Photographer Found Guilty of Disturbing Extremely Rare Bird of Prey

A hawk with outstretched wings soars against a clear blue sky. The bird displays a pattern of dark and light feathers along its wings and body, with its sharp eyes focused forward. The hawk's wings are spread wide, showcasing its full wingspan.

A photographer from Wales has been fined $2,000 (£1,600) after he was found guilty of disturbing one of the U.K.’s rarest birds.

John Paul Haffield, 68, climbed to the nest of a honey buzzard causing “extreme stress” to the adult birds which resulted in one of the eggs not being properly incubated. There were only two eggs inside the nest.

Haffield had a habit of visiting the nests of protected birds so he could take photos of them with their young or with their eggs. He would then sell the images via his website.

“This was a particularly upsetting case. The defendant was actively taking photographs of birds protected under Schedule 1 and offering them for sale,” says Police Constable Mark Powell.

“Climbing to nests causes extreme stress to adult birds resulting in eggs not being properly incubated. On the honey buzzard nest, there were two eggs and one failed.”

The honey buzzard is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. In the U.S., the raptor would be more likely to be known as a hawk.

The honey buzzard is one of the rarest birds in the U.K. Digital Camera World reports there are only 33 breeding pairs left in the wild in the U.K. and the birds will only lay two eggs per year.

“This is very disappointing as the honey buzzard is considered to be one of the rarest birds in Wales and this was the only known nest. Recently the nest was on a BBC documentary and is actively monitored as part of a nest monitoring program to help ensure the species’ survival,” adds Constable Powell.

“Mr Haffield maintained his innocence and elected to go to trial. Unfortunately for him, he was found guilty and received fines and costs totaling [$2,000] £1,620.”

Haffield was found guilty under the Wildlife and Countryside Act which makes it an offense to “intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird or their eggs or nests.”

There are “special penalties” available for offenses related to birds listed for Schedule 1 protection. On top of that, there are additional offenses for disturbing these protected birds at their nests, or their dependent young.

Honey buzzards come to the U.K. at specific times of the year to breed — typically over the summer — where they nest in wooded areas. They are tricky to spot for birdwatchers, often soaring high in the sky.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.