My 1st Year in the Hot Seat….

Almost as quickly as it started, my first year as Chair of the England & Wales Raptor Persecution PDG has arrived and gone. I thought it timely therefore to blog a brief summary of the work I have completed thus far.

Having applied to Chair the group in the summer of 2018 I met the previous retiring Chair at Greater Manchester Police HQ on the 6th September 2018 for a handover. On the 21st September I drafted my first blog which highlighted the work I completed during my first few weeks and set out some key plans for the future. I think I’ve delivered on these so far.

Whilst I spent most of October talking to key group members and other people that reached out and offered support I also commenced planning a `National Raptor Persecution Workshop` for November, aimed at being the foundation and building blocks of the group’s first Tactical Delivery Plan. Despite a protest taking place outside the DEFRA building on the day in question, we made some really useful progress as a group. Later in November I attended my first Wildlife Crime Tactical Tasking & Coordination Group (TTCG) meeting and blogged about this here. December was spent refining the delivery plan and working on some ideas for the later launch of Operation Owl- Year of the Raptor.

2019 commenced with the initial framework being built for the `Operation Owl` website and securing the support of one of my amazing team who did this in her spare time. The 16th January was my first RPPDG meeting as Chair, much was said about this meeting- In the Hot seat. Into February and I completed interviews with The Shooting Times & RSPB Investigations Team, as well as visiting Natural England and attending the Scottish Raptor Study Groups Annual Conference in Battleby, Perth. March came along and saw me visiting North Yorkshire, spending the day on an Estate managed for Grouse Shooting. I blogged a summary of my first six months here and also attended the `All Wales Rural Crime Meeting` whilst continuing to build a website behind the scenes with my youngest daughter.

In April I had the pleasure of meeting the team at Rutland Water, learning more about the Osprey project. I also met with the Directors of Wild Justice and chaired my second RPPDG meeting, while preparing for an important meeting with the DEFRA Environment Minister which took place on the 1st May.  During this meeting the Minister, Therese Coffey made a number of commitments to support my work as Chair of the RPPDG, I look forward to these coming to fruition. The month of May continued with me attending my second National Wildlife Crime TTCG, a National PDG Chairs meeting and having a meeting with the Crown Prosecution Service Lead for Wildlife Crime.

In June I launched `Operation Owl` on behalf of the National Police Chiefs Council, which included the `go-live` of the website built to support awareness raising. This was closely followed by a training day for Police Wildlife Crime Officers in raptor persecution investigation techniques with a special focus of those birds that are fitted with sat-tags (See here). A few days later I was chairing a White-tailed Eagle workshop in Hampshire where the foundations for our later `trigger plan` were laid. This will ensure that should anything happen to the birds released on the Isle of Wight we have a really cohesive response ready and waiting. June ended with days working with raptor workers in the Peak and visiting local Bedfordshire Company Opticron for some awesome bins.

July was one of my busiest months so far and a summary can be viewed here. Into August and I was delighted to attend as a guest speakers the `Birds of Prey Day` at RSPB Saltholme, followed later that day by the Northern England Raptor Forum Raptor Persecution Awareness Day before travelling to Derbyshire to Hen Harrier Day on the Sunday. The reception I was given from around 1500 people was amazing!! (Thank You), I was also able to attend Birdfair on the Friday- good job I had my boots on!

August ended with another ‘day off’ visit to the amazing ‘Birds of Poole Harbour‘ team to see the Osprey project. This on the same day as the six White-tailed Eagles were released on the Isle of Wight and four new members officially joined the RPPDG having attended my first few meetings as guests (Wildlife Trusts/ Northern Uplands AONB/ RSPCA & BAWC).

Wow- what an amazing 12 months that was!! Protecting our birds has quickly grown into a real passion for me. I will continue to work across partners and partnerships to consign raptor persecution to the history books- where it firmly belongs.

This first year wouldn’t have been possible without the support of so many amazing people. Thank you to each and every one of you, most importantly my thanks goes to the amazing network of volunteer raptor workers, your work often goes unnoticed but is absolutely vital. I look forward to monitoring winter roost sites with you over the coming months.

I will soon be attending the Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust AGM, to talk and reflect on my first year in the chair. Would be good to meet some of you there, it’s expected to be a sell out, so grab your tickets quickly.

For details, see here.

I will sign off this blog by saying bring on the next 4 years, I look forward to it lots, protecting ‘Our Birds’ for future generations to come.

Best Wishes

Nick

#OurBirds

Photo Credits-

Top- Guy Shurrock (RSPB Investigations)

Middle- Rutland Ospreys