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Wildlife experts distance themselves from XR’s Tim Birch’s ‘ludicrous’ attack against gamekeepers

[A Bearded Vulture similar to the one spotted this week in the Peak District]

This week saw the surprise arrival of a Lammergeier, also known as a Bearded Vulture, flying over Howden Moor in the Peak District.

This magnificent creature, with a wingspan of 3 metres, is usually only seen in the Alps, however recent weather patterns had blown the bird off-course.

Arriving only a few months after a Sea Eagle was also spotted flying over the Peak District, the siting has prompted hundreds of avid birdwatchers from across the country to descend on this area of remote moorland, hoping to get a photo opportunity.

There is concern though that this large influx of visitors - many of whom are unacquainted with the moor - will have disturbed the other endangered bird species, as well as their newly-hatched young, nesting on this site of special scientific interest.

Across the country raptors are booming with the population of birds of prey now well over 250,000. Furthermore there has been a resurgence in Hen Harriers living on grouse moors this year, up now 1,500% over the last five years.

However, whilst the vast majority of the country are celebrating this triumph, a more sinister hardcore group of anti-grouse shooting activists, like Tim Birch from the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, have sought to use the presence of the Lammergeier to level false accusation against moorland communities, particularly local gamekeepers.

[Hen Harrier numbers are soaring in recent years across the UK's grouse moors]

Other wildlife workers in the Peak District have rushed to distance themselves from Birch, after he gave a statement to the BBC claiming the Lammergeier was under threat and that it “couldn’t have come to a worse spot in terms of bird of prey persecution”.

Birch claimed there had been 21 confirmed cases of bird of prey persecution from 2012 to 2018 in the Peak District. However, closer scrutiny of those ’21 confirmed cases’ paints a rather different story.

Firstly, the vast majority of cases were only ‘confirmed’ to the RSPB by a single witness, claiming to be independent. Such was the case for fanatic anti-grouse shooting campaigner Bob Berzins, who just happened to stumble across a poisoned raven in March 2018.

Similarly dubious evidence was cited in the case of a Goshawk, which the charity claimed had been shot after releasing a video set in total darkness, accompanied by the sound of four external gun shots, copied in in quick succession.

As anyone with any knowledge of a shotgun will tell you, it is only possible to fire off two shots at such a speed. So the RSPB’s claim is impossible and likely another example of gross fabrication of evidence used for propaganda purposes.

But Tim Birch, along with his friends Mark Avery and Luke Steele, has never been one to allow the truth to get in the way of an opportunity to spread malicious and agenda-driven lies against the moorland management community. The arrival of the Lammergeier is just the latest example of these efforts.

[Radical animal rights activists, including career criminal, Luke Steele, and his friend Mark Avery, continue to target moorland communities]

Take, for example, in 2014, when he was quoted in The Times saying that the Derwent Valley had no raptors, only to then announce he’d found out about a large Hen Harrier nest located in the heart of the grouse moor.

Individuals from both the raptor worker and gamekeeping communities had agreed to work together to keep the Hen Harrier nest a secret, so as to protect it from members of the public getting too close and disturbing it. Tim Birch, however, had other ideas.

Demonstrating his astounding ignorance of the behavioural habits of birds of prey, Birch decided to go and pitch a tent right in front of the nest and began escorting visitors to see it.

[Tim Birch disturbing a Hen Harrier nest by camping next to it and continually ringing chicks]

This angered the raptor workers and gamekeepers who had been fighting to protect the location of the nest against precisely this kind of disturbance.

Birch even uploaded a video of his camping trip, in which he also boasted of seeing Peregrines, Buzzards and Merlins in the Peak District Park, which clearly reinforces the inaccuracy of his previous claim suggesting there were no raptors in the Peak District.

In the space of just three weeks the Hen Harrier chicks he was monitoring were rung three times.

What happened next was exactly what those wanting to protect the nest had predicted. Noticing Birch’s visits, Buzzards came to explore the activity and, sure enough, attacked all of the rung Hen Harrier chicks.

One raptor worker, aware of what Tim Birch had done, called it an “utter disgrace” and said “Birch can be no friend of wildlife in the Peak District after behaving like this. He should be fined for his actions, not applauded. I struggle to understand how the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has not kicked him out for his actions.”

These events, though shocking, were hardly surprising given the company Birch keeps. Along with his support of convicted criminal Luke Steele, Birch is also a notable proponent of Extinction Rebellion, having been due to speak at an XR Buxton fundraiser in March this year before the event was cancelled due to the coronavirus.

Extinction Rebellion has been on the government’s terrorism watchlist since January, a decision which Home Secretary Priti Patel has repeatedly defended on the basis of their risk to public security.

The true irony of Birch’s statements is that the relationship between many raptor workers, park authorities and gamekeepers in the Peak District is as good and collaborative as anywhere in the country and demonstrate how a balance can be struck where everyone is a winner. 

But idiots like Tim Birch, as well as his friends Mark Avery, Luke Steele and Chris Packham, jeopardise all the good work that has gone on in the Peak District by peddling agenda-driven lies against gamekeepers and those trying to protect the park for public good.


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