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Thieves steal church kestrel chicks

19 July 2013


Returned to the nest: the Wolver­hamp­ton kestrel chicks

Returned to the nest: the Wolver­hamp­ton kestrel chicks

POLICE called to a church after reports of metal thieves on the roof discovered a vehicle loaded not with lead, but with four kestrel chicks.

The birds were taken into "protective custody" by the RSPCA, and the officers set about locating their nest somewhere high on St Mary's, Bushbury, in Wolverhampton.

A specialist wildlife officer with West Midlands Police, PC Chris Watson, said: "We needed to find the nest quickly, as the longer they were away, the more chance there was of their mother abandoning the nest."

But they had to wait until first light after the incident, in the early hours of 19 June, before the birds' perch was located 50 feet up the bell-tower. "It had been accessed with a makeshift extended ladder, made up of two ladders strapped together with electrical wiring," PC Watson said. "Those involved were not only poaching birds illegally, but also putting themselves in very real danger."

Later that day, firemen from the nearby station at Fallings Park returned the chicks to their home.

PC Watson has since made several return visits to watch the birds' progress, and five weeks after the attempted theft saw their first flights. He said: "It was great to see the mum and dad regularly returning to care for and feed their chicks . . . and even more of a thrill to see them eventually fly the nest."

The Team Rector, the Revd Philip Dobson, said: "I slept through it all. It wasn't until the next morning when I saw the police that I found out what had happened. They had nabbed one man, and they reckon that an accomplice ran away.

"The kestrels have nested in a window niche on the north face of the bell-tower for several years now, but . . . they are difficult to see from the ground."

A 39-year-old man from Whitmore Reans, in Wolverhampton, was later charged under the Wildlife and Countryside Act with possessing protected wild birds. He is due to appear before Wolverhampton magistrates on 10 September.


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