Keeping you in the loop…

img_0145-1I thought it was timely to share a very brief update on the work I have been undertaking over the last couple of weeks, a really important period for our birds as they settle on nests and start to rear their young.

I have been in regular contact with a number of those involved in nest monitoring, keeping myself updated on the migration of important species across the country as they have moved to critical nesting locations. I look forward to continued developments over the coming weeks and months.

Only last week I spent time with Mark Thomas and Jenny Shelton from the RSPB Investigations Team watching a pair of locally nesting peregrines prior to completing some filming for Operation Owl (blog to follow on this very soon). and some other future planned awareness raising activity.

I recently attended the East Region Rural & Wildlife Crime Forum to give an update on my work as Chair of the RPPDG to Police Wildlife Crime Officers & partner agencies. I used this as an opportunity to seek support for the Enforcement Group and Operation Owl. The meeting went extremely well and I have the full support of those attending for the work I have planned.

Working with the National Wildlife Crime Unit I have been planning a number of training sessions for Police Wildlife Crime Officers. In early June we will deliver a national training session for well over 100 PWCOs on raptor persecution investigations, including investigative techniques for sat-tagged birds. This will be followed later in the month by a bespoke briefing and training session for PWCOs in the south of the country, focusing on the White Tailed Sea Eagle reintroduction.

In the coming weeks I have taken a few days leave to complete some raptor nest monitoring and field work with a number of key individuals. I also have a meeting with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Lead for Wildlife Crime and a 10 mile raptor persecution awareness raising run in North Yorkshire.

Please be reassured that while I cant always tweet or blog about the work I am doing there will be a few more blogs over the coming weeks as some of the other important work I have been doing behind the scenes starts to come to fruition.

Let’s all hope for a few dry and warm weeks for our birds.

Nick

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RPPDG- Update

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Today I headed back to North Yorkshire with my now famous coat, this time to Chair my second RPPDG meeting, this blog will give a very quick overview of the meeting.

It was great to have a full house at the meeting, with a number of attendees having made considerable journeys to be there. Following the much spoken about January meeting, it was also great to have every member organisation represented. It was fantastic to once again welcome our guests as they continue to explore the help and support they are able to offer the group in the fight against the ongoing raptor persecution, I remain confident they will join the group as core members.

An important step forward today was agreeing the groups Terms of Reference, which will guide meetings moving forwards and importantly ensure we remain focused and on track. Our birds rely on member organisations pulling together and working to deliver sustainable change, as Chair I will guide this activity.

A considerable chunk of the meeting focused on the newly created Tactical Delivery Plan, which was created following the national workshop held at the end of 2018. Following considerable work refining the document, a significant number of actions were agreed today and owners have now been allocated. While not all members will be able to deliver against every single action, there was overwhelming energy and commitment to make meaningful progress.

I updated the group on plans for Operation Owl, which has now been agreed by DCC Craig Naylor as a national `brand` for raptor persecution awareness raising. I will lead this initiative in my role as RPPDG Chair, working with partners to deliver a suite of meaningful activities, these plans are already developing well (blog to follow). Further updates included the progression of the newly forming Enforcement Sub-Group, the Golden Eagle Southern Scotland release, Hen Harrier Action Plan, White Tailed Sea Eagle Project and WIIS Scheme.

We meet again in early July….

Nick

Photo Credit- Guy Shurrock- RSPB

Rutland Ospreys….

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Today I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Rutland Osprey’s  to meet with Tim Mackrill and Lloyd Park.  We spent some considerable time talking about the great work being done at Rutland Water to ensure that year after year the Ospreys return for successful breeding seasons. It was great to hear about the number of birds already in the area this year and I cant wait to visit them later in the year to catch up on progress.

I met with Tim to understand in more detail the plans for the White Tailed Eagle reintroduction on the Isle of Wight and the plans for continued Osprey reintroduction in the Poole Harbour area. It is vital that we have strong plans in place with the local police wildlife crime officers, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and wider partners to ensure that these birds are protected and if persecution occurs that they have a detailed understanding of the investigative techniques required. We have started to develop some robust plans in this area and I look forward to nailing down the finer detail over the coming months.

I wish to thank Tim and Lloyd for their hospitality, their insight and their time today. I’m excited about building strong working relationships with you and your teams, as we all look to secure successful reintroductions of these amazing birds, OUR amazing birds.

Nick

#YearOfTheRaptor

Photo Credit- Rutland Ospreys

Time for change….

I have read with interest the long awaited paper published by Nature Comms today (See here…) that highlights the levels of hen harrier persecution linked to land managed for driven grouse shooting in northern England. As Chair of the RPPDG I am pleased to see such a rigorous piece of academic research, published in such a high-ranking journal, focusing on the persecution of the hen harrier. The results of this research should really begin to focus minds.

The evidence reinforces the sheer size and scale of the ongoing and relentless persecution of our birds, empirical evaluation of significant data sets, highlighting exactly where my focus needs to be. My newly forming Enforcement Group will be charged with tackling, through robust activity, those that continue to persecute our birds. I already have a couple of offenders in my sights….

