How Wildlife legislation in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland is being selectively implemented when choosing who ‘to’ and who ‘not’ to prosecute.

Gamekeeper caught below active Bowland Peregrine Nest with Loaded Shotgun

Part 2

In 2009 two experienced members of the local raptor group, the same group who had their Peregrine and Hen Harrier licenses revoked by Natural England, witnessed a gamekeeper climb over the boundary wall from the adjoining estate where he worked onto the United Utilities estate. The keeper was observed carrying a shot gun which later turned out to have been loaded.

 Cold-Stone

The Cold Stone, United Utilities Estate, Forest of Bowland: Peregrine eyrie with long history of persecution

The man was then observed walking below an occupied Peregrine nest  (site above in image) where a freshly made nesting scrape, found by two members of the North West Raptor Group positioned on a grass ledge just 30 feet above the keepers head. When the keeper realised his suspicious actions were being observed he ran off climbing back over the boundary wall onto the estate where he worked. Following a pursuit by the two raptor workers the gamekeeper was eventually located hiding inside a gun butt unloading his rifle which contained two cartridges which he placed on top of the gun butt.

When questioned, the gamekeeper admitted committing armed trespass confirming he had not been given approval to enter the United Utilities estate. After reporting the incident to the RSPB and the United Utilities Bowland Estate Manager, both raptor workers were under no illusion, the incident had been a complete surprise to the UU estate manager who agreed he would pass the matter to the police for immediate investigation. There was no doubt in the minds of the two witnesses the gamekeeper had told the truth when he said he had entered the UU estate without approval. Never the less several days later the two raptor workers were completely take aback when they were advised by the police the matter was now closed, the estate manager had they were told provided the gamekeeper with retrospective access permission. What was more significant, the police were uninterested in the fact that a gamekeeper had been apprehended below an occupied peregrine nest with a loaded firearm by two credible witnesses and had admitted the trespass.

According to both raptor workers this was not altogether an unexpected development. There are currently three police officers with responsibility for upholding law and order throughout the Forest of Bowland. These officers are tasked with preventing rural crime and working closely with estates in an attempt to combat rustling and poaching. We are informed each of the three officers also have a strong association with game shooting in this region.

Experienced Raptor Workers reported to police for monitoring peregrine nest, subjected to abuse and intimidation.

Croasdale-Quarry

Croasdale Quarry, United Utilities Estate, Forest of Bowland

In April 2013 Raptor Politics became aware of a disturbing incident involving two members of the North West Raptor Group, a police officer and  an over zealous warden working on behalf of United Utilities in the Croasdale valley near Slaidburn. At the time of the incident both raptor workers had observed the warden inside a grouse butt positioned above the Croasdale quarry where he was thought to be keeping an eye on the pair of nesting peregrines in the quarry below.

Over the last ten years the Croasdale quarry has become very well known and is visited by bird watchers from across the region throughout each season. People come to visit the quarry not only because of their enthusiasm for peregrines, but they are aware they can observe breeding peregrines from a relatively close vantage position from around the lower outer parameter of the quarry, or from the estate road passing just 100 metres from the quarry

In addition to bird watchers thousands of walkers, cyclist, trail bikers and ramblers cross Croasdale moor from Slaidburn to small scenic village of Wray passing very close to the quarry on the left hand side of the moorland road. We have been advised the police have now placed a Section S59 notice at the entrances into the quarry warning cyclist and bikers if they enter the quarry they were likely be served with a Section S59 notice, and if they are given two S59’s for a second offence their machines could to be confiscated.

We have concerns about the way the Police Reform Act 2002, Section S59 legislation in this instance is being used at Croasdale, not to protect the interests of the public, but to help protect breeding birds it appears. This is certainly not what the Section 59 notices were designed for, and in our view in this instance the police have made another error. We suggest anyone interested in the legislation regarding these notices, in particular their serious implication, should look up the legislation under the Police Reform Act 2002 Section S59 notice. For additional detail on how the police used this legislation inappropriately to intimidate raptor workers in the Forest of  Bowland follow the attached link, your eyes will be opened to the hidden agenda here.

http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2009/08/07/lets-persecute-the-conservationists-part-3/

The pair of Croasdale Peregrines are unlike other breeding peregrines found nesting in the more remote regions of the Forest of Bowland; other breeding pairs in this region being unaccustomed to people prefer to locate their nests well out of the public gaze; over the years the Croasdale nesting pair have become so accustomed to the sight and presence of human beings passing so close and within their nesting territory they have adjusted their behaviour accordingly, provided no one is silly enough to approach the nesting on the cliff the peregrines are not too upset.

