NERF’s ‘Most Wanted’

‘The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand and the determination that whether we win or lose we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand’.

Vince Lombardi 1913 – 1970

The thoughts, as expressed by Lombardi, exactly identify the characteristics that NERF looks for in the individuals who are awarded the NERF Certificate of Appreciation. All of the recipients have demonstrated their total commitment to protecting birds of prey in the North of England.

Amanda Miller awarded a Certificate of Appreciation 

The certificate is awarded in appreciation of Amanda’s previous achievements within the RSPB in promoting species and habitat conservation & protection in our region.  We are especially grateful to be able to mark her unfailing support of NERF and her promotion of our voluntary work across a range of other conservation organisations.  A friend and ally to NERF past, present and future.


The dedication of two legendary Raptor Workers (Bill Hesketh and Bill Murphy) is recognised by NERF

The history of ornithology is littered with explorers who traveled the globe identifying new species, in the days when travel was all but impossible. There are biologists, statisticians, scientists and all manner of academics who bring both old and new avian information to us almost daily. Our bookshelves groan under the weight of their combined literary output. Whist we acknowledge and celebrate the work undertaken by this group of ornithologists we must never forget that the academic world of ornithology is under-pinned by a vast network of millions of ‘ordinary’ birders. For more than a century birders who have collectively spent countless hours, voluntarily surveying and monitoring birds whilst keeping meticulous notes to be shared with the rest of the birding community. A handful of these ‘ordinary’ birders achieve legendary status amongst their peers and NERF is fortunate enough to have two such legends within its ranks.

The names Bill Hesketh and Bill Murphy are synonymous with monitoring and protecting birds of prey in the Forest of Bowland. It is impossible to overstate the fantastic contribution that they have made to our collective knowledge over five decades. Not only have they collected a vast wealth of data they have touched the lives of all of us who know them.

Mick Demain is an extremely talented wildlife artist, a member of NERF and he is also the RSPB Warden working on the United Utilities / RSPB Reserve in the Forest of Bowland. Here Mick recounts his relationship with the Bills.

“I first encountered Bill Hesketh and Bill Murphy, affectionately known as the two Bills, on a long sweeping windswept fell on the eastern edge of Bowland, they approached me and introduced themselves and the conversation lasted no more than a couple of minutes before we parted, the date was 10th May 1992 and although we didn’t know it at the time it would be eighteen years before our paths crossed again and this time we would go on to become great friends.

In 2010 I became involved with the RSPB in Bowland and in 2012 I became RSPB seasonal warden at which time I adopted a team of volunteers, including the Bills who had a great knowledge of Bowland and its birds. Their experience, going back fifty years, has been invaluable to the RSPB.

As the years have passed the friendship has grown and they have been a massive help to me with the fieldwork and great companions on many walks into remote areas to check and monitor sites. I can’t envisage a day when the Bills will not be here to help for they have become a part of Bowland and certainly for me it won’t be the same without them.

These two guys have put in countless hours at a considerable cost to themselves and the RSPB owes them a massive debt of gratitude.”

We all owe them a debt of gratitude and it is with great pleasure that we award the Bills NERF Certificates of Merit.


April 2020

Dr. Cathleen Thomas, PhD

Project Manager, RSPB Hen Harrier Life Plus Project

There can be no doubt that leading any project related to Hen Harriers is a very challenging task. Cathleen took on the task with tremendous zeal and boundless energy. As a result of decades of persecution, largely on land managed for grouse shooting, Hen Harriers remain at risk of extinction as a breeding species in England.

The Hen Harrier Life Plus Project deployed satellite technology to track the birds movements across their range. Achieving this sounds easy but in reality it was far from the case. If dealing with Government, landowners and equipment manufactures wasn’t difficult enough the Project also needed to demonstrate a huge amount of public engagement. Though challenging these administrative elements could be managed and controlled to some degree.

However, managing the Project during the breeding season raised the complexity and degree of difficulty to a whole new level. Once the satellite tags had been distributed across the UK the final stage of the preparation was concluded ready for the fieldwork to begin. There is a very small timeframe during which the satellite tags can be fitted and all activities during this period are entirely dependent on the behaviour of the breeding birds, their geographical location and the prevailing weather conditions. Frequently all of these elements came together in combinations that resulted in the necessity to significantly change the plans, often on a daily basis. Cathleen regularly worked 12 to 15 hours every day throughout the 10 week breeding season during May, June and July ensuring that all of the tags were deployed and fitted.

