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Ex-police officer pleads guilty to stealing wild bird eggs

24/10/2012 15:50:29

The eggs were found in his attic, stored in margarine containers. Photo credit RSPB

Rare birds eggs including Golden Eagle, Cetti's warbler, Chough, hawfinch and marsh harrier
October 2012. A former Suffolk police officer, Michael Upson (of Sotherton, Suffolk) pleaded guilty at Norwich Magistrates Court of possessing 650 wild bird eggs collected while he was still in the Suffolk Constabulary. This follows a successful investigation by the Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies and the RSPB.

The 52-year-old was investigated by officers from the professional standards department. On 21 June 2012, a search by the police and the RSPB at Upson's home revealed 650 wild bird's eggs, including those of protected species such as woodlark, Cetti's warbler and marsh harrier.

Detailed notebooks found at the house documented the police officer's egg collecting trips with associates around the UK, including visits to: the Western Isles to steal golden eagle eggs; south Devon to take Cetti's warbler eggs; North Wales to steal chough eggs; and the New Forest to take hawfinch eggs. These notebooks also document him taking kittiwake eggs from Lowestoft Pier, while on duty as an acting Sergeant on three different police night-shifts.

Stopped egg collecting in 2001
Upson claimed to have stopped egg collecting, and the evidence found indicates that he was active between at least 1991 and 2001.

Mark Thomas, the RSPB investigations officer leading the case, said: "That a police officer should knowingly break the law in pursuit of this obsession is shocking, and we welcome his conviction. Evidence from the diaries indicates that Upson stole over 900 wild bird eggs in an eight-year period. Not all of these eggs were recovered."

The egg collection was found in the loft in an old suitcase along with hundreds of egg data cards, which he had faked to suggest the collection was old. However, the notebooks found in a plastic container hidden in the water tank in the loft gave all the accurate details of when the eggs were taken, in full written accounts.

Two excerpts from his diary - Who were his companions?

1st April 1997

Our expedition struck out in the morning into the hills adjacent to the sea and what luck we had. The first eyrie we inspected paid dividends.

One of my companions could spot the head of the bird sitting on the nest. Whilst we were looking at her, the male came sailing by overhead to see what we were up to. He passed by and my companions and I donned
balaclavas and climbed up and the above the eyrie. One of the party then put on his harness and tied a rope to it. Two of us then took the strain, found footholds as best we could and lowered him over the edge.

With his life literally in our hands he descended to the eyrie amidst a sudden heavy downpour which just swept right across us. The job was not easy for us as we could not see what the chap on the rope was doing.

However, we could tell by the tension in the rope when he had reached the eyrie and then what seemed like an age he left the eyrie to complete the descent, a matter of perhaps only 25 feet but with no hand or foot holds due to an overhang it proved a most arduous task gradually
lowering him to the ground. All in all a successful and quick operation

April 2nd 1997

Well an eagle trip could not have been easier. Again the first eyrie we inspected today was occupied, the Hebridean rain held off for the most part and the temperature was mild. Paradoxically I felt slightly disappointed by the ease of it all.

It took a long while to reach this eyrie away in the hills towards the south of the island. On the way I managed to photograph a red grouse amongst the heather which I was quite pleased about. Its worthy of note that whilst we were still quite a distance away from the site but within
sight we saw an eagle soaring up and away around the area which led us to believe that perhaps this one wasn't occupied.

When we arrived I went on ahead up a steepish incline which led to the back of the rock face which contained the eyrie. This was a nest I went and looked at two years ago when on a merlin trip. Then it was empty.

Now it was occupied. I actually got to the top of the crag and walked 100 yards past it, realising my mistake and then remembering the place where I could go and overlook right in to the eyrie. I crept up to the edge of the rock, camera in hand, balaclava on head, still unaware if it was occupied or not. I craned my neck out over the edge as slowly and quietly as possible and then came a moment I will never forget. As I looked down the eagle that was on the eyrie turned her head and looked
up at me. What an exhilarating moment and one that I am afraid I do not have sufficient vocabulary to describe.

Our eyes literally met and for the briefest of moments we were both motionless looking at each other. Abruptly however the spell was broken as she got up, spread her wings and just sailed away and out of sight.

I then gathered my thoughts, I remembered my camera. I had missed the opportunity I really wanted, but never really expected to get, of photographing an eagle on a nest. I could plainly see the c/2 that she had left behind so I was pleased to be able to photograph that. However
just as yesterday, and as if a sign a sudden squall of rain soaked me and my camera lens so the results wont be good.

I then went back after my companion and this time held him on the rope on my own and he had 10ft to climb down before reaching the ledge. He climbed back up again with incident. Then came the long haul back.







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