On this occasion when the police were called by the warden, perhaps in part due to his inexperience and lack of knowledge of Peregrine behaviour, it appears the warden formed the misguided view that the presence of the two raptor workers sitting outside and below the quarries outer parameter was too close to the nest. We have been informed by one of the Raptor Workers the first thing the warden asked in a very abusive and aggressive manner when all three individuals came face to face in was “what are you after? You shouldn’t be here get out.” It seems the warden’s lack of experience with peregrines was complemented by the failings of his communication skills and his aggressive and intimidating behaviour. In this incident the two raptor workers, just like any member of the public visiting the United Utilities estate, had every right to be sitting in the sunshine enjoying the magnificence of nesting Peregrines from a secure and acceptable safe distance away from where the falcons were nesting. Instead they were treated to a hostile tirade of abuse and intimidation which was totally unprofessional. Take note United Utilities, is this how you expect one of your  employees to behave on your behalf?.

Before the UU warden had called the police he was told by both raptor workers they had not seen any peregrines during their stay outside the quarry parameter, and that they had neither seen nor heard a peregrine since their arrival in the Croasdale Valley. The warden was told that throughout their short stay at the quarry they had only observed a croaking raven at high level passing above the top of the quarry.

How sad this situation could not have been handled differently, instead the police from the nearby village of Longridge 15 miles away were alerted by the warden who told the police he had heard one peregrine from the Croasdale nest site calling in alarm at the presence of the two observers. There is in our view a distinct possibility the warden had been mistaken in what he had thought he had seen and heard. Perhaps from his hiding place in the gun butt he had not seen the Raven passing over the quarry and therefore had instead but 2 and 2 together and come up with 5. Peregrines will defend their territories against marauding Ravens whenever they enter their territory, but perhaps in this instance the warden did not know or care.

Following the police arrive at Croasdale the two raptor workers were spoken to in a very civil manner by the officer who explained to them they had each been reported for causing alleged disturbance to nesting Peregrines. Before the officer left the estate he asked the two men to attend Longridge police station separately on two consecutive dates where they would each be interviewed about the allegation the warden had made. Presumably the officer wished to explore the remote possibility of perusing a prosecution in this instance!

In the days that followed the Croasdale incident both individual discussed the incident with their solicitor. The advice they each received was simple and to the point, do not attend any meeting with the police and simply await further development. In our view we would be very surprised to learn that this matter had been taken further, unless those involved are working to hidden agenda, which we believe is possible because of the Politics in Bowland at this time!

Several weeks later both men attended Blackburn Police Station with their solicitor where following a lengthy  interview undertaken by two Detective Inspectors, both individuals were thanked for their cooperation and told no further action would be taken and allowed to go on their way.

Footnote:

In both 2014 and again in 2015, each nesting attempts by the resident pair of peregrines in the Croasdale Valley ended in failure in early April with both adult falcons disappearing. When questioned about these failures, no one was able to explain what the reason for the failure had been. No one questioned knew if any eggs had been laid because no one it appears had checked the nest for eggs.

27 comments to How Wildlife legislation in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland is being selectively implemented when choosing who ‘to’ and who ‘not’ to prosecute.

  • thomas carroll

    I have spent 48 years watching Peregrine Falcons and other Raptors,I have also spent 7 intensive years studying Peregrine Falcon behaviour at a local Lancashire Quarry. Knowing personally the Croasdale Quarry Peregrine site, in my personal opinion I would lay the blame on the marauding egg stealing Raven!They are far more courageous and aggressive at this time of the year, especially when they have a large brood of chicks to feed.

  • skydancer

    “What you after” what a way for a United Utilities employee/warden to address two members of the public, i can only hope that his birding skills are a lot better than his communication skills which appear to be zero, or maybe they are not, which could go a long way to explain why raptor numbers in the Forest of Bowland have dropped significantly.

    I also start to wonder would the police have responded to this incident if the two men had not been members of the North West Raptor Group, or more to the point would the warden have contacted the police in the first place if both men had not been members of the NWRG.

    Surely with the loss of the Hen Harrier from Bowland United Utilities/RSPB have a lot more to concern themselves with than this, for example the number of abandoned peregrine sites on their Forest of Bowland estates since the NWRG lost their licenses.

