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Last Updated:  Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 20:23 GMT 21:23 UK
Rare eggs thief jailed
Osprey nest
Higham targeted osprey nests
A man has been jailed for stealing hundreds of eggs from the nests of some of Scotland's rarest birds.

Anthony Higham, from Runcorn in Cheshire, was jailed for four months at Northwich Magistrates Court, after he admitted owning a collection of more than 800 rare birds' eggs.

The court heard that Higham climbed and abseiled into nesting sites in what the prosecution called a military-style operation.

Eggs belonging to ospreys, choughs, golden eagles, peregrine falcons and a goshawk were taken from nests by Higham and were later found in a collection stored in a house in Widnes.

Higham was caught following a joint police and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) investigation, called Operation Easter, which targeted egg collectors.

Osprey nests

Magistrates were told that Higham meticulously planned collecting trips to Scotland and north Wales, often visiting areas out of the nesting season in the winter to spot likely sites for the following spring.

Along with his egg collection, ordnance survey maps, climbing equipment and detailed hand-written journals were also found.

Video footage showing Higham stealing red-throated diver's eggs on the Orkney Islands was discovered.

Another film revealed associates practicing climbing trees containing known osprey nests in the summer of 1994 as a precursor to a raid the following spring.

Choughs
Choughs' eggs were recovered
His journals contained details of trips to steal the eggs of chough, peregrine falcon, raven and buzzard.

Sites in Snowdonia were searched for the eggs of the rare goshawk, with one clutch being taken.

Higham first came to the attention of the police in 1996 when he was stopped in the company of two convicted egg-collectors on the Isle of Mull.

His associates were fined for being in possession of items to take wild birds' eggs.

Using the journal of an early twentieth century egg-collector, John Walpole Bond, Higham travelled to remote Scottish glens, undertaking 36 treks and discovering 60 nests.

The osprey was also of particular interest to Higham who stole repeated clutches of eggs.

Email

After the case, the RSPB said Higham was one of around 300 collectors who operated in a network, which kept in touch using code numbers and email.

Guy Thurrock of the RSPB said: "The whole thing is like an adventure to them.

"The egg is the culmination of the adventure in the field.

"We know that Mr Higham was connected with a number of other egg collectors and these people exchange information."

Higham was convicted on charges of possession and taking of birds' eggs and of possession of articles to take birds' eggs.




SEE ALSO:
Police crack down on egg thieves
17 Mar 03  |  Scotland
Rare bird collector admits theft
28 May 02  |  England
Thieves raid osprey nests
13 May 02  |  Scotland
New home for bird of prey
15 Mar 03  |  Wales


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