Not Birdwatching, bird(crime)watching!
News from the RSPB
30th May 1996
There is still a great deal of bird crime going on in the UK according to the Investigations Department of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
All sorts of offences take place and many do not come to court. In particular the illegal use of poison is very difficult to prove. It was therefore particularly important to have obtained a conviction in the case of James Lambie, a keeper on Farleyer Estate, who was fined £2,500 for laying out 6 eggs laced with alphachloralose to kill Hooded Crows. Use of poison like this is illegal and has been for many years although Hooded Crows may be killed using legal methods. His employers 'put their trust in him not to offend again' - so he has not lost his job even though the offence was undertaken whilst he was doing it!
In Norfolk gamekeeper David Millican pleaded guilty of five charges of setting pole traps and was fined £1,500. He said that his employer, ex-MP Ronald Carlile Buxton, would pay! He said that he was only under training and did not know the law! His gamekeeping tutor at Otley College, Suffolk, strongly refuted this. On the very first day of the course this was mentioned and it was "drummed into them that under no circumstances should they use illegal traps or poisons". Mark Howard, the tutor, said that Millican was a disgrace to his profession. Pole traps have been illegal since 1905!
Peter Gurr was a licensed keeper of Schedule 4 birds under the UK Department of the Environment's registration scheme. No more. In September 1995 he was convicted of six offences of dealing in endangered species and was jailed for four months. The birds he sold were checked by DNA analysis and 23 - some bred as far back as 1987 - were not related to their declared parents. This investigation involved ten police forces and the RSPB, as well as Nottingham University for the DNA work.
After three days in court Keith Sweetman of Buckinghamshire was convicted of unlawful possession of two Golden Eagles and was given an 18 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £500 costs. He claimed that the two chicks had been dumped on his doorstep!
Small birds are still being caught for caging. Finches were found at Thomas Newby's house in Bolton together with lime-sticks. They cost him a fine of £500 and £2,800 costs.
Another Lancashire man, David Aldrid of Blackburn, was caught trying to sell a couple of Greenfinches and fined £100 with £546 costs.
In Stranraer William Francis Price had 21 live Goldfinches, a cage trap and lime. He was fined £3,000.
And just in case you thought egg collecting had stopped, one of the results of the police raid on the annual meeting of the Jourdain Society was the conviction of John Maylin. He pleaded guilty to the possession of 314 Tree Pipit eggs and was fined £500 with £172 costs. The Jourdain Society is named after the distinguished Reverend who was an egg-collector when few people thought how anti-social it was. The Tree Pipit is a delightful little migrant bird currently declining in Britain. Most British birders will never have seen as many as 314 in their lives!