  • bubo bubo

    If the United Utilities warden was in a grouse butt just above the quarry, how could he be so certain that he was not disturbing the peregrines in the quarry at croasdale, i have watched these peregrines in this quarry at Croasdale over the last few years and have seen many birdwatchers and walkers wander into the quarry area. I have also witnessed the United Utilities wardens in the Croasdale area and they are usually in a 4×4 type vehicle which i can only presume was close by to the warden in the grouse butt, would this not disturb the peregrines?

  • che

    Bubo Bubo, This scenario happens quite regular at the Warton crag peregrine site, vehicles disturb the birds in the early hours of the morning, kids and families having picnics in the afternoon sometimes disturb the Falcons. However, like the people, friendly Peregrines at Croasdale and Warton Crag the falcons take it their stride. Does the RSPB warden have experience and knowledge of Peregrine Falcons?.How many years has this warden studied the behaviour of Peregrine Falcons in his field studies? More to the point…what qualifications does he have to single out 2 Raptor workers without firstly assessing the bigger picture? He obviously cannot think outside the box. Is there another personal agenda here….limitations of knowledge prove inadequacy.

  • Ralph

    The Actual S59 legislation

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/30/section/59

    careless

    AND

    inconsiderate driving

    AND

    prohibition of off-road driving

    AND

    is causing, or is likely to cause, alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public

    Unless all of those things apply an S59 notice has been illegally served.

    You therefore should always appeal an S59 if a copper serves you one on a road. The legislation is intended to allow police to seize motorbikes from kids riding across parks, down canal towpaths, alleyways, etc, etc, etc

    Even better, print off the legislation and leave it in your jacket pocket or stashed somewhere on your bike, and if a copper tries to give you an S59, show him all the ‘AND’s

  • max

    I think the legislation regarding disturbance of any Schedule 1 bird states that there has to be intent in the disturbance, which usually means at the nest site or very close to the nest , the incident stated above does not sound like intentional disturbance to me .

  • alan

    Am i reading this correct.
    Are we realy complaining about legislation being used to protect breeding raptors?(even if it may not be nessesary in this case)

  • Dylanben

    That used to be the situation. However, as it was difficult to prove what an individual’s intentions might be, the term ‘or recklessly’ was added to Section 1(5)of the WCA under the CROW Act 2000. It now reads ‘…. if any person intentionally or recklessly….’ etc.

  • Adam Riding

    How low the RSPB stoop to seek redemption for their own failings. An old proverb says…When you seek revenge for your own failings…firstly you must dig two graves.

  • Stev

    What is the RSPB’s agenda here? Why are the RSPB not concentrating more of their resources and effort bringing an end to bird of prey persecution in the Forest of Bowland? Why are they not working together with the local raptor group, instead of harassing their members? What is the RSPB so determined to hide? Are they trying to dismiss the fact that since the Society arrived in Bowland birds of prey are now more heavily persecuted than they were when they first arrived? There seems to be complicity on the part of the Society here; not wanting to get on the wrong side of the estate landowners for some reason, turning a blind eye to the abandonment of increasing numbers of Bowland’s historic raptor territories in the last three years. Intimidating members of a raptor group appears to have more to do with concealing the RSPB’s own failings making sure this embarrassing detail is not publicised.

  • max

    Stev, the RSPB do not have the balls to stand up to gamekeepers and landowners in Bowland, it now seems they are also cooperating with the police using intimidation tactics against experienced raptor workers to stop these individuals monitoring nests. If two gamekeepers had been observed in the same place where the 2 raptor group members had been sitting, I doubt if the RSPB warden would not have called the police. It seems to me that this is personal vendetta against the NWRG who are not being treated like members of the public .

  • Owlman

    Has the rspb Warden got any proof that the two members of the public were disturbing the Peregrines with Intent at the nest site ? Proof of guilt is required beyond reasonable doubt.

