Friday, 25 March 2011

Beautiful Birds but a Barbaric Bird Trap!!

So it is officially Spring! I suspect we could still have some less than Springlike weather but as March 21st has been and gone and we in the UK will put the clocks forward one hour this weekend everything seems to be steadily and happily moving forward.

'Spring to the earth has come; her fountains leap,
In fields of azure pearly clouds repose,
Meek flowers seem along the turf to creep,
And long the lingering twilight softly glows'
(Henry Theodore Tuckerman)

It has been lovely to find and photograph all these colourful Spring blooms during the last week.

Clockwise from top left: Violets, Primroses, Wood Anemone, Daffodils, Wych Elm.

Before I carry on with my planned post I need to tell you about something I discovered yesterday which I found extremely disturbing to say the least.

For the past week or so I have been watching and trying to photograph Yellowhammers. A few years ago I regularly saw and heard them in the hedgerows alongside a disused railway line close to home but for some time now there has been no sign of them there. However a few weeks ago I noticed a small flock about three miles further on from where I used to see them. I have been back several times but had great difficulty photographing them due to the fact they were mainly perched on the roof of an open fronted barn in a field some way from the footpath I was following. After some investigation I eventually found a way into the field but have still had trouble getting close enough to the barn to get decent photos due to there being nowhere to conceal myself.

Anyway, yesterday I tried again and decided for the first time to go around the back of the barn to see if I could get a better view of them from that angle.

As I turned the corner I was absolutely amazed to see what at first sight I thought was a chicken run but as my brain got into gear I realised I was in fact looking at a bird trap complete with two terrified and trapped Magpies!! To say I was shocked is an understatement!

I immediately beckoned to my husband who had stopped on the margin of the field so as not to disturb the Yellowhammers too much. We found how to open the trap and the two distraught and very disturbed birds eventually managed to fly out... and the trap... was somehow upturned ;)

EDIT: The photo which appeared here of the Magpies being released from their living hell has been removed as it seems some people may have viewed it with the intention of gaining information to make these hideous instruments of torture.

I have done some research and found it was a Larsen trap. The Act Against Corvid Traps Campaign says of it ...

'The Larsen trap is a cage bird trap made of wire and a wood framed cage where one live bird (decoy bird, or call bird) ie. crow or magpie, is placed to encourage another bird, not always of similar species, to come down to it. This visiting bird, not knowing its fate, falls through a false floor into a compartment, where it awaits its fate. Although banned in their country of origin because they are viewed as inhumane, Larsen traps are still legal in the UK. It uses a live wild “decoy bird” to attract and trap crows, magpies, jays, jackdaws and rooks. The decoy bird suffers a most terrible existence. Close to the ground it is terrorised by predators, these intelligent birds see its fellow birds brutally killed in front of it. A number end up being found dead through neglect.'

I am fully aware that Corvids are seen by some as a threat to some other birds but there can be no excuse whatsoever for such heartless cruelty to any creature. I am utterly appalled by this barbaric and hideous practice and urge you to please sign the petition against it at the top of my sidebar... I don't think I will ever forget the sight of those poor, terrified and panicking birds imprisoned in that dreadful trap...

Incidentally, if anyone else finds one and there is no evidence of food and water inside the trap a prosecution can be brought. Otherwise, in this country they are unfortunately still legal which is why I would urge you to sign the petition and even put the widget on your own blog. The more publicity the better!


Thank you for bearing with me :) now back to my original post and as I mentioned Yellowhammers, I think I should post a couple of photos I managed to get, neither of which are good by any means but I will keep trying to get nearer to them.


'In early Spring when winds blow chilly cold
The yellowhammer trailing grass will come
To fix a place and choose an early home
With yellow breast and head of solid gold.'
(John Clare)

The following one is on the barn roof

and this Pheasant emerged from inside the barn!

'The beautiful pheasants were fluttering with ease from place to place,
then raising themselves up into an erect position with a majesty that is peculiar to that bird.'
(John Black)

Another bird I saw on the same walk was this Bullfinch and again I couldn't get close enough for a good photo but as I don't see them very often I have included it anyway.


I love to hear the tinkling voices of the Long-tailed Tits as they hurriedly swoop into a nearby tree and just as quickly disappear again.

