UK Bird News October 2013

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Ex-policeman pleads guilty to stealing eggs

Ex-policeman pleads guilty to stealing eggs

A former Suffolk police officer, Michael Upson has pleaded guilty at Norwich Magistrates Court of possessing 650 wild bird eggs collected while he was still in the Suffolk Constabulary.

This follows a successful investigation by the Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies and the RSPB.

The 52-year-old was investigated by officers from the professional standards department. On 21 June 2012, a search by the police and the RSPB at Upson’s home revealed 650 wild bird’s eggs, including those of protected species such as woodlark (right), Cetti’s warbler and marsh harrier.

Detailed notebooks found at the house documented the police officer’s egg collecting trips with associates around the UK, including visits to: the Western Isles to steal golden eagle eggs; south Devon to take Cetti’s warbler eggs; North Wales to steal chough eggs; and the New Forest to take hawfinch eggs. These notebooks also document him taking kittiwake eggs from Lowestoft Pier, while on duty as an acting Sergeant on three different police night-shifts.

Upson claimed to have stopped egg collecting, and the evidence found indicates that he was active between at least 1991 and 2001.

Mark Thomas, the RSPB Investigations Officer leading the case, said: “That a police officer should knowingly break the law in pursuit of this obsession is shocking, and we welcome his conviction.

“Evidence from the diaries indicates that Upson stole over 900 wild bird eggs in a eight-year period. Not all of these eggs were recovered.”

The egg collection was found in the loft in an old suitcase along with hundreds of egg data cards, which he had faked to suggest the collection was old. However, the notebooks found in a plastic container hidden in the water tank in the loft gave all the accurate details of when the eggs were taken, in full written accounts.

Migrating birds lost at sea

Migrating birds lost at sea

An appalling combination of fog and winds around England’s coast this week have created terrible conditions for migrating birds, with some fishermen reporting to the RSPB the deaths of many exhausted and disorientated ‘garden’ birds plunging into the sea around their vessels.

England’s east coast, from Northumberland to Kent, has seen the arrival of many birds, including redwings, fieldfares, bramblings and blackbirds, perhaps numbering in their millions this week. The RSPB believes these birds may be the lucky survivors which have managed to cross the North Sea, but the Society concedes many others may have perished before making landfall.
One such site to experience a ‘fall’ of stranded migrant birds is the RSPB’s Bempton Cliffs reserve in North Yorkshire. Ian Kendall is the reserves manager. Commenting on the sight, he said: “There are birds in their thousands, on the cliffs, in the surrounding fields, hedgerows and along the length of the Yorkshire Coast.

“The birds left Scandinavia in glorious sunshine but as they crossed the North Sea, they flew into fog and rain, so they stopped off at the first bit of land they have come across. The place has been dripping with birds.”

Along England’s south coast, the RSPB has received several reports of thousands of disorientated and exhausted birds drowning in the sea. One respondent, a professional boat skipper, said: “While fishing about 10 miles south of Portsmouth, we witnessed thousands of garden birds disorientated, land on the sea and most drowning. Species included goldcrests (above), robins, thrushes and blackbirds. The sky was thick with garden birds. I estimate I saw 500 birds die and that was just in our 300-yard sphere. On the way home we just saw dead songbirds in the water: it was a harrowing sight.”

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s conservation director. He said: “The scale of these reports are truly shocking, and it has the potential to adversely affect the status of species which may be declining for other reasons.”

Those exhausted birds which have made it to the UK will be looking for food and may be visiting gardens, especially as the weather is expected to turn with the UK forecast to receive the first icy blasts of winter.
Topping up bird feeders

Ian Hayward is an adviser with the RSPB’s wildlife enquiries team. He said: “The first cold snap will encourage many birds to visit gardens increasingly, in a quest for food. Now is the time to start topping up bird tables and feeders. These birds need all the help they can get, so gardeners and farmers can also help birds by not cutting hedgerows laden with much-needed berries.”

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2012 |  UK Bird News October 2013

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