A late Sunday evening train to Newcastle and another night away from home and the family, but an important mission awaited me early on Monday morning. I had a planned early meeting with a number of Natural England’s Hen Harrier Team to travel much further north to sat-tag some young Harrier chicks. While helping the team sat-tagging Harrier chicks is an absolute pleasure and massive privilege in itself, one of these chicks was destined to be extra special. Let me explain why……
On the 11th June 2019 I had the pleasure of meeting an inspiring young boy called Alex Goodwin. On this day Alex captured the hearts of over 100 Police Wildlife Crime Officers and all the partners present at the sat-tag training workshop he opened on our behalf. Alex is a brave boy who is winning a battle against bone cancer. Alex is passionate about all wildlife and especially birds of prey. You can find out more about Alex here. It was on this day that Natural England agreed with me that one of this years tagged chicks would be named after Alex, a Mini-Police Wildlife Crime Officer.
So back to today…
After an early start and a drive further north we arrived at our destination. With the truck parked up and our bags loaded it was time for the long off-road hike to the nest site. The nest contained 4 chicks (3 female and 1 male) and with mum and dad keeping a watchful eye we (Stephen) got to work fitting the tags. Sat-tags have proved invaluable in tracking the movements of so many birds of prey, but particularly Hen Harriers as seen in the recent Nature publication where they have shone a light into the dark hole of the ongoing disappearance of our birds.
With the tags fitted we left the nest area and watched from a distance as mum quickly returned to her young to check they were all ok. After some time watching these amazing birds it was time to hit the road and commence the long long journey south (via a late and delayed train).
A truly inspiring day and one I will never forget.
Natural England and I would like you to meet Alex (Top Female) and her sister Rosie (Bottom Female)…….
We all wish her every success and I look forward to tracking her movements and providing you all with regular updates.
Safe travels Alex, Rosie and all the other raptor chicks that are in their early days…..
My thanks to the Natural England Team, Stephen and Pat and to Martin from the Forestry Commission.
As Chair of the RPPDG I have stated from the day I took the role that I truly believed that long lasting success in tacking raptor persecution would only be achieved by working in partnership.
I am therefore delighted to accept an offer from RPPDG partners BASC to attend this years Game Fair on 26th July, representing the RPPDG. I will be in and around the BASC stand for the morning before exploring the event during the early afternoon.
I will also be attending Birdfair on Friday 16th August. I will be joining RPPDG Partner, the RSPB for the morning from around 10:00-12:30 and then with PAW from 13:30-15:30.
I might even bring the infamous orange coat for photos if the great British weather is true to form. 🙂
Please do come and say hello, I look forward to discussing all aspects of raptor persecution with you…..
Last week started with the launch of the Operation Owl website which also signified the operation becoming our nationwide approach to raising awareness of raptor persecution. The site had over 1000 hits within the first few days of launch and I hope it goes a long way to helping us all raise the profile of the persecution that takes place.
While pressing `publish` on the website I was getting on a train to the far north of England to spend a day off (Annual Leave) from Beds Police on nest watch with one of Natural England’s finest, Pat. We travelled so far north I almost needed to swap my money at a `bureau de change` but the long trip was worth it as we spent the day in the middle of nowhere in the fresh air and brief sunshine watching some amazing birds. During the day we were lucky enough to see buzzard, peregrine, raven and also managed to see a number of hen harriers and to top the afternoon off a glorious food pass between male & female.
Late on Monday night I started the journey south to Northallerton ready for the Raptor Persecution Investigation Workshop on the Tuesday. Importantly this was the first of its kind to include specific information for Police Wildlife Crime Officers on Sat-Tag data. The RSPB beat me to writing a blog about it and probably did a better job than me anyway, so you can read about it here. Thank you to everyone that made the session possible and for everyone who took the time to attend.
Anther long journey on Thursday, this time to Hampshire. With the great support of Hampshire Police, NWCU and Dr Tim Mackrill we were able to host a really informative session on the forthcoming White Tailed Sea Eagle reintroduction project on the Isle of Wight. There was fantastic attendance from all of the local Police Forces WCOs, The Forestry Commission, Natural England and other partners as we all look to work together with the project to ensure it is a real success.
Another day off today (17th June 2019) and another long drive. This time to the Peak District to spend time with Mike Price of the Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group and Steve Downing (NERF) to monitor hen harrier and goshawk. It was an absolute privilege to be able to be involved in the ringing of two hen harrier chicks and something which has made my drive and passion for ending #RaptorPersecution even stronger.
As I sit here typing this blog watching my local red kite in and out of their normal tree rearing young, I am delighted to be leading this work on all our behalves. Together we are stronger and together we will succeed.
Photo Credit – Debby Thorne
I am delighted to be able to launch a new website, dedicated to raising awareness of the ongoing persecution of our birds of prey. The purpose of this site is to educate, inform and inspire people to get involved in tackling raptor persecution. I am grateful to Insp Kev Kelly and the North Yorkshire Police Rural Task Force for allowing me to pick up their great idea and develop it much further on behalf of us all.
Having secured the support of the National Police Chiefs Council lead for Wildlife and Rural Crime, DCC Craig Naylor, for Operation Owl to become a national `brand` for raptor persecution awareness raising I have worked with so many great people to build, develop and refine the site that launches today. Today’s launch wouldn’t have been possible without these people giving up their own time to help me, so thank you to each and every one of you, but especially to Chloe Cryne for your help building the extensive infrastructure and teaching me how to populate things!!
This launch is the first of many more Operation Owl events that will take place, including high profile events in the community, media campaigns and strengthening partnership work. Just tomorrow (11th June 2019) we have the first ever raptor persecution investigation training day for Wildlife Crime officer from across England & Wales.
The site will continue to evolve over time, based on feedback from those that use it, so please do contribute through the contact link.
Please take a look and spread the word https://operationowl.com
I 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.
Phot Credit- unknown
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….
Photo Credit- Guy Shurrock- RSPB
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.
Photo Credit- Rutland Ospreys