NERF was a partner in the Hen Harrier Life Plus Project and we worked with Cathleen on a daily basis. There is no doubt that her commitment to securing a better future for Hen Harriers in the North of England and the rest of the UK was exemplary.


23 November 2019

Bob Elliot

Former Head of RSPB Investigations

Prior to taking up his post as the Head of the RSPB Investigations Team Bob had worked for many years in the conservation and animal welfare sector including lengthy periods with The National Trust for Scotland and for the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

The RSPB Investigations Team consists of an elite group of ornithologists who are also expert bird crime detectives, supported by a departmental team of crime pattern analysts. The Investigations Officers operate in remote locations, in difficult terrain where the work is arduous, it can be dangerous, requiring total commitment and a thorough knowledge of the relevant legislation. The expert witness statements prepared for the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service are exceptional and have frequently been the backbone of the evidence presented before the courts. During Bob’s tenure leading the Team their reputation grew from strength to strength.

NERF has had a longstanding working relationship with the RSPB Investigations Team and many of our members have worked with them on individual raptor persecution cases. NERF has also worked alongside Bob on the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group [RPPDG] where his tenacity was a tremendous asset to the conservationists within the Group as we fought hard on behalf of birds of prey, often against overwhelming odds.

In addition to working diligently preventing and detecting raptor based crime Bob secured financial support from the RSPB enabling NERF to hold our annual Conferences.

After leaving the RSPB Bob has taken on an equally challenging role as the Director of the Edinburgh based animal charity OneKind.


4 October 2018

Paul Irving

Chairman of Northern England Raptor Forum 2006 – 2018

In 2006 NERF was formed to bring the 10 independent Raptor Study Groups operating in the North of England into one umbrella organisation to represent birds of prey with a single unified voice. At that time Paul was the Chairman of the Yorkshire Dales Raptor Study Group and he was instrumental in bringing the NERF concept to fruition. Paul was unanimously elected Chairman at the inaugural meeting in 2006 and remained in post until he left Yorkshire for a new life in Wales in 2018.

Whilst Paul has left for pastures new he continues with his commitment to birds of prey and has adopted a ‘raptor patch’ around his new home. He also volunteers at a nearby raptor watch point which is open to the public.


18 November 2017

Jean Thorpe, MBE

Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, North Yorkshire

Jean has dedicated her life to rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured animals at her home in North Yorkshire prior to returning them to the wild. The Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is the first port of call for Raptor Workers across North Yorkshire when they need help with injured or abandoned birds of prey. On two occasions when Peregrine chicks, which were stolen from the wild, and later seized by the Police, NERF members took them to Jean and she cared for them until they were ready to be fostered into suitable wild nests.

Unfortunately a great many of the injured birds that she cares for require her help because they are victims of persecution. Many have serious, life threatening injuries requiring specialist veterinary care before the rehabilitation process can begin. Without the passionate commitment of Jean there is no doubt that approximately 100 birds of prey per year, which she cares for, would perish.


1 March 2017

Mark Naquib: BVMS Cert AVP (ZM) MRCVS

Battle Flatts Veterinary Clinic, Stamford Bridge.

Many of the sick and injured raptors cared for by Jean Thorpe at the Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre require specialist veterinary care and Mark is always on hand to provide it, free of charge. A large number of the birds of prey taken to the Battle Flatts Veterinary Clinic for treatment have been shot and suffering horrific life threatening injuries. Thanks to Mark’s incredible surgical skills and his ability to repair and rebuild broken bones the majority of his patients go on to make a full recovery and are released back to the wild by Jean.

NERF is deeply indebted to Mark for his outstanding contribution enhancing the wellbeing of raptors in the North of England.


1 March 2017

PC 1237 Gareth Jones

Former Wildlife Crime Officer North Yorkshire Police

Gareth was presented with the NERF Certificate of Appreciation when he retired from the North Yorkshire Police Service. Prior to retiring Gareth was the Force Wildlife Crime Coordinator and Ripon Rural Beat Manager. North Yorkshire has been a raptor persecution hotspot for many years, topping the RSPB’s Birdcrime Report annually. This unfortunate reputation ensured that he was kept extremely busy.

In addition to investigating raptor persecution crimes Gareth worked tirelessly raising awareness of the problem amongst the general public. He had an excellent working relationship with NERF members in the Yorkshire Dales and on the North York Moors and was always on hand to offer advice and guidance.

Since retiring Gareth has maintained his passion and commitment to protecting local wildlife and enhancing the habitat on the Nosterfield Nature Reserve where he is a core member of the volunteer team.


1 December 2016