Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Shadow of suspicion: gamekeepers and the Red kite’s plight

As I cycled my way through picturesque Westerdale, I held out a glimmer of hope, albeit a rather optimistic one, for a sighting of magnificent Red kites. More specifically, I yearned to catch a glimpse of that one resilient Red Kite who may had managed to survive the cruel onslaught of illegal, heartless, and downright despicable shooting incidents, which had claimed the lives of two of its avian brethren in recent times1‘grough — Police seek information after red kites shot in North York Moors.’ 05 July 2023. URL: https://www.grough.co.uk/magazine/2023/07/05/police-seek-information-after-red-kites-shot-in-north-york-moors.

The ghastly discoveries were made in Westerdale back in June, and diligent walkers provided the police with photographic evidence that hinted at a possible third victim2“2nd red kite found shot nr Westerdale in North York Moors National Park in recent weeks, with suspicions of a third one.” Publisher: Raptor Persecution UK. Year: 2023. URL: https://raptorpersecutionuk.org/2023/07/04/2nd-red-kite-found-shot-nr-westerdale-in-north-york-moors-national-park-in-recent-weeks-with-suspicions-of-a-third-one/. Now, I don’t wish to sling aspersions without due cause, but it appears that, not surprisingly, local gamekeepers have been cast under the shadow of suspicion. It’s worth mentioning that Westerdale is encircled by a vast expanse of grouse moors.

Red kites, renowned as avid scavengers, typically sustain themselves by feasting on carrion and indulging in the occasional meal of worms. On rare occasions, they may even seize the opportunity to capture small mammals3“Red Kite Bird Facts | Milvus Milvus – The RSPB.” Year: 2021. URL: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/red-kite/. However, it is vital to note that these birds do not prey upon grouse, dispelling any misguided assumptions. These remarkable creatures were snatched from the jaws of national extinction by virtue of one of the world’s most enduring conservation initiatives. Thanks to successful reintroduction efforts, Red kites now grace the skies of England and Scotland. It’s worth noting that these majestic birds are listed under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, rendering any persecution a criminal offence.

Westerdale, true to its name, nestles within the westernmost reaches of a river valley—the River Esk to be exact. This river begins as a series of tiny streams, playfully referred to as Esklets, draining the high reaches of the dale. The dale boasts a dual character, seamlessly blending dense-wooded ravines known as ‘gills,’ with vast stretches of windswept moorland. Interspersed amidst these natural wonders lie patches of relatively flat, cleared land that once served as communal fields. Today, these areas have been transformed into fertile grazing pastures for the local sheep and cattle.

Police have offered advice to the public if they should stumble upon a dead or injured bird, poisoned bait, or a treacherous pole trap. The recommended course of action entails noting down the precise location, taking a photograph, and contacting North Yorkshire Police at 101 or Crimestoppers at 0800 555 111. If you can provide any specific information about these latest crimes, you should quote the police reference number 12230107850. Alternatively, you can email Jack Donaldson of the North Yorkshire Police directly.







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