Long-tailed Tit

The Blue Tits were also busy hunting for insects and grubs.

Blue Tit

When these Bluebells flower I think they will look lovely growing among the moss covering the base of this tree trunk.


There were lots of Rabbits around.


And the lovely song of Robins accompanied us throughout our walk.


'Sweet, constant, faithful bird,
True to thy land and home !
Whilst other birds seek other climes
Thou never learn'st to roam. '
(Richard Richards)

Now there is more warmth in the sun it is good to see insects emerging again. In the last few days I have had fleeting views of Small Tortoiseshells, Brimstones and Red Admirals but no photos yet. I photographed these Ladybirds in local woodland trying to warm themselves on quite a chilly day last week.


I often see Dunnocks in the garden but like Wrens they are quite secretive birds, usually skulking around under shrubs and bushes. However, this one seen on our walk, posed long enough for a photo.


Thank you very much for reaching the end of this slightly 'different' post. Please do think about signing the petition, wherever you are in the world your signature is valuable.


  1. Hello Songbird, my you have been busy with the Camera, and some nice pics too, Yellowhammers are so hard to get close to!

    As for that Trap, well it's just typical of the old victorian attitude that some people just cant shake off. I'm glad the trap got knocked over and the birds escaped ;-) But dont be around next time it happens Jan, these people are real bullies, and will wont think twice about doing you some harm.

    They farm the countryside in such a way that nothing but Covids can make a living, then complain that there are too many of them!

    Look out I feel a Derek alternative view coming :-) !!

  2. Hi Jan.
    A nice selection of bird photo's, especially the yellowhammer that you patiently waited for.
    As for the trap, I think Warren sums it up, what a barbaric contrapton it is.

  3. Hi ShySongbird, Yellowhammers!! excellent, I'm glad you got some photos, it's a shame about the trap though, they are really nasty things.

    There are lots of nice photos on this post, great stuff.

  4. wonderful to see yellowhammers, i only know one place near Edinburgh where I can see them and haven't done recently!

    I like your photos very much, all those ladybirds!

    Well done you on freeing the magpies, they can be pests but that's no excuse to be trapping them inhumanely

  5. Very nice post Jan. I like the Yellowhammer shots, they are a species I hardly ever see. I also really like the ladybird picture.
    Thankfully, the kind of people who seem to get a kick out of trapping or shooting birds are in the minority. And thank goodness for the likes of yourself who are willing to take some positive action.
    What next, shoot or trap all birds of prey.......and Cuckoos? Some will no doubt make a case for it.

  6. Dear Jan,
    Oh my, I am happy you found the trap.
    I am sure the birds were terrified. All of your bird photographs are lovely. I enjoyed seeing the Yellowhammers. The pheasant also is magnificent. How delightful to have seen butterflies. We have had a cool down so the butterflies remain asleep still. I shall wait. It won't be long now. March can be very cold here too but April is always beautiful.
    Happy birding.
    Happy Spring.

  7. Hi Jan,

    That trap is horrendous and must be a real shock to see in real life. It's just a shame it's still legal and you cannot report it.

    I'd be careful going back again, as someone else said, these people are dangerous. They're the type that think nothing of pouring chenicals on their land so all other birds and wildlife die, yet trap the only animals that attempt to live there.

    Such a sobering post about the realities of trapping.

    Wonderful photos, ans very pleased you managed to snap the yellowhammers and bullfinch :)

  8. As always your bird photos and poetry is a delight. Such wonderful signs of spring coming to life with a blue sky background.

    Finding that trap was so fortunate for those poor captive birds, but what a horrendous discovery for you. I'm so glad the birds were able to be freed. I wonder if the trappers have any idea of the memories of corvids! They'd best beware!

  9. ...loved the photos of the birds (and ladybirds too) and as always the corresponding poetry. I was heartbroken to hear about the bird's so sad. I guess that sort of thing goes on in South American with parrots too. I've never seen or heard about it here...hope I never do. Glad you stepped in.

