A TIP-OFF to police led to the discovery of around 1,000 birds’ eggs in the Yorkshire home of a long-distance lorry driver.
Terrence Potter became “obsessed” by the colourful eggs and spent around two years gathering more for his collection.
More than 500 were held illegally and included the eggs of protected species, among them owls, spoonbills, sparrowhawks and kestrels.
Last year he illegally gathered the eggs of five species from across the North, including from Woodhead at Derbyshire, Flamborough Head and from nests in Holmfirth.
When Potter, 55, eventually came clean about his activities it took him four hours to tell police about each and every egg in his collection at his house in Carr Hill Road, Upper Cumberworth, near Huddersfield.
Potter admitted possessing over 500 eggs which included dozens of varieties, including endangered species.
He also admitted taking four curlew eggs from a nest in Woodhead, Derbyshire; four black headed gull eggs, also from Woodhead; two shag eggs from Flamborough Head; four wheatear eggs from Holmfirth and six tree sparrow eggs from a site in Yorkshire.
Potter also admitted possessing egg blowing equipment such as syringes, drills, files and blowers and of failing to comply with his shotgun licence by failing to lock his gun cabinet.
Magistrates in Huddersfield yesterday handed him a conditional discharge after hearing that he had co-operated with an investigation involving West Yorkshire Police and the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit.
Prosecutor Andrew Dinning said police and RSPB officers entered Potter’s home in June using a key left at a neighbour’s house.
They discovered two glass cabinets containing eggs.
After his arrest Potter initially “tried to put police off the scent” but quickly “fell on his sword” and confessed all, said Mr Dinning.
Potter admitted that some of the eggs were taken from nests during the 2012 season and admitted the charges in December.
Magistrates had considered either imposing a curfew on Potter or making him perform unpaid work but his lawyer, Stephen Parker, successfully argued that such punishments would lead to his client losing his job and his home.
Instead, magistrates imposed a conditional discharge which means that Potter must stay out of trouble for the next two years or he will face a harsher sentence.
Potter was also ordered to pay £85 costs.
Following the case, investigators said the sentence was fair given Potter’s co-operation with police.
Andy McWilliam, an officer with the National Wildlife Crime Unit, said Potter had developed a “bit of an obsession” with birds’ eggs and had relatively recently got involved in the illegal gathering of eggs from wild birds’ nests.
“He was compliant in our investigation throughout. He realised the error of his ways. We believe he was only taking eggs from nests for the last two years. He had an old (legal) collection and tried to add to it.
“He wasn’t targeting specific species, he just liked the look of an egg. He bought two antique cabinets and that gave him the bug.”
Detective Constable Bryan Butterworth, wildlife officer with West Yorkshire Police, said: “I hope this case has educated people not to commit these sorts of crimes. This will be hanging over him for the next two years.”