This is an entirely personal, and emotive, post based on two recent recoveries of special birds that my team ringed, that have been found dead in what I consider suspicious circumstances. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of all members of the group.
One of the worst aspects of ringing is getting the report that one of the birds you have ringed has been found dead. Regular readers of the blog will know that I did an analysis of the various death reports (yes – of those where cause of death was identified, cats were the main killers). Unfortunately, a lot of them do not have cause of death identified: sometimes it just isn’t possible when bits are found, but I am sure that, quite often, it is because the finder has some responsibility for the death. This is particularly the case when dealing with Corvids and birds of prey.
On the 14th April 2017, at Tedworth House, we ringed four Raven chicks. As far as I am aware, and have been able to find out, these are the only Ravens ever ringed in Wiltshire. If you look at the Wiltshire Bird Atlas, they are an extremely scarce breeding bird in the County.
This did not stop Michael Gove, when he was in charge of DEFRA, allowing licences to be issued to cull Ravens in Wiltshire, on the made-up charge that they “damage livestock”. Nobody has ever proven that Ravens kill healthy lambs. The best you ever get is a farmer or shepherd holding a dead lamb, that has clearly been scavenged post-mortem, claiming it was killed by whichever species they want to vilify that day (Carrion Crow, Raven, Buzzard, Red Kite, Fox, Badger).
At the beginning of July I was sent a recovery report from the BTO specifying that one of the Ravens had been found dead. There were no details on the cause of death, just that the ring had been handed to another ringer to report back to the BTO. That in itself I find suspicious. All I know is that it was found on farmland near Combe in West Berkshire: 633 days after it was ringed and 19km north-east from where it was ringed.
This week I received another report. Back on 30th November 2019 we mist-netted and ringed two juvenile Buzzards. An astonishing catch. This one:
was the subject of the report. Ringed as a juvenile, female Buzzard, she was found dead on playing fields adjacent to a nature reserve in Netherton, West Midlands: 101km and 674 days after she was ringed. Just 2 years into a life that could have lasted over a decade. The oldest recorded from ringing recoveries lived for over 30 years from the date on which it was ringed.
The person who found the bird had provided their email address so I was able to contact them for further details. Firstly, I was sent two photographs of the carcass:
There has clearly been a lot of bad weather recently, and you can see that the carcass is soaking wet. The reporter said that the carcass was not there the day before on their walk through the area, and that there had been rain overnight and before their walk when they found the bird. They reported that there was blood around the neck and the wing joint – but this carcass does not look scavenged at all.
I wondered if it might have died as a result of the bad weather and starvation, so asked the finder to weigh the bird. They did so, and she weighed in at 1kg: bang on for a healthy adult female Buzzard.
I gave the finder the contact details for the Predatory Bird Monitoring Service who were excellent and responded immediately. The bird is now on its way for a post-mortem examination and we are both waiting to hear the outcome. We will see if my scepticism is warranted. If you do come across a bird of prey carcass you can contact the PBMS at:
Tel: 01524 595830