A man caught red-handed while illegally collecting rare bird eggs in head-to-toe camouflage is facing jail.
Police found more than 5,000 eggs after searching the home of Daniel Lingham, 65, who kept his ill-gotten gains in tubs stored under his bed, across his living room floor and in kitchen cupboards.
Eggs of nightingales, nightjars, turtle doves, chiffchaffs, little-ringed plovers, woodlarks and kingfishers were all found around his house in Newton St Faith, Norfolk.
“This is an addiction,” he told police when interviewed.
He admitted five offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 at Norwich Magistrates Court on Friday.
Lingham was convicted of similar offences in 2005 when he was jailed for 12 weeks for illegally collecting 3,603 eggs.
Colette Harper, prosecuting, said Lingham was stopped by police after members of the public saw him acting suspiciously at Cawston Heath, also Norfolk, on 21 May.
Officers discovered he was carrying a catapult and tree climbing spikes. “He disclosed he had eggs on his person and produced two small tubs,” she said, adding that he told officers: “I’ve been a silly man, haven’t I?”
When his house was searched, officials found 5,266 more eggs. Some 75 of them were protected because they were of “species in decline”.
The specific charges to which Lingham pleaded guilty are taking nine linnet eggs and being in possession of articles capable of being used to commit an offence. He also admitted possession of 75 schedule one listed wild bird eggs and possession of 4,070 ordinarily protected wild bird eggs.
Lingham told magistrates: “I didn’t realise how many eggs there were. I didn’t count them.”
James Burrows, mitigating, said he has now been referred to a mental health team and is being treated for obsessive compulsive disorder.
Jeanne Heal, chairman of the bench, adjourned the hearing for a pre-sentence report but warned Lingham: “We’re looking at a quite lengthy custodial sentence.”
He was bailed to appear at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on 27 November.
Speaking after the hearing, Mark Thomas, senior investigations officer with the RSPB, described Lingham as a “one-man crime wave in terms of rare birds in Norfolk” and said his actions had an “incredible impact on birds both regionally and nationally”.