  10. Well done. Every little helps.

  11. ShySongbird ,
    Whilst applauding you for your actions in releasing the birds , I would also fear for yourself and your husband , being found on private property , by the owner , possibly carrying a legal shotgun , whilst accompanied by a large dog or more .
    I would have probaly done the same thing without thinking of the consequences , but stepping back out of the heat of the situation can alter the view . Please be careful .
    Enjoyed the post as usual , especially the Yellowhammer shots , as they get rarer by the year . And yes , I tink we can use the full 'Spring' word now too .

  12. Totally agree with all the above comments and i for one would`ve done the same.

  13. Lovely shots!

    I live in America, so I'm not familiar with your birds specifically. However, on the front of bird traps - I own one. I'm not a hunter. I live in a rural area and we have nest boxes which are intended for Eastern Bluebirds. Sometimes we get tree swallows, chickadees or wrens, and we're happy to have them. However, long before I was born some dolts brought what we in the States refer to as European sparrows to America, and basically, they are an alien invasive species.

    European sparrows will go into the nest box being used by bluebirds and destroy their eggs or kill their babies.

    I have seen too many dead baby bluebirds on my property. And yes, every year after some tragedy - the next box trap is installed and there are a few less European sparrows in my yard killing my native bluebirds or tree swallows.

    Believe me, it doesn't feel spectacular to kill the birds that killed the birds in my yard. But finding dead baby bluebirds pisses me off. People do have their reasons for using traps. It does, however, need to be legal (using traps). Believe me, it's illegal to kill native songbirds. The alien invasive species, however, are fair game.

    In the end, birds are wild animals. They may be beautiful creatures, but none of them are saintly.

  14. Warren Baker

    Thank you Warren :) I was really pleased to locate the Yellowhammers but as you say they are very difficult to get close to!

    It was a real shock to find that horrible trap. I would question the mentality of anyone witnessing the distress of those terrified, imprisoned creatures to not be moved by their plight and to be able to walk away and leave them to their fate.

    In hindsight of course I completely see that we were in a dangerous situation and as you rightly point out the sort of people responsible for such cruelty could be very nasty.

    I now have the dilemma of whether to stay away from the walk altogether or to still go there but walk past the barn knowing what might be going on behind it! Either way will be 'burying my head in the sand' and doesn't sit comfortably with someone who abhors cruelty and suffering toward any creature. If the traps were banned here, as they have been in other countries, I would not be left with such a dilemma.

    I have always firmly believed that if man had not meddled with the natural order of things Nature would be completely capable of looking after itself. As you say there has been so much bad management of the countryside over the years with dire consequences. Even if I were to be persuaded of the need for control (which is not likely) it is the nature of the control which is so obnoxious.

    To submit a living creature to such torture is cruelty beyond belief...are people completely incapable of imagining the sheer terror those poor birds endure?

  15. Jan, this trap looks awful, and the thought of that poor magpie being used as a decoy is so sad. I'm glad you released him, though as others have said, I would be careful that no one is around to see you. I hope that your petition drive is successful and that these traps are eventually banned in the UK.

    I'm glad you included the photo of the pheasant; they used to be such a common sight around here, but now I rarely see them. I'm not sure why. The weather has turned cool here again, but the birds have definitely announced that it's spring. My front and back yards are a hive of activity as they search for nesting material.

    Always a delight to visit; hope you have a great weekend!

  16. Im so happy you let those poor birds go..I would have smashed the trap too..Im def signing your petition NO Matter im not in the UK,...bird belong to the World not to any one Country--
    YOUR photos are awesome as usual...the birds, the bunnies, the flowers and the lady birds--terrific-.

  17. Jan,
    Just out of curiosity, if you had a neighbour who for whatever reason disliked the birds that your feeders attracted (perhaps they regularly pooed on his washing), and he came into your garden without permission and emptied all your feeders, or even smashed them up, what would be your reaction.

  18. Ken

    Thank you Ken, I see you have been getting Yellowhammer photos too :)
    Barbaric was definitely the word, cruel and inhumane!

    Alan Pavey

    Hi Alan, thank you :) I was pleased to get the photos but not pleased with the result, I would love to get them closer and in a better place. Of course whether I will brave going back there again, I'm not sure ;)

    Crafty Green Poet

    Thank you Juliet :) The Yellowhammers used to be seen frequently on my walks but until recently I hadn't seen them for some years. They definitely seem to like the particular spot where I found them.
    There is no way I could have left those poor birds in that terrified state and in the knowledge they would eventually be killed.

