Man jailed for taking Peregrine eggs from quarry


A man who took Peregrine Falcon eggs from a nest by abseiling down a quarry cliff face has been jailed for 18 weeks.

Christopher Wheeldon, of Lime Grove, Darley Dale, Derbyshire, took the eggs at Bolsover Moor Quarry, in the county on 23 April 2023. District Judge Stephen Flint said the defendant's actions were "deplorable".

The eggs are often taken to order for the Middle Eastern falconry market and can fetch thousands of pounds.

Southern Derbyshire Magistrates' Court heard on Monday 15 January that a hidden wildlife camera, which was monitoring the nest, captured Wheeldon abseiling down the quarry face to reach and take the eggs. The court heard he had been helped by a second person, as he is heard asking someone to help pull him back up, but no-one else was arrested.

Footage showed Wheeldon abseiling down the quarry cliff to take the Peregrine Falcon (RSPB).


Hidden camera reveals the crime

Derbyshire Police recognised Wheeldon after officers were shown the footage by investigators from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). It shows an adult bird guarding a nest – thought to contain three eggs – and then fleeing in panic and calling out in distress as Wheeldon abseils down.

The RSPB believes that the eggs would have been hatched out in an incubator before the birds were sold, probably abroad, as captive reared, which is legal.

RSPB investigator Tom Grose said: "Effectively these are birds that are laundered. It is something we have seen on an annual basis, nests failing in suspicious circumstances and this is the third case we have captured on camera in the last few years."

Defence solicitor Clare James said Wheeldon had "no answer" for his actions.

Peregrine Falcon is a protected species in Britain (Ian Howard).


Wheeldon pleads guilty

Wheeldon, 34, admitted at a previous hearing to disturbing the nest of a protected wild bird and taking eggs. He had also admitted failing to surrender to police and court bail for an earlier appearance and a string of shoplifting offences.

Sentencing, the district judge said: "Seemingly, even the birds are not beyond your thieving grasp. You may conceive of these as just eggs but they are protected. This was a deplorable thing to do."

He also ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the equipment Wheeldon had used to take the eggs.

PC Emma Swales, from the Derbyshire Police rural crime team, said: "It's not very often we get a conviction, let alone a sentence, so it's very positive for us. Derbyshire is a hot-spot for this."