As RPPDG Chair it is my role to bring together key individuals to tackle this issue head on, now is the time for significant change. I will continue my tireless work with partners to address the issue, supporting behavioural and cultural change where required. I still firmly believe that an effective partnership response to this issue is the most sustainable way forward.

Thanks for your continued support.

Nick

Photo Credit- RSPB

 

My first six months

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As I approach the end of my first six months as Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) I thought it timely to blog an update of the work I have completed so far. When I took up the role of Chair I gave my commitment to openness and transparency and will continue to do that through this blog. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to get in contact directly by email or phone, I have enjoyed many conversations with people offering support, feedback and the benefit of their experience.

Having responded to a national advert for a new Chair and having been successfully selected, I started my tenure in handover September 2018 with a journey to Greater Manchester to receive a briefing from the previous Chair, prior to his retirement from Policing. This was closely followed by a meeting with the Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and DEFRA to further develop my understanding of the group and the issues that needed my immediate attention.

In my first of many visits to Yorkshire (I have yet to see the Sun) I spent a cold September day with the Moorland Association and staff on the Bolton Abbey Estate, learning about Driven Grouse Shooting and Land Management. I spent most of October reading and digesting a wealth of information so as to be much better informed, spending many an evening and weekend talking to people, asking a thousand silly questions I am sure.

My second visit to Yorkshire, in November, was to attend my first National Wildlife Crime Tasking & Coordination Meeting and spent some more time with keepers and the North Yorkshire Police Rural Task Force. With some great support, in November I held the first ever National Workshop (A New Beginning……) aimed at identifying work streams that could be taken on by RPPDG members to tackle head-on the persecution issue. A full on day spent in London, interrupted by a protest outside the building, the outcome of which was a lengthy list of ideas that I would later distil down into the groups Delivery Plan.

Raising awareness of the size and scale of the persecution issue within Policing was another early priority for me, writing articles for well-respected policing publications including Police Professional and Policing Insight. I also secured support from North Yorkshire Police to utilise the `Operation Owl` brand for a widespread awareness campaign (more to follow). I closed out 2018 with a series of meetings and calls with key RPPDG partners.

January saw me Chair my first RPPDG meeting in London (In the hot seat…..) and was closely followed by media interviews with The Times and The Shooting Times. The Tactical Delivery Plan feedback and revisions continued, while work commenced on some of the early actions, including seeking support from the National Police Wildlife Crime Officer network for my new National Enforcement Group.

February saw me being invited to attend the Scottish Raptor Study Group Annual Conference being held at Scottish National Heritage, Battleby. Two long 7 hour drives bookended a really insightful event, where I was able to discuss at length the persecution issue with Members of Scottish Parliament and spend time with so many people that dedicate their lives to monitoring and safeguarding our raptors. My favourite presentation of the day had to be the update on the Southern Scotland Golden Eagles. I have already been invited to attend next year’s event, and look forward to taking my coat north of the border again.

At the end of February and into early March I was able to secure the support of North Yorkshire Police, RSPB, NWCU and Natural England in the planning of a national training event for Wildlife Crime Officers. The event, scheduled for the 11th June, will focus on investigation of raptor persecution offences, forensic techniques and the management of sat tag data.

On the 5th March I was again in North Yorkshire (getting cold and wet) on a visit to the Nidderdale AONB with the NYP Rural Task Force. I spent the day understanding the partnership work going on in the area to tackle persecution offences, meeting with key individuals to broaden my own understanding, allowing me to better focus my efforts. I even broke my hen harrier `duck` during this visit.

Over the next few weeks I travel to Wales to attend the `All Wales Rural Crime Conference` and head back to North Yorkshire to Chair my 2nd RPPDG Meeting. I will continue to keep you all updated through this blog, I hope you continue to welcome and value this insight.

Nick

Photo credit- RSPB

In the hot seat…..

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Let me start this latest blog by offering a heartfelt thank you to everyone that has offered me their support since I took on the role as National Chair of the RPPDG in September last year. Having been in post for around six months, I chaired my first RPPDG meeting just a couple of weeks ago.

Being trusted by the people of England & Wales to chair this group is a great honour for me, and a role that I will fulfil to the very best of my abilities. I will ensure that I give the role my all, with the aim of making raptor persecution a thing of the past, after all 2019 will be the `Year of the Raptor`.

RPPDG

The RPPDG was formed in 2009 and contrary to many social media reports is not a DEFRA led initiative. The RPPDG is one of a number of similar PDG meetings that are governed and held to account by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) lead for Wildlife Crime, currently DCC Craig Naylor of Lincolnshire Police, through the UK Tasking and Coordinating Group Meeting.

As I previously spoke about, I attended my first TCG after just a few weeks in post and updated the previous TCG chair on my plans to move the RPPDG forwards with rigour, accountability and at considerable pace. The RPPDG is ten years old this year and I fully intend to make the most successful one yet.

