Dr Ruth Tingay: From Birds in Boxes to Rivers of Raptors

Jan 9 2024

Ruth takes David into the Peak District for a lesson in how to not see Short-eared Owls

David Oakes

David Oakes


Dr Ruth Tingay


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About this episode:

Dr Ruth Tingay is a conservationist and campaigner who has spent her career primarily focused upon the world’s raptor population (that’s Birds of Prey, rather than “Veloci-“… Although dinosaurs did evolve into birds, so, yes, I guess you could say she’s a dinosaur expert… of sorts.) Her career was inadvertently kickstarted through working at Heathrow airport’s Animal Reception Centre. Here she welcomed back the UK’s Red Kite population for their reintroduction to our country, as well as the usual pampered felines, escaped pooches, and boxes stuffed full of mystery birds. Throw Nile Crocodiles, an annual Mexican Hawk Migration of 4.6 million birds and the DNA of Golden Eagles into the mix, and you get an incredibly varied career that has leapfrogged the globe from Mauritius to Mexico then on to Madagascar and many other countries beginning with ‘M’ besides. But since 2009, Ruth has been focused upon the plights of our domestic birds; shedding light upon wildlife crime through her Raptor Persecution blog, and through joining with Mark Avery and Chris Packham to spearhead their Wild Justice which is holding the Governments of Britain to account for ongoing enviro-failings and eco-crimes.

David's thoughts:

Birds of prey were one of the ‘gateway drugs’ for my enthusiasm for nature. Since a child, every room I have called my own has had a Kestrel upon the wall – one painted by my grandfather. Although not painted for me (he painted it about 30 years before I was born), he gave me this spectacular bird as a christmas present. It meant more to me than he knew. Having watched – agog – real live “wind-fuckers” hovering above the New Forest for hours, the painting was the closest I could get to my dream of owning one (we weren’t all as enthusiastic as Chris Packham was/is!) I remain enamoured with raptors; I am still beguiled by Kestrels.

I love Kestrel enthusiasts. They’ve shunned the majesty of Golden Eagles, the scarcity of Merlins and the unabashed perfection of Barn Owls, for what was – until the Buzzards took the top spot – the most populous bird of prey in the country. And, comically, when you look up the Kestrel on the RSPB’s website it says: “You might also be interested in… No results.” I find that incredbily accurate.

Kestrels are in decline. Between 1995 and 2020 their numbers declined by 40%, and their distribution contracted by 5.6%. Falco tinnunculus now have a secure place on the UK birds of concern amber list.

Anyway, however anger-inducing, this is not a blog about bird decline – that is (in part) Raptor Persecution – this is a short piece to praise those that love Kestrels, especially Ruth and Chris and how their passion for this orange joy ultimately lead to the creation of the incredible Wild Justice.

I have such admiration for Ruth’s total commitment to campaigning. She has been picking fights against the often entrenched hunting community and against frequently sluggish legislative bodies for over a decade. With a few more people as dedicated as Ruth, our countryside would be a far wilder and wonderful place.

Raptor Persecution Blog – https://raptorpersecutionuk.org/
Wild Justice – https://wildjustice.org.uk/
Eagle Watchers (Abebooks) – https://www.abebooks.co.uk/book-search/isbn/9780801448737/

Carl Jones (Wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_G._Jones

The Peregrine Fund – https://peregrinefund.org/
The (British) Conservation Volunteers – https://www.tcv.org.uk/
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary – https://www.hawkmountain.org/
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust – https://www.durrell.org/

Image on this page of a Short-eared Owl, on location at Langholm Moor, is reproduced courtesy of John Wright. To hear an episode about the wonderful Community Buyout at Langholm Moor – one that also features Dr Mark Avery, one of Ruth Tingay’s partners at Wild Justice – an episode that is well worth a listen, then please click here: https://www.treesacrowd.fm/langholm-moor/

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