North Yorkshire Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after several instances of illegal disturbance were recorded at a goshawk nest in North Yorkshire.
•Covert camera captures gunshots at the nest site plus acts of disturbance
•The goshawk nest subsequently fails – RSPB discover four unhatched eggs
•North Yorkshire is responsible for more raptor persecution incidents than any other UK county
In spring 2017, a covert camera was trained on a nest with poor breeding success near Helmsley to better understand what was causing the nest to fail. In April 2017, the footage showed two men visiting the nest and one of the men then repeatedly hitting the nest tree with a large stick. This appeared to be a clear attempt to flush the incubating bird off the nest.
See the video here
Then, on two occasions the following month, a man is seen and the sound of gunshots is heard, along with the repeated alarm calls of the parent birds on one of the occasions. The nesting attempt subsequently failed and the four cold eggs were later recovered from the nest after a visit by the police. Analysis showed one of the eggs had a fully formed chick inside.
Goshawks are secretive, forest-dwelling hunters, around the size of a buzzard. There are very few nesting pairs in North Yorkshire, despite plenty of available habitat. Goshawks are legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and listed on Schedule 1 of the Act. It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb the birds at the nest site during the breeding season unless operating under the authority of a government licence.
Investigations are ongoing and police are appealing for information.
Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “We are very concerned that this was an attempt to shoot the goshawks or disturb the adults to make them desert the nest site. Goshawks are magnificent birds and should be widespread throughout North Yorkshire. The idea that people are deliberately trying to destroy nests and prevent them from raising chicks is beyond belief.
“Birds of prey in the North York Moors National Park are at a huge risk of persecution, and this county consistently proves the worst in the country for the illegal killing of birds of prey. This latest evidence shows the pressures they continue face. We are grateful for the enquiries being made by North Yorkshire Police in relation to the events recorded. We hope that further information emerges to help identify these individuals.”
Acting Inspector Kevin Kelly, of North Yorkshire Police, added: “The ongoing problem of raptor persecution in our county prompted a public awareness campaign in February between ourselves, the RSPB, RSPCA, North York Moors National Park and Yorkshire Dales National Park. The initiative – know as Operation Owl – was designed to educate local people and send a clear message that raptor crime will not be tolerated.
“If you have any information that may help our enquiries regarding these incidents, please speak out. Ahead of the spring breeding season, look out for individuals acting suspiciously and please report any concerns immediately.”
If you have any information relating to this incident, call North Yorkshire Police on 101. Or to speak with somebody in complete confidence, call the RSPB’s Raptor Crime Hotline 0300 999101.
Last Updated: Tuesday 27 March 2018