Egg thief hauled before Sheffield court for stealing from endangered wild birds

A 63-year-old man has been sentenced at a Sheffield court for stealing 200 eggs from endangered wild birds.

Saturday, 24th April 2021, 8:01 am

Terrance Potter, 63, was given a 12-week sentence, suspended for 12 months, for offences relating to the taking and possession of wild birds’ eggs during a hearing at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

A spokesperson for the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) said proceedings were brought after local gamekeepers reported a man searching amongst the heather near the Woodhead Pass, near Holmfirth, where birds were known to be nesting, in April last year, during the first COVID-19 lockdown,

South Yorkshire Police tracked down Potter, a known individual, intercepting him on moorland within the Peak District National Park on 30 April last year.

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179 black-headed gull eggs were found at home of Terence Potter. Photo credit: The RSPB
179 black-headed gull eggs were found at home of Terence Potter. Photo credit: The RSPB

A spokesperson for the RSPB said: “When police officers executed a search warrant at his home in Upper Cumberworth, assisted by the RSPB, they discovered a stash of nearly 200 eggs – including curlew, golden plover, black-headed gull and some overseas species – stored in cabinets, drawers, trays and plastic containers. The collection was seized, along with an egg-blowing kit and various equipment.”

Potter had been convicted of egg collecting offences in 2013.

It is illegal to intentionally take or possess the eggs of any wild bird contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Potter was convicted of two counts of possessing items capable of being used to take and possess birds’ eggs, three counts of possession of a wild bird's eggs (179 black-headed gull eggs, eight golden plover and seven curlew), three counts of taking wild bird eggs (179 black-headed gull eggs, four golden plover and three curlew).

Curlew chick hatched from recovered eggs. Credit: C Hardcastle via the RSPB

The sentencing comes just days after World Curlew Day, which aims to raise awareness of the plight of this familiar countryside bird, whose long, curved bill and haunting, bubbling call is so evocative for so many. The UK is a crucial stronghold for breeding curlews, hosting around a quarter of the world’s population.

Yet in the UK numbers have almost halved since the mid-1990s.

While searching Potter’s home, officers also discovered an incubator containing seven live eggs, including three curlew eggs. These were taken to bird-rearing specialists near Hull where three golden plover and one curlew chick hatched. Once the chicks were fully grown, they were released back into the wild.

The magistrate said they took a particularly dim view of Potter’s claim to be a wildlife expert, and that Potter ‘had not acted with wildlife’s best interests at heart.’

Golden plover eggs from the collection. Credit: G Shorrock

In addition to his suspended sentence, Potter was also ordered to pay £120 costs and £128 victim surcharge, and to forfeit the eggs and equipment used to commit the offences.

Speaking after the sentencing, Tom Grose, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “We are pleased with today’s outcome, which sends a strong signal that such thoughtless destruction of wildlife, for personal gain, will not be tolerated. Among Potter’s collection were seven curlew eggs – these are a declining, red-listed species which conservationists are working hard to bring back from the brink.

“Birds should be allowed to flourish in their natural environment, where they can be enjoyed by all.

"Thankfully, these days egg collecting is largely a thing of the past and court cases like this one are becoming increasingly rare. We are grateful to the individuals who reported this man’s suspicious behaviour, and to South Yorkshire Police for such a thorough investigation.”

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In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.