New raptor sightings in Peak District spark joy and concern

The sudden appearance of a new bird species in the Peak District has brought joy tinged with apprehension to birdwatchers and nature-lovers.

Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 12:58 pm
This magnificent photograph of the bearded vulture was captured at Back Tor by local birdwatcher Andy Smith.

This is only the second time the species, a bearded vulture, has been seen in the UK.

The rare raptor is usually found in southern Europe and is part of an international conservation initiative in the Alps.

However, a number of shooting, suspected poisoning and nest robbery incidents involving birds of prey in the Peak District have come to light since lockdown, raising fears for the bird’s safety and once more bringing into focus the ongoing problem with raptor persecution.

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To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence, punishable by an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

Mark Thomas, RSPB head of investigations, said: “Parts of the Peak District have a notoriously bad reputation for raptor persecution, especially those areas which are dominated by land used for driven grouse shooting.

"National parks should be safe havens for birds of prey, as well as places for people to enjoy nature. We need the public to be our eyes and ears and report anything suspicious to the police.

“For this magnificent bird to have turned up in such a dangerous location, a month before the start of the grouse shooting season, is like a turkey spending Christmas at a butchers’ shop.

"But we hope this number of watchful eyes on the bird will ensure its safety.”

Birdwatcher and keen photographer Andy Smith ventured to Back Tor to try and get a glimpse of the bird.

He said: “We waited and waited. Then it turned and flew along the ridge in the distance before turning right in front of us and flew straight towards us.

"It was a truly unique and magnificent sight to see. It almost felt like I could reach out and touch it as it passed by us.”

Tim Birch, of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said: “The sight of this spectacular bird gives a glimpse of the potential future the park could have in hosting a range of species, including top predators, creating a healthy, balanced ecosystem.”