The RSPB has warned that attacks on wildlife will not be tolerated after a Huddersfield man was given a suspended jail sentence for stealing birds’ eggs.

Terence Potter, 64, of Upper Cumberworth, was arrested after gamekeepers saw a man acting suspiciously on moorland off the Woodhead Pass near Holmfirth.

Potter was traced and a search of his home found more than 200 eggs alongside ‘egg blowing’ equipment, books and taxidermy items. An incubator containing seven unhatched eggs was also seized.

Potter appeared at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court charged under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

He admitted two counts of possessing items capable of being used to take and possess birds’ eggs, three counts of possession of wild bird eggs (179 black-headed gull eggs, eight golden plover eggs and seven curlew eggs) and three counts of taking wild bird eggs.

Potter was given a 12-week sentence, suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay £120 costs and £128 victim surcharge. He must also forfeit the eggs and equipment used to commit the offences. Potter claimed in court he was a “wildlife expert” but this was rejected by magistrates.

Egg blowing equipment seized from Potter’s home. All pictures provided by RSPB

Tom Grose, RSPB investigations officer, welcomed the court’s verdict and said: “(This) sends a strong signal that such thoughtless destruction of wildlife, for personal gain, will not be tolerated.

“Among Potter’s collection were seven curlew eggs – these are a declining, red-listed species which conservationists are working hard to bring back from the brink.

“Birds should be allowed to flourish in their natural environment, where they can be enjoyed by all. Thankfully, these days egg collecting is largely a thing of the past and court cases like this one are becoming increasingly rare.

“We are grateful to the individuals who reported this man’s suspicious behaviour and to South Yorkshire Police for such a thorough investigation.”

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In April 2020 gamekeepers of Snailsdon, Ladycross and Woodhead Estates notified South Yorkshire Police that a man was on their land acting suspiciously.

This followed previous reports of a similar nature of a man believed to be taking eggs from the wild across Yorkshire and Derbyshire.

Rural and wildlife crime officer PC Elizabeth Wilson said: “We have beautiful countryside that is inhabited by wildlife and it’s our job to protect and preserve the lives of the animals, to protect species from decline, not take or capture them for personal gain.

“During the warrant executed at Potter’s house, we never expected to find viable eggs. I wanted to give the eggs the best chance of survival so wrapped them up and placed them on the heated seats of the police car.

Golden plovers were hatched from eggs seized from Potter’s home. Pic: RSPB

“The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) assisted us during the warrant and arranged for Smiths Nursery in Thorngumbald to care for the eggs until they hatched.

“We were extremely pleased that the eggs survived and four baby chicks – three golden plover and one curlew – were able to be released back into the wild.”

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PC Wilson added: “I hope the sentencing of Potter shows that wildlife crime is not tolerated, and we will take reports seriously and investigate the reports made to us.

“I continue to urge people to report suspicious incidents and behaviour to us via 101 or online.”