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RSPB: Solo operations of egg thief devastating birdlife in Britain

Illegal collections tipping ‘endangered species towards extinction’

Britain’s most serial-offending bird egg thief has struck again to record the largest single haul this century.

Pensioner Daniel Lingham’s total of 5,266 eggs from species including nightingales, nightjars, turtle doves, chiffchaffs, little-ringed plovers, woodlarks and kingfishers is more than 2,000 higher than his previous ‘worst’ figure in 2005.

As the 65-year-old faces another prison term for his “addiction”, charity RSPB warned his “one man crime wave” is tipping endangered species towards extinction – causing an “incredible impact on birds both regionally and nationally”.

In addition to targeting the nightjar and nightingale, the numbers of which have “really declined” by as much as 90 per cent in the last decade, Lingham had also earmarked the turtle dove for his crime spree, RSPB senior investigations officer Mark Thomas confirmed after the Norwich magistrates court hearing.

He said the RSPB is spending nearly £200,000 per year trying to conserve that species as there is a “very high chance” that this bird could be lost forever in the UK.

Lingham, from Newton St Faith, admitted five offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The court heard that 75 of the eggs were protected under schedule one of the act.

The charges to which Lingham pleaded guilty are taking nine linnet eggs at Cawston Heath on May 21 and possession of articles capable of being used to commit an offence found during the stop search, which are tree climbing spikes, binoculars and padded containers.

In addition to the 75 schedule one-listed wild bird eggs, he also admitted possession of 4,070 ordinarily protected wild bird eggs and possession of articles capable of being used to commit an offence found at his home address, which were wooden receptacles, plastic containers and egg reference books.

Lingham was apprehended after a member of the public told officers she had seen a man in camouflage gear picking eggs up off the ground at Cawston Heath in Norfolk, the court heard on Friday.

Officers then searched his home address and found tubs containing eggs under his bed and in the kitchen and living room, with many of them handwritten on.

James Burrows, defending Lingham, said his client had been referred to a mental health team for obsessive compulsive disorder.

The court heard that egg collecting is now “really rare” following a change in the law in 2001 which meant those caught with illegal seizures facing jail sentences.

Lingham was convicted of similar offences in 2005 when he was jailed for 12 weeks for illegally collecting 3,603 eggs – the previous largest single haul.

Bench chairman Jeanne Heal, adjourning the hearing for a pre-sentence report, warned Lingham the magistrates were looking at a quite lengthy custodial sentence.

He was bailed to appear again at the Norwich court on November 27.

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