Tree feller fined for destroying an active bird of prey nest

A ‘tree feller’ and a ‘bird of prey nest’. The headline from the Stroud News today tells just half the story, because the bird of prey in question was a Goshawk (one of the country’s rarest birds of prey – and a species loathed by shooting estates) and the ‘tree feller’ (or ‘agricultural labourer as he’s described in the report) took out just one tree in the wood, and that one tree contained the active nest.

It’s hard to miss a large raptor’s nest (and female Goshawks are the same size as Buzzards). They are a massive pile of sticks, the ground below is spattered with ‘whitewash’, and Goshawks are noisy birds. Anyone from a tree feller to an agricultural labourer to a shooting estate manager will know damn well there is an active Goshawk pair in a woodland if they spend more than a few hours in the locale. It is inconceivable that just one tree could be cut down without the individual knowing that it contained an active nest. The RSPB Investigations Team clearly think so too, and are quoted saying in an exasperated tone, “It appears that this was the only tree in the wood to be felled and then completely removed at a time when it contained an active goshawk nest” adding that raptor persecution is a National Wildlife Crime priority and the Goshawk a priority species.

Destroying an active nest is illegal under the Wildlife & Countryside Act (see – Nesting Birds and the Law). So how harsh was the penalty, particularly given that the ‘tree feller’ was fined for illegally destroying the nest of a priority species, one of the UK’s rarest breeding birds of prey, and the nest was clearly targeted because ‘estates’ (and this part of the Cotswolds is riddled with shooting estates – see Red Kite shot near Cotswolds shooting estate) don’t want them anywhere near their precious live targets? How harsh – that would be a piddling £100 donation to the RSPB! That’ll teach the estate, eh…charging them less than it would have cost the RSPB (and therefore actually cost its members) in fuel to get on-site and pay the salary of whoever had to deal with the frustration of seeing yet another wildlife criminal and his employer getting away with it…

According to the report, a condition was put into place which allows Glos Raptors Monitoring Group to access the site so that they can monitor the existing birds of prey, monitor active nests and put cameras up. Access to these ‘private estates’ is welcome, but is always dependent on cooperation. Besides, the estate management knows they can get rid of Goshawks for what they charge just one person for a day’s pheasant killing.

In other words, it barely matters to them if we all know what they’re doing because it’s chump change if they get caught…

 

A MAN has been fined for destroying an active bird of prey nest by felling a tree.

Officers from Gloucestershire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team were called to an estate on the outskirts of Gloucester on Saturday, June 5 where it was reported that a tree had been felled causing an active goshawk nest to be destroyed.

The man, who is an agricultural labourer, was identified after admitting that he had felled the tree without checking for any bird’s nests.

He attended for a voluntary interview and was ordered to pay a £100 donation to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

A condition was also put into place which allowed Glos Raptors Monitoring Group to access the site so that they can monitor the existing birds of prey, monitor active nests and put cameras up to protect bird of prey habitats.

PC Phil Mawdsley oversaw this saying: “Bird nesting season generally takes place from March to August, however can fall outside of this period and during this time you shouldn’t cut down trees or trim hedges without checking for the presence of birds and it is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to disturb birds or damage their nests and unfortunately this happened after an act of recklessness.

“Advice around cutting hedges or trees at this time of year can be found here: bit.ly/3e0mEFe

A spokesperson for the RSPB said: “It appears that this was the only tree in the wood to be felled and then completely removed at a time when it contained an active goshawk nest.

“Goshawk nests are huge structures and the contents of the nest would be equally obvious.

“Goshawks are rare breeding birds and have been subjected to regular persecution through the years, which sadly continues today.

“To intentionally damage or destroy the active nest of a goshawk, or any wild bird, is against the law.

“Raptor persecution is a National Wildlife Crime priority, and the goshawk is a priority species.”

More information on restorative justice in the county can be found at: www.restorativegloucestershire.co.uk/

Matty Airey, Stroud News, 09/July/21