A busy 7 days…

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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.

Nick

#OurBirds

#YearOfTheRaptor

Photo Credit – Debby Thorne

Operation Owl….

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

Best wishes

Nick

#YearOfTheRaptor

#OurBirds

#OpOwl2019

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

Phot Credit- unknown

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