RPPDG Meeting 16th January 2019

Again much has been written about this meeting in both the national and social media space, and mostly focused on some empty seats at the table, I intend however to focus this update on the extremely positive steps we took forward as a group during this meeting.

I have repeatedly given my absolute commitment to making the work of the group open and transparent and that through this blog I would update you all, so here is an overview of my first meeting in the `hot seat`.

The group was joined by a number of guests, all of whom added real value to the day, and are now considering how they can support us moving forwards including potentially joining the RPPDG as core-members. I will introduce these people in future blogs once they have decided on how and if they can add meaningful value, which I am sure they all will.

The group is now well on the way to having an agreed Terms of Reference, a really important document that will provide focus, direction and absolute clarity of purpose for everyone involved. Some may say this should already be obvious, but recent history would demonstrate this hasn’t always been the case.

The Tactical Delivery Plan is also now much more tightly defined and currently with group members for further feedback following the first ever National Workshop I held in December. This plan, and members support in delivering it, will be our key tool in the fight to end raptor persecution.

We spent a good chunk of the meeting discussing the need for a national awareness raising campaign and how I believe the award winning `Operation Owl` should be the brand for this. Utilising this approach has worked extremely well for `Operational Galileo` and hare coursing and I was able to share with the group some early concept work that had been produced on my behalf (thanks Chloe). Working closely with North Yorkshire Police, 2019 will see a number of high profile `Operation Owl` days as we look to broaden the reach of the brand and highlight the relentless persecution issue.

It is hoped that this in turn will lead to greater public awareness and increased intelligence reporting as a direct result. This will feed the newly forming Enforcement Sub-Group, to tackle head on those people responsible for shooting, poisoning and trapping our birds.

The group was updated on a number of other important issues, including the proposed White tailed Eagle Isle-of-White reintroduction, the Hen Harrier Action Plan and the three recently released Golden Eagle chicks (Edward, Beaky & Emily) in Southern Scotland. I look forward to working to support these initiatives moving forwards.

The group next meets towards the end of April, and will be hosted by North Yorkshire Police. During this meeting I very much hope to identify leads for a number of the initial critical actions and kick-start work to deliver them, including the nationwide roll-out of Operation Owl….

Let me close by saying this, the prevention of the ongoing and relentless persecution of OUR birds of prey has swiftly become a matter of real passion for me. Those that attempt to get in our way will just strengthen my resolve to see it end.

Together we are stronger.

Nick

Photo credit- image from google search (Male Hen Harrier)

2019- Year of the Raptor

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As we rapidly approach 2019 I thought it was timely to draft another quick blog post to keep you all updated. Since my last blog at the end of November I have continued to work tirelessly to raise awareness of the raptor persecution issue both within UK Policing but also the wider public.

I have recently had articles agreed for submission in Police Professional and Policing Insight, two well-regarded law enforcement publications, to ensure this important issue is kept on the minds of those involved in making critical resource deployment decisions. At a time when policing faces funding cut backs it is vital that the scale of the persecution issue is widely known, so that resource allocation decisions are made against this backdrop. I have also been in consultation with leading shooting publications and hope to have articles published early in the New Year.

Following the Persecution Workshop I chaired in London recently I have been working hard to refine the first draft action plan following feedback from members of the RPPDG. This will be an ongoing process I am sure but there are some really meaningful and progressive concepts that need greater discussion and progression.

I am confident that by the time I chair my first PDG meeting on 16th January that I will have a really task orientated document to share and take forward, a real focus for the group and something that we can all be held accountable for delivering. To give readers a flavour for some of the key strands of work I am looking for the PDG to take forward immediately are as below

1.    With the support of North Yorkshire Police, developing the WWF award winning `Operation Owl` into a national media campaign focused on raptor persecution. I plan for this will be supplemented by a new raptor persecution website that will contain key information, materials and updates from the PDG.

2.    The creation of an Enforcement Group that will focus on partnership working and the `Achilles Heel` approach to tackling head-on those people that are known or strongly suspected to be involved in persecution offences. Creation of a hostile environment for those committing persecution offences.

3.    Working with technology providers, for example What3Words, to support the activity strands of the PDG. I hope for this to also include working with satellite tag providers to ensure the very best technology is helping us combat persecution offences.

4.    Increased awareness and training for those involved in Wildlife Crime investigations, including police officers, force control rooms and partnership investigators.

 

I am delighted that a number of organisations not currently represented on the PDG have been in contact to ask how they can contribute to this important issue, I hope to be able to report some really positive developments here very soon, and for those organisations to support me in delivering against the plan by becoming members of the PDG.

Working together, with new partners and old, we will make raptor persecution a thing of the past.

 I will sign off this blog now by wishing you all a Happy New Year, here’s to 2019 being a successful one for everyone, but most importantly lets work together to ensure 2019 is the `Year of the Raptor`.