Prolific rare birds eggs collector jailed for six months.

One of the UK’s most prolific collectors of rare birds’ eggs was jailed for six months today after being caught hoarding nearly 700 eggs at his home in Bow.

Matthew Gonshaw, 49, of Cherrywood Close, poached the eggs from birds nests belonging to golden eagles, ospreys and avocets at sites in Scotland and Essex.

Some of the golden eggs were only one week from hatching when taken from nests, Thames Magistrates’ Court heard.

Gonshaw used his encyclopaedic knowledge of birds and their breeding habits to track down nesting sites and take the eggs, senior Crown Prosecutor Becky Owen told the court.

Described in court as a loner he would hitchhike or take a coach to the remote sites before pitching a tent and cooking cheap can food over a fire while monitoring the birds.

Sitting in the dock wearing a green neck scarf and an outdoor zip-up top, with his bag pack next to him, Gonshaw shouted out: “I lived wild” and “It’s a free country.”

RSPB had described Gonshaw as one of the most prolific, active and persistent egg collectors in the UK, the court heard, and he is believed to have targeted 170 nests over the past eight years.

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Gonshaw has already served three spells in prison and could now face an ASBO in an attempt to prevent further offending.

A total of 697 prohibited eggs were found during the last raid on Gonshaw’s home in June, after police intelligence was received, along with camouflage clothing, climbing equipment, maps, egg trays and diaries. Eggs from peregrine falcons, dotterels, redwings and merlins were also found.

Gonshaw admitted ten offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and was jailed for the maximum of six months.

Sentencing district judge William Ashworth told Gonshaw: “This represents a methodical and meticulous planned venture by you, targeting rare breeding birds, placing them in peril and causing great loss to local communities.”

After the case RSPB’s Mark Thomas said he was “delighted” Gonshaw received the maximum sentence. But added: “Stealing the eggs of eagles and osprey is amongst the worst wildlife crimes in the UK.

“It is clear the current powers available to the court have had very little impact on this individual, who has been jailed three times previously.”

The case for Gonshaw serving an ASBO will be heard separately at Stratford Magistrates Court on February 17.