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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Cameras prey on rare birds
Falcon chicks (RSPB)
Rare peregrine falcon chicks are at risk
Surveillance cameras have been installed in trees in England's Peak District to protect rare birds of prey from persecution.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says 20 of the birds were lost in just one part of Derbyshire last year.

It suspects someone is deliberately targeting them.

Cameras with night-sights will be used to protect goshawks and peregrine falcons in the Derwent Valley, and for the first time the public will be able to watch the images live.

Systematic destruction

Mark Thomas from the RSPB said: "We need the public to see how fabulous these birds are.

"Seven nests were lost last year."

"The whole nest is being removed. Somebody is systematically trying to rid the valley of them," he added.

The nests have been rebuilt and both covert and overt cameras are in use 24 hours a day.

When the base of a conifer tree is approached, a sensor activates both a camera and a video recorder.

Eggs smashed

Mr Thomas said: "The birdwatchers in Derbyshire have been ringing up and asking where the goshawks are.

"As soon as the birds breed, the eggs are smashed or the nests vanish.

"These birds have been around for hundreds of years co-existing with their prey. People need to be educated about this."

There are no grouse in the Derwent Valley but its steep coniferous sides are surrounded by them, and they are hunted by the birds of prey.

Bird of prey (RSPB)
A birds of prey in action

Carl Cox, the Director for the Midlands region of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation told BBC News Online: "We would totally condemn any illegal persecution of birds of prey by anyone.

"We would welcome any measure to deter thieves in the countryside, but we do not welcome the generalisation and discrimination of shooters and gamekeepers."

The public will be able to view the live images at the Severn Trent visitor centre at Fairholme.

It is hoped that new birds will sustain the population.

A recent prosecution in Scotland saw a man fined 2,000 after he was video filmed shooting and killing a hen harrier.

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