Having mentioned in my Red Lodge blog from the 24th April that I had been given a dead Buzzard found at Red Lodge plantation on the 17th April in unusual circumstances: lying on its back in the middle of the main path, I thought I might do an update, as I found the whole process interesting:
Ian, who found it, sensibly put it in the freezer straight away and I did the same when I got it, to preserve as much as possible without the bird degrading.
I contacted the police, who were not interested in the first instance, and they recommended that I contact the RSPCA to investigate the death. Unfortunately, I could not get a response from the RSPCA. I have always been of the opinion that the RSPCA should not exist as a charity but should be a fully funded arm of the police. Like so many charities, particularly those who are not membership organisations, they are suffering from a lack of funds. They have had to lay off staff and close centres and I am not surprised that things will fall through the cracks. I am not criticising the RSPCA, people’s expectations of them are ridiculously high and unrealistic. They are subjected to concerted levels of criticism from people who have never contributed to their funding and those who have a vested interest in neutering the organisation (i.e. wildlife criminals, animal abusers, etc.). They have apologised directly to me, but it underlines that government needs to take crimes against animals, both domestic and wildlife, seriously and either fund the police to take over the role of the RSPCA or directly fund the RSPCA and give them arrest and prosecutorial powers.
When I didn’t hear back, I contacted the RSPB through their membership email. Although it had gone to the “wrong” department, I got an instant response by email and then had a long chat with one of their investigators about the circumstances of the find. She asked me to provide a number of photographs focused on the overall shape of the bird and focused on the head and feet. Some of them are shown below:
After sharing the photos with the RSPB they were confident that its affect did not indicate poisoning and asked if one of our local vets would X-ray the bird for them, to check for shotgun or air-rifle pellets or broken bones. The RSPB were prepared to pay for the X-ray to be done.
I contacted the Purton Veterinary Group who were lovely. We arranged for me to take the bird to them (they have a locked door policy as protection against Covid-19) and they kindly offered to carry out the checks free-of-charge. The RSPB advised that, if the bird had not been shot or had other indications of criminal actions, that I should contact the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme to see if they wanted to add it to their archive.
I am pleased to say that, sad though it is, it looks as if the bird died from natural causes: what that cause is, we don’t know.
I contacted the PBMS who were extremely helpful. By return, they sent me a all of the appropriate packaging for sending a biological sample safely through the post, including a prepaid business postage label, so there was no cost involved for me. They now have the bird. If you do find a dead bird of prey, and there is no sign of foul play, you can contact the PBMS on 01524 595830 or email them at PBMS@ceh.ac.uk
So, a big thank you to the RSPB, Purton Veterinary Group and the Predatory Birds Monitoring Scheme for their help and their interest.