A FORMER policeman has admitted illegally stealing rare wild bird eggs from the New Forest.

Former officer Michael Upson pleaded guilty to possessing 650 wild bird eggs which he collected when he was still a serving officer, the RSPB said.

A search of the 52-year-old's house eggs of protected species such as woodlark, Cetti's warbler and marsh harrier, the charity said.

Upson pleaded guilty to possessing the eggs at Norwich Magistrates' Court following a joint investigation by his old force Suffolk Police, Norfolk Police and the RSPB.

Notebooks found at the house documented Upson's egg collecting trips with others around the UK.