Birds trial – jury hears from expert

A taxidermist who studied stuffed birds of prey seized from a Norfolk stately home concluded they were modern enough to be subject to endangered species regulations, a jury heard yesterday.

A taxidermist who studied stuffed birds of prey seized from a Norfolk stately home concluded they were modern enough to be subject to endangered species regulations, a jury heard yesterday.

Expert prosecution witness Keith McDonald gave evidence in the trial of Michael Barclay, of Hanworth Hall, near Cromer, and taxidermist John Metcalf, of Billesdon, Leicestershire, who both deny a string of charges relating to the illegal sale and purchase of endangered species.

Barclay, 68, faces eight counts of illegally buying prohibited specimens, including peregrine falcons, sparrowhawks and owls, while Metcalf is accused of eight charges of selling the birds.

Norwich Crown Court had heard that police and RSPB inspectors searched Barclay's Grade II-listed home in May 2004 and suspected eight birds of prey had been illegally traded without a licence and were protected under international laws.

Mr McDonald said owners of “modern” specimens from before 1947 needed to know the name of the donor and the cause and date of death to obtain a licence from Defra to legally sell the item for commercial gain.

Going through each specimen in turn, he said he believed a stuffed peregrine falcon was modern due to the type of mount, the condition of the feathers and the type of eyes used.

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He said a pair of barn owls were “certainly within the last 30 years” and that one was consistent with Metcalf's style of taxidermy, as was a “modern” tawny owl. A pair of sparrowhawks, a short-eared owl and a long-eared owl were all post-1954, along with a little owl signed by a “J Metcalf”, he said.

Under cross-examination by Felicity Gerry, defending Metcalf, Mr McDonald said it was “possible but very difficult” to rehydrate, remould and reposition an old and already stuffed bird.

The trial continues.