  • The politics on Bowland stink to high heaven, why for gods sake are the police wasting their time and effort bothering honest, decent people, whom I should add have been raptor workers for years and do care very much? The Bowland Police should be directing their resources towards catching the egg thieves and persecutors who are responsible for the decline of raptors throughout Bowland. It is obvious that the RSPB Warden, and I use that term very loosely, knew the two gentlemen in question and wanted them removed, not because they were doing anything wrong or harmful but because the RSPB, the police and United Utilities management do not wish the public to know anything about what the criminal activities taking place on this and other estates in this area of Lancashire. It is disgraceful and shameful that such a beautiful part of our country should be such a den of iniquity. I wonder what UU’s customers would think if they knew that a supposedly” Green Company” is allowing the raptors that frequent their property to being wiped out?
    The failings of the RSPB are shameful, no self respecting person should even be joining an organisation that cannot stop the serious and frightening decline of the raptor populations in Bowland, it is obvious they cannot do the job they are being paid to do and should leave it to those who can.
    I would like to ask them WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE EAGLE OWLS in BOWLAND this year? I have heard on the grape vine that at least two occupied nests have now been located by the NWRG.

    • Ann Cardwell.

      Chrissie, well spoken could not agree more with all you and others have commented relating on this incident. Everyone has the right to know what is really going on in Bowland. Why are the RSPB, and in particular the police, treating experienced raptor workers like this? We all live in a democracy, the way the NWRG is being harrassed at each and every turn is simply unacceptable. It seems to me all they are trying to do under very difficult circumstances is protect raptors and nothing else. The RSPB should welcome the assistance of these people not stand in the way of what they are trying to do and have done for many many years successfully.

  • Jack Simpson

    Using the Police Reform Act 2002 together with an S59 warning notice in the circumstances described to restrict bikers riding their bikes into the quarry has been a fundamental blunder by the police. As a biker myself reading this notice I would walk into quarry to take a look around to see what all the fuss was about. Importantly, the S59 notice can NOT restrict public access into any quarry located on access land, so would offer no legal protection to breeding birds, including peregrine falcons.

    Instead the police should have followed procedures used in the Lake District National Park designed to prevent disturbance at nesting cliffs used by peregrines. For many years warning notices have been placed below or upon the nesting cliff being used by peregrines asking the public and climbers to avoid the area between March and July; simple but effective with no room for error. Using the S59 notice at Croasdale is ambiguous to say the least as there is no transparency. How for example would most people know the quarry was occupied by peregrines, or even be aware they should not enter this quarry?

    Why the police would wish to use legislation designed to protect the public from inconsiderate and dangerous driving is a complete mystery. Provisions within the Wildlife and Countryside Act already cater for intentional and reckless disturbance of nesting peregrines, whereas the Police Reform Act 2002 does not.

  • bubo bubo

    It sounds very much like the NWRG are being used as scapegoats by the RSPB, UU and the police to mask their combined failings in protecting birds of prey in Bowland. The RSPB/UU wardens are complete and utter failures, this has now been demonstated by the disappearance of the hen harrier as a breeding bird in Bowland. Of course they will blame everyone else apart from themselves as usual, but there are a growing number of people WHO realise continual and unecessary nest visits by the RSPB/UU wardens is to blame. The peregrine falcon will be the next species to disappear from Bowland if action is not taken NOW.

  • skydancer

    The RSPB/UU wardens have been a complete failure as the numbers of raptors in Bowland have dropped significantly during just the last three years. If these people had been working in any other business or industry they would have been sacked for their failings, so are now trying to save their own credibility by destroying the credibility of NWRG by making false allegation against their two members.

  • greenpeace

    PROJECT SKYDANCER….Ask members of the public, Fell walkers and bird watchers to look out for Hen Harriers,Then call the police and accuse them of schedual 1 nest disturbance.Is this selective entrapment? Perhaps we should ask Lancashire County Council to consider the whole of the Forest of Bowland as a new province within THE REPUBLIC OF NORTH KOREA?

  • Jack Thompson

    The same warden involved in the Croasdale incident was originally brought into Bowland by the police. He now works for United Utilities checking nests and looking for hen harriers which he now has the appropriate licence to do. You may therefore be surprised to learn the same individual removed an abandoned clutch of eagle owls from the Whitendale valley nest without a licence several years ago. I suggest this individual should not throw stones inside a green house. The RSPB did not investigate this incident either turning a blind eye instead. I wonder why?

  • max

    Greenpeace. As i have said in an earlier comment, this sad affair is not about a peregrine falcon being disturbed, it is about trying to discredit the NWRG by sad individuals trying to mask their own failings in this region; you must not forget it was the NWRG who would not agree to sign the ‘Confidentiality’ clause, which kept a lid on incidents of raptor persecution in the Forest of Bowland, in particular upon the United Utilities estates.

