Man sentenced for poisoning birds of prey

An exotic bird breeder has been sentenced for poisoning multiple birds of prey in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in Scotland.

Barry Nicolle, 67, of near Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway, will have to complete 216 hours of unpaid work after he admitted lacing duck meat with banned pesticides and leaving it out on his land for scavengers in a bid to protect his own collection of prized waterfowl.

His actions, branded “shockingly irresponsible” by prosecutors, led to the deaths of five red kites and 10 rooks, whose bodies were discovered at various locations around the local authority area, including at Springholm Primary School.

Nicolle also left poisoned hunks of bread on fence posts around his land, which lies just 150 metres from the school.

The Crown Office said Nicolle, of Wickerty Snook, Springholm, pled guilty to 13 wildlife crime charges involving the indiscriminate use of banned poisons and possession of a number of highly toxic pesticides.

He also admitted using a crow trap illegally and a further air weapon charge.

It was said Nicolle laid the poisoned bait for birds between May 2019 and February 2020.

Fiona Caldwell, who leads on wildlife and environmental crime at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, said after Nicolle’s sentencing: “The laying of bait laced with poisons was shockingly irresponsible and Nicolle has shown an utter disregard for the wildlife laws which serve to protect these species.

“I would like to thank Police Scotland, RSPB Scotland, the Scottish SPCA, the SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College) Veterinary Investigation Centre and Sasa (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture) for their part in investigating and gathering evidence of these repugnant offences.

“The law protects wild birds and those who seek to poison them or possess stocks of illegal poison can be assured that the procurator fiscal will continue to prosecute such cases and ensure that offenders face the consequences of their actions.”

Container of banned pesticide
A container holding banned pesticide Aldicarb recovered from Nicolle’s property in February 2020 (COPFS/PA)

Nicolle was given a community payback order and told to carry out 216 hours of unpaid work when he was sentenced at Dumfries Sheriff Court on Friday.

Prosecutors said numerous reports of suspicious deaths of red kites in the Kirkpatrick Durham and Springholm areas were made to Police Scotland, RSPB and Scottish SPCA inspectors by members of the public.

Several red kites were found lying motionless on the ground in a distressed state and had to be euthanised.

Springholm is at the heart of the breeding red kite population’s range in south-west Scotland, making it a key area of the country for the birds and their future conservation.

Subsequent post-mortem examinations by the SRUC Veterinary Investigation Centre and toxicology analysis by the Sasa’s chemistry branch established a pattern and cause of death linked to a banned Carbofuran-based pesticide called Aldicarb.

All the deaths centred around Nicolle’s property and as a result, police were granted a warrant to search Wickerty Snook.

During the search of the property in February 2020, the poisons Aldicarb, Bendiocarb and Phostoxin, which contains aluminium phosphide, were found, as were poisoned bait and traps, including an illegal Larsen trap.

A video showing the placement and nature of these items was taken prior to them being seized.