This is how it is.

scrub removed 3

Scrub removed at Bakersfield – May 2016

Yesterday was a dark day for me. I tried. Anyone who’s ever known me will know that I tried to stop the destruction of the wildlife rich site at the top of my road.

As McCulloch Homes and Bioscan continued to celebrate spring by ripping up scrub from Bakersfield a site filled with breeding birds. I contacted the RSPB and Wildlife Crime Officer. I prowled the site taking photos and video of the destruction and confronted black hearted people claiming to be ecologists.

Mark Thomas, Head of Investigations at the RSPB thought we had a good case. Nightingales and cuckoos, both red listed birds suffering severe declines in this country, were breeding on site, scrub was being pulled up and because birds go to great lengths to hide their nests it was impossible for any ecologists to find them all prior to the digger ripping into them, especially ones from a firm that had concluded that hearing nightingales singing on site in May was not evidence that they were breeding there.

However, we hadn’t factored in the attitude of the police. I was phoned by a wildlife crime officer from Kent police who informed me that Bioscan were a thoroughly respectable firm full of very decent chaps and maybe I should talk to the man overseeing this work and attempt to understand it from his point of view . That, unless I could actually find a nest  of massacred blue tits, he was not prepared to act.

In my mind there are two types of ecologists. Those in the light and those in the dark. Bioscan and their ilk are in the dark. They learn their ecology, they go on their training courses to get their licences and then they sell their souls for developers money. I do not converse with the dark side.

And so no one will be prosecuted for destroying Bakersfield. I cannot produce that nest of decapitated baby birds. I cannot prove their actions were illegal but even if these firms can persuade others that their actions are legal that doesn’t make it moral, that doesn’t make it right.

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Sentence too low for gamekeeper

A gamekeeper found guilty of killing 10 buzzards and a sparrowhawk with pesticide has received a 10 week suspended sentence and ordered to pay £930 in costs. Why suspended? To my mind it sends out the message that wildlife crime is not real crime. If the grim haul found at his farm is anything to go by then this man was probably responsible for the deaths of hundreds of creatures.

However, Judge Peter Veits it seems, is also frustrated that the law does not allow for prosecution of the landowners as well as the gamekeepers.

In sentencing he said, “Those who employ gamekeepers have a strict duty to know what is being done in their name and on their property. They also have a duty to ensure that their gamekeepers are properly trained and capable of keeping abreast of the complex laws relating to the use of poisons.

“In other industries, employers as well as the employee could be facing prosecution in such cases and I hope therefore that this case can serve as a wakeup call to all who run estates as to their duties.” He added, “It is clear that the buzzard population in Norfolk is increasing and this is something to be applauded and not seen an inconvenience by those who choose to run shoots.”

It seems that only when landowners and gamekeepers are handed sentences which truly act as punishment will the rogue elements of the shooting community take these offences seriously.

Chicken Livered

A hen harrier painted by on the blockhouse at Shellness by an unknown artist, possibly in response to the persecution of hen harriers in Britain.

A hen harrier painted by an unknown artist on the blockhouse at Shellness, Isle of Sheppey in Kent , possibly in response to the persecution of hen harriers in Britain.

An article in BBC Wildlife Magazine set my blood boiling this week. (October 2014) A plan is being drawn up to remove eggs from the nests of hen harriers, one of our rarest breeding birds, to hatch them in an aviary and release the birds in places that are considered acceptable for them to live.

Acceptable for who? Not the birds, not the million plus members of the RSPB. not the vast majority of the public, but acceptable for a tiny minority of extremely wealthy individuals who feel that they cannot live alongside a predator which takes a few red grouse as these are the exclusive preserve of a few fat cat city boys who pay vast sums to swan around the countryside, pretending to be country gentlemen, and shooting them.

There are only 3 pairs of breeding hen harriers in England but this is three too many for the owners of the grouse moors who have spent years persecuting these birds, shooting, poisoning and, in one case, nailing a live hen harrier to the door. It’s not only hen harriers that have suffered at the hands of these criminals but other wildlife. Red Kites, thriving in other parts of the country, have never recovered in the north of England or Scotland where the vast majority of grouse moors are. In Spring 2014 16 red kites were found dead next to a poisoned carcass put out to kill predators.

And yet, even if caught, the people who break the law are rarely given jail sentences, personally I would like to see owners of grouse moors who turn a blind eye or encourage this behaviour from their gamekeepers have their shooting rights for their estates removed. After all, why should they financially benefit from crimes that they allow to continue?

Yet, it seems, in 21st century Britain, conservation groups bend over backwards to appease these people. Working with landowners to benefit conservation is to be applauded but not when it removes a bird, which is desperately struggling to survive in this country, from the habitat it needs.

Thankfully the RSPB have yet to back this plan and let’s hope they never do. If we can’t live alongside a bird as benign to the majority of people in this country as the hen harrier then how can we ask other countries to live alongside top predators? What message are we sending out? That Britain is a country of wildlife lovers as long as the wildlife stays were we choose to put it?