Photo: Leigh Jeffries

Protected bird of prey was seen being shot out of the sky in Peak District National Park

A red kite seen falling from the sky accompanied by the sound of gunshots is the latest in a series of concerning incidents involving birds of prey in the Peak District National Park.

Climber Adam Long heard gunshots and saw the bird fall from the sky on 7 June near Saddleworth Moor, within the Peak District National Park. The shooter, however, remained out of sight. The police were called and spoke to the landowner, on whose land the incident is alleged to have occurred, but no leads were forthcoming.

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “Though red kites have enjoyed a remarkable comeback in many parts of the country, they are not commonly seen in this area, on the outskirts of Greater Manchester and are struggling to expand into the Peak District National Park despite plenty of suitable breeding habitat. Like all birds of prey, red kites are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. If someone is found to have shot this bird they face an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in jail.

“The public play such an important role in reporting incidents like this. If you think you’ve witnessed a crime against a bird of prey while our walking, climbing, cycling or walking your dog, let the police know on 101 or contact the RSPB on 01767 680551.”

Adam, the climber who witnessed the event, said: “I saw the kite slowly soaring up the valley, then again when we’d started our climb. I heard two shots, and the kite fell out of the sky – it was like a balloon bursting, crumpling so suddenly then falling. I was completely shocked by the brazenness of it. You hear about this sort of thing happening, and that the chances of seeing or recording something are so slim, so to see this in broad daylight when anyone could have witnessed it was incredible. This is a popular valley for climbing and walking, plus there’s a busy A-road close by. I was literally tied to the crag when it happened so I couldn’t move to get a better view, but I rang the police as soon as I was able.”

The persecution of birds of prey in upland areas like the Peak District is a continuing issue with serious implications on raptor populations. Figures from the latest Birdcrime report showed that over 80 confirmed incidents of shooting, trapping, poisoning and destruction of birds of prey took place in 2016, but in the same year there were no convictions for crimes relating to raptor persecution.

In May this year, a scientific paper in the journal British Birds identified significant associations between land managed for driven grouse shooting and the persecution of peregrines and goshawks in the northern Peak District. Populations of the birds were seen to have declined in the northern ‘Dark Peak’, but increased in the southern ‘White Peak’, which is virtually free from grouse shoots. 

Chief Inspector Dave Henthorne of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), who is also the force’s lead for wildlife crime, said: “GMP officers spoke to a number of people regarding this incident. If there is evidence to link an individual with raptor persecution we will work with the RSPB to prosecute those responsible. In addition to prosecution, GMP would review any firearms license that the offenders possess.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Greater Manchester Police on 101.

If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed or injured, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form: www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/how-to-report-crimes/

 

 

 

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