  • As an outsider looking in I’m completely confused with all that I read. What is fact and what is fiction? Who is telling the truth?
    After all this wasted time would it be possible to stop this childish nonsense and try and find a workable solution of working together, etc between all parties?
    Surely everyone would agree all this ill feeling isn’t helping raptor conservation efforts.
    Finally can a solution be found or are people so bitterly entrenched?

    Editor’s Comment, a very sensible proposal Mike, we hope that Natural England will bring all parties together sooner rather than later before all the raptors in the Forest of Bowland disappear completely. Using the resources of the police to chase and intimidate experienced raptor workers across Bowland is certainly playing into the hands of gamekeepers contributing to the abandonment of many historical peregrine territories year on year throughout the whole of Bowland since 2010. This season has certainly been one of the worst so far for breeding raptors since the RSPB arrived in Bowland in the 1980’s. We will be publishing full details with images at the end of the season to highlight what has been going on. What we are unable to understand is why the police are failing to investigate who is behind the failure of so many established nesting sites where the adult birds (peregrines) have now disappeared completely?

    • Pragmatist

      Mike, your proposal would only work if both parties acted in good faith. One party has no interest in acting in good faith though, and appears to be only interested in stifling reporting of what’s happening in Bowland.

      This situation won’t last indefinitely – soon there will be no peregrines left in the area, the hen harriers have been all but eradicated already.

  • Paul Williams

    I observed a breeding pair of Bowland Peregrine using my scope from 1km away on a public road. Both birds were alarm calling in the air above the nesting site on the ground in a stream gully; no doubt disturbed by the activity of the two families (7 people) I observed walking up the moorland path within 150 yards of the nest on the far side of the stream. The two Peregrines above the nest site I saw were obviously disturbed by the passing group of people so close to their nest, which in view of the behaviour witnessed must have contained eggs.

    I have recently been informed that an Schedule 1 license holder was recently asked to visit the site to check if the peregrines were still at this location after the details had been passed to the RSPB. I am now advised no sign of peregrines were found during this visit, but curiously the nest site was neither looked for or found. This clearly demonstrates the inexperience of the person who visited the site, because the first thing after discovering the peregrines had disappeared should have been to find and examine the nest. If the nest still contained eggs, there was a reasonable chance one or both falcons had been shot. Peregrines do not in my experience desert their nest due to a few minutes disturbance, but they disappear after being shot, period. If the nest contained no eggs, then this would suggest they may have been taken. When eggs are taken peregrines will abandon their territory moving elsewhere possibly laying a second clutch if their eggs were removed in the first 14 days.The disturbance at the nest I observed happened on the 20th of April, one week after I was reported by the RSPB/UU warden to the police for allegedly disturbing peregrines myself at Croasdale quarry.

  • Birdwatcher

    hI can only agree with Greenpeace…How can the RSPB ask members of the public to report sightings of Hen Harriers they come across, then accuse experts of disturbing birds when they watch them at a nest..that is entrapment.

    • skydancer

      Birdwatcher , you must understand the NWRG are not treated the same as members of the public in Bowland, as i stated in an earlier post, if this had been any one else but members of the NWRG the police would not have attended .

  • Andy & Rebecca

    My dad has been reported to the police for allegedly disturbing peregrines, I would like know if my Dad..(Paul Williams}, has been charged with this by the police. The reason I am asking is because I spent a great deal of my childhood watching Peregrine Falcons with him, and I challenge anyone to tell me they love and would never harm Peregrine Falcons more than my Dad.

    Editor’s Comment. The RSPB and Bowland Police appear more preoccupied with intimidating raptor workers than dealing with the on-going raptor persecution taking place in this region. The way things are going the peregrine will follow the hen harrier into extinction throughout the Forest of Bowland within the next decade. The question we would like the RSPB and the Police to answer, why are licenses being revoked from experienced raptor workers who have dedicated their lives to protecting these special species at such a crucial time? Is there a hidden agenda ensuring numbers of raptors are reduced to conform with the wishes of the estate owners?

  • Andy & Rebecca

    The RSPB: Wild birds and the law
    http://www.rspb.org.uk › … › Policy › Wild birds and the law › Wildlife law?
    Dec 12, 2012 – Read this summary of the legal protection given to wild birds in England, … wild bird; intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird whilst … disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule 1 while it is nest building, or at a nest containing eggs or young, or disturb the dependent young of such a bird.