  19. Hi Jan,
    There are too many magpies in certain areas and need to be controlled for the sake of other wildlife but this is a barbaric method of doing it and should be banned. Nice blog as always.

  20. Phil

    Thank you Phil, The Yellowhammers seemed to have disappeared from my area so I was thrilled to find them but just wish I could get them in a better place for photos.
    I hope those people are in the minority but wonder if there are more of them around than we realise. They are very cunning and cynical and have no scruples at all and obviously no empathy for a fellow creature's suffering whatsoever.


    Thank you Sherry :) I will never forget the distress of those poor birds...
    I have seen a few more butterflies during the past week but it is cooler here again now which will probably slow them down a little. I hope you see some soon.
    Happy Spring to you too Sherry.


    Hi Liz, thank you :) It was a huge shock and one that keeps replaying in my head. A change in the law is the only thing that will help I fear but I suspect will be difficult to achieve, we can only try...
    As I have often seen Pheasants there I am convinced the trap is there for the purposes of protecting game which is of course a totally cynical practice!


    Thank you Glo :) It is lovely to see the beginnings of Spring all around us now although it has been cooler here this last couple of days.
    It was utterly horrendous and I will never forget it! I suspect the Corvids are more intelligent than the trappers Glo, beware indeed!

  21. Kelly

    Thank you Kelly :) The way it keeps replaying in my head makes me sort of wish I had never found it but of course I am also glad I did as it meant those poor birds were released from their suffering.


    Thank you Adrian :) It does indeed.


    Thank you Greenie :) With hindsight, I of course realise we were in a potentially dangerous situation and will be very wary in future.
    Looking at the Ordnance Survey Map there is actually a public footpath running through the field behind the barn and we entered the field through an open gate from a village road.
    I suspect he didn't expect anyone to actually walk that route as there is nothing of scenic beauty with (surprise, surprise) no hedgerows running across his field, only a wire fence.
    If only the Yellowhammers had picked a different barn!


    Thank you for your support Dean, I know you would have :)

  22. Hi Jan, Sadly I know this trap only too well.
    I have seen them before and I have to say I know of people who use them.
    I have never been able to understand such cruelty. I confess I do not like magpies but I could and would not hurt them or any other creature.
    I have great respect for you realeasing the poor are a girl after my own heart, well done.

    Delightful to see the birds, especially the yellow hammer and bull finch.
    The dunnock is such a shy little bird. They nest in my garden each year.....I really enjoy having them here.

    Have a good week Jan......

  23. I am totally with you; have you got a petition together? It is definitely worth it.
    You were so lucky with the Yellowhammer, I can never see one, especially not to picture it.

  24. Lovely post of spring Jan, and beautiful pictures to accompany it.
    Well done on getting the Yellowhammer.

    As for the trap; I guess anyone who's read my blog will know I hate the dam things. I've signed the petition, and hopefully these barbaric things will be banned one day.
    As for a certain comment on here; what gives anyone the right to trap, torture and kill wildlife in the first place? Do some of us perceive ourselves as gods?

  25. Great shot of the Ladybirds Jan.

  26. Sarah Knight

    Thank you Sarah. I do understand the frustration you must feel to see your Bluebirds' eggs and babies destroyed. It underlines once again of course, the folly of man's interference in Nature. Our native Red Squirrel which was once a common sight only appears in a few areas now due to the introduction of the American Grey Squirrel during the 19th Century. The Sparrow does not act in a predatory manner at all over here, eating only seed and scraps.
    However, although as I said, I understand your frustration, I could never, ever take the action you have! Regarding your last paragraph, I think that the difference between us and our fellow creatures is that they act only on instinct but we have the ability, and therefore the responsibility, to think and act in a measured and compassionate way.


    Thank you Rose. The trap was absolutely horrendous and three days later the whole horrible event is still playing back in my head! Unfortunately I doubt the law will ever change but I cannot stand back and do nothing.
    It has turned cooler again here but Spring does seem to be moving forward :)


    Thank you Sondra and thank you so much for signing the petition :) I knew you would be outraged too!


    Thank you Derek. I am sure you know that is a totally spurious argument and that the two circumstances are completely different! The trap may have been private property but it was in a field with an open gate and the birds were most definitely not private property!
    My feeding the birds in my garden does not relate in any way to someone trapping and causing intense suffering to a living creature.
    If though, I was mistreating a creature in my garden and someone intervened, I might not be pleased but would not be at all surprised!

  27. Hi Jan
    I would have done the same in your situation. Two magpies have been saved by your actions, and are now free to fly. I think what you did was fantastic!
    I must admit that I do actually like crows and magpies (though not some of their habits, but we do all have to make our own way in the world). We sometimes have magpies visit the garden, and they are extremely timid around people.
    On a brighter note, your pictures in this post really do show us that spring is here!

  28. Hi Jan Well its good to be back and what a post to come back to, I am dead envious of those Yellowhammer shots,one of my bogie birds to photograph down here.
    So sad to hear about the corvid trap,and I think the best thing happened when it overturned, but as Warren commented Take care if you go back there again.
    Lovely post and enjoyed it as usual.

  29. Mike Attwood

    Hi Mike, thank you for your comments. Yes, it certainly is barbaric and should have been banned years ago!


    Thank you Cheryl. It is completely beyond me how anyone could even contemplate such cruelty. I know you would have done the same as I did.
    Dunnocks nest in my garden too, I have never worked out where exactly but it is a delight to see the little ones around :)

    Bob Bushell

    Thank you Bob, I know you have found and signed the petition now, I am very grateful!
    The Yellowhammers seem to really like that place, I wish I could get a better photo though :)


    Thank you Keith :) I don't know how I could have forgotten that you also had an encounter with one of the hateful things! It is horrendous to suddenly be confronted by one and for me (as you) there is only one course of action to take.
    I completely one has the right but it seems that some people do think like is totally beyond my comprehension!
    Thank you so much for signing the petition, it is so kind of you to comment and sign at a time when I know you have troubles of your own.

  30. Dear Jan

    This is the first time to your lovely blog. I have just popped over from Dan's.

    You now have another name on your petition. I despise heartless cruelty to any living creature, regardless of their 'reputation'. Thank goodness for your tenacity in searching out those elusive Yellowhammers.


  31. The Abbot

    Thank you very much Trevor :)


    Thank you Roy, I'm glad you liked it :)


    Thank you Dan and welcome back :) I had to! I just couldn't walk away and leave them like that, their suffering was awful to see. Yes, I have noticed in my garden how wary they are of people but then with people prepared to inflict cruelty like that on them it is hardly surprising I suppose.
    I agree, it is so good to have Spring here again, I love it!

  32. I remember how shocked I was when I first moved over to Ireland that the Irish catch Magpies and other Corvids & thought this kind of thing never happened in the UK - how naive am I?!
    Good job you were there when the traps fell over, just to make sure the pair flew off safely! I've signed the petition!
    On a happier note, spring is definitely in the air - it's been glorious here the past week & your photos of Yellowhammers are lovely :)

  33. Monts

    Hi Monty, welcome back, it's lovely to see you here again :) I so wish I could have got better photos of the Yellowhammers. I will have to try again but haven't yet been able to bring myself to go back there knowing what I might find. I know that is awful because it is sticking my head in the sand but I found the experience so traumatic and it is still haunting me :(

    Cottage Garden

    Welcome Jeanne! thank you for visiting and for your comments and particularly for signing the petition :)
    I could never have dreamt of what I would be confronted by when I innocently went there that day in an attempt to photograph the was horrible!
    I have already popped over and looked at your blog and liked it very much. I will be back to comment very soon :)


    Thank you Sharon and most particularly for signing the petition :)
    I found while researching this subject that there is quite a large campaign in Ireland to get them banned, I do hope it will eventually be successful!
    So glad you are having some good weather and that Spring is in the air there :)

  34. hi jan,
    never ever seen a yellowhammer so very well done, loved the robin photo, as for your encounter of the bird trap the mind boggles as to the mental state of these so called (PEOPLE),i abhor any kind of cruelty to another creature including us humans, jolly well done, if there where more people like you then this world of ours would be a much better place

  35. denzil

    Hi Denis :) Thank you so much for your really lovely comment, you are very kind!
    The Yellowhammer is a delightful, sunny looking little bird, I hope you see one sometime and maybe one day I will get a photo of it that I will be pleased with ;)
    I am in complete agreement with you in regard to the mental state of such cruel people, their wicked actions beggar belief...

  36. Hi Songbird, love;y site, and beautiful pics.
    I was shocked at the bird traps, have signed the petition,

  37. Hi Jan with regards to your comment on my blog, I think a black backgroung would suit yours very well, and if you retained the post and sidebar colours it would add a really rich depth to your blog.I just mess around with mine until I get somthing I'm happy with, and I do like the richness of black.

  38. IOW

    Hi Dave :) Welcome! Thank you for visiting, commenting, following and particularly for signing the petition! It really was very shocking to see the birds like that, I do hope that one day those barbaric traps will be banned.


    Thanks Monty, I have considered it from time to time but being a bit of a stick-in-the-mud and having taken so long to choose these colours in the first place, I will probably stay with it for now but of course, I might have a change of mind one of these days. I did think yours looked very impressive though :)

  39. Wow Jan! I know now why had trouble loading this page on the few times I have tried - quite a hot one. I don’t know where to start. So much has been said already.

    Naively, my very first thoughts (when I saw your photo) were that perhaps the birds were sick and being cared for - although your post title did say it all. I live in a garden bubble and was unaware this happened – far less that it is legal. Incredible.

    Awareness for any cause is the answer. Petitions can only gain strength from that. You have both raised awareness for this cause and promoted it. Well done there. Petition signed.

    I can see why this has caused so much discussion. I also understand the impact this awful discovery will have had on you. Being honest, I don’t know if I could walk in that area again myself.

    I’ve read through all your comments (following on to others too) and I commend you in your replies here and elsewhere.

    I agree that your safety could have been comprised. This is a field (no pun intended) that I am completely unfamiliar with. Looking online just now I have found that items (watching what I say for Google searches) such as the one you discovered can be purchased specifically for the use you witnessed. There are diagrams too.

    Like others have said, this day could have turned out differently. However, I understand why you made the brave move you did and that had only the safety of the frightened birds on your mind. I just cannot believe this is legal. I am at a loss for words.

    Loved your other photos especially the one with the ladybirds. Fingers crossed you'll find another location to see Yellowhammers but that will never change what you saw and what you know goes on here and other places too :-(

  40. Dear Shirl, thank you so much for your reasoned and supportive comment, I know you must have spent quite some time on it! Thank you also for signing the petition, so kind of you to care and take the time. I know it probably won't have any effect but I had to do something.

    If you are 'naive' then so was I as my first bewildered thought, before realising the type of bird imprisoned there, was that I was looking at a chicken run!

    It bewilders me that a so called civilised society condones this barbaric cruelty and I'm afraid anyone who defends it because it is 'the law' should think back to 'witch' burning and ducking, Cock fighting and a host of other 'legal' practices which are now looked on with horror. I am dumbfounded by man's inhumanity...

    I haven't been able to bring myself to go back there yet which is such a shame as it was a lovely place to walk and one I have loved for many years.

    I haven't forgotten about the email Shirl, I really will do it soon :)

    Enjoy the rest of the week :)

  41. sadly the world we live in at the moment is to blame for slowly killing populations of small farmland birds and species such as Lapwing. If you want to see these things then every helping hand is necessary and regrettably that includes larsen traps. leave alone.
    sorry for going anon but can't get the hang of all this google stuff.

  42. Anonymous

    Thank you for your comment. You are quite right that 'sadly the world we live in at the moment is to blame for slowly killing populations of small farmland birds and species such as Lapwing.' However, I would refer you to this article which although briefly referring to predation in passing makes it clear that Lapwing decline is due to appalling farming practices and bad land management rather than Corvid predation. You can read it by copying and pasting the following link into your browser:

    Inflicting cruelty and suffering on any living creature is never a solution!

  43. Interesting post and well written, All pictures are so beautiful. Well done and keep going.


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