrong, but it doesn’t appear to be very much. The local poisoner won’t be quaking in his size twelves anyway…

On the upside though, as the excellent Moorland Monitors say in their tweet, the fact that a runner reported what they saw does point to a wider understanding of the crimes being committed in our ‘national parks’. Messaging has raised awareness (as it is intended to do), but until it prevents poisonings like this in the first place there is clearly much more to be done. If you would like to help, please learn to Recognise incidents of wildlife crime, learn how to Record them properly, and always Report them: even if nothing seems to be done immediately, it does help establish a pattern and help to ensure that the ‘professionals’ know we’re out there watching them.

 

Yet another bird of prey illegally killed during lockdown 2020

A peregrine falcon, which was found dead on a driven grouse moor in the Upper Derwent Valley, has just been confirmed as illegally poisoned following official toxicology analysis – adding to the growing list of protected birds of prey illegally killed during 2020’s spring lockdown – many of which were in the Peak District National Park.

The adult male bird was found dead, on top of the remains of a wood pigeon, on 31 May 2020 by a fell runner on National Trust land. This was close to a known nest site which, like several other sites in the Dark Peak, has a long history of poor breeding success.

It was reported to Derbyshire Police, who recovered the carcass assisted by raptor workers, and the body was submitted for government toxicology testing. The results have just been published and confirm that the peregrine was illegally poisoned with the toxic insecticide bendiocarb: a substance we know is illegally used to kill birds of prey.

Mark Thomas, Head of RSPB Investigations, said: “This latest incident adds to an appallingly long and growing list of crimes against birds of prey which took place during the first national Covid lockdown in 2020. At the time, the RSPB was working flat-out with police to investigate a high volume of incidents, the details of which are now beginning to emerge. It is clear that certain criminals took lockdown as an excuse to ramp up their efforts to kill birds of prey, wilfully ignoring lockdown and the laws which protect these birds.

“Time and again, we are seeing birds of prey shot, trapped or poisoned on grouse moors. The link between illegal killing of peregrines and other raptor species and driven grouse shooting has never been clearer, and we urge the UK government to implement a licensing system for grouse moors in England, as is proposed in Scotland. Law-abiding estates would have nothing to fear from this, and it would act as a greater deterrent, keeping birds safe, in the sky, for all to enjoy.”

Peer reviewed studies, crime data and court convictions show that raptor persecution is more concentrated on and near driven grouse moors, where birds of prey are seen by some as a threat to commercially managed red grouse stocks. In fact, a recent paper statistically linked crimes against birds of prey in the Peak District National Park with land managed for Driven Grouse Shooting.

It is believed that the wood pigeon was a poison bait, laid deliberately with the intention of killing any bird of prey or raven which fed on it.

Steve Downing, Chair of the Northern England Raptor Forum, said: “Incidents like this are sadly not uncommon in the Dark Peak, where peregrine populations have crashed in recent years. What’s more, a poison bait like this, on open-access land, could easily be picked up by someone’s dog with disastrous consequences.”

Jon Stewart, National Trust General Manager, said: We protect and care for places so nature and people can thrive. In a year when three pairs of peregrine successfully raised young on Trust land in the Dark Peak, half of all successful pairs on the Peak District moors, we were very upset to hear of this incident.’’

‘’We continue to work closely with the RSPB, police and statutory agencies to take action to combat wildlife crime. We urge anyone with relevant information about this incident to contact the police and help end the illegal persecution of birds of prey.’’

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Derbyshire Police on 101.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB Investigations on crime@rspb.org.uk or fill in the online form: www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/wild-bird-crime-report-form/

If you know of someone killing birds of prey, please don’t stay silent: call the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

RSPB, Peregrine poisoned in Peak District National Park. 02 March 21