Prolific bird egg collector pleads guilty to taking and possessing more than 5,000 eggs

The collector admitted to five offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Part of Lingham's collection © RSPB

On 12 October, Daniel Lingham from Newton St Faith in Norfolk appeared at Norwich Magistrates’ Court and pleaded guilty to the five charges facing him, all relating to the taking and possession of wild bird eggs.

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Earlier this year, Norfolk Constabulary located and arrested Lingham following a call reporting a man acting suspiciously at Cawston Heath, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) located to the north of Norwich.

When arrested, the police found nine linnet eggs on his person and contact the RSPB, which advise conducting a search of Lingham’s home. There they found nearly 5,000 eggs from a wide variety of UK birds, including marsh harrier, nightjar and turtle dove, all of which had been taken from Norfolk reserve.

“At a time when egg collecting is on the decline, Lingham is the most prolific egg collector in recent years,” says Mark Thomas, RSPB senior investigator. “It’s very rare that an egg collection of this magnitude comes to light these days.”

Trays containing Lingham's egg collection. © RSPB
Trays containing Lingham’s egg collection. © RSPB

The sheer scale of the collection was worrying to the RSPB and to the police.

“Lingham has taken significant numbers of eggs from some of our rarest and most threatened birds, including nightjar and turtle dove,” continues Thomas.

“This will have a huge impact on their local, regional and national population. Birds like the turtle dove are in long term decline – we have lost 94 per cent of our turtle doves in the UK since 1995 and no UK bird is declining faster.”

RSPB senior investigator Mark Thomas cataloguing Lingham's egg collection. © RSPB
RSPB senior investigator Mark Thomas cataloguing Lingham’s egg collection. © RSPB

This is not the first time that Lingham has been investigated and prosecuted. In 2005, he was jailed for 10 weeks after police found a collection of almost 4,000 eggs in his home.

Lingham is due to be sentenced on 27 November 2018 at Norwich Magistrates’ Court.

Part of Lingham's collection. © RSPB
Part of Lingham’s collection. © RSPB

The police are urging anyone to report similar offences to them.

“We know that crimes of this nature often go under-reported, which is why cases and convictions like this are so important in raising awareness of such wildlife offences,” says PC Tom Pellow, who led the investigation with PC Leah Hutchins.

“The vigilance and assistance of the public is key in preserving Norfolk’s natural beauty and wildlife diversity.”

The five charges were:

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  1. Taking 9 linnet eggs at Cawston Heath on 21/05/2018
  2. Possession of articles capable of being used to commit an offence – items from stop/search
  3. Possession of 75 Schedule 1 listed wild bird eggs on 21/05/2018
  4. Possession of 4070 ordinarily protected wild bird eggs on 21/05/2018
  5. Possession of articles capable of being used to commit an offence – items from home address
Adult turtle dove - one of the rare birds that Lingham collected the eggs of. © RSPB
Adult turtle dove – one of the rare birds that Lingham collected the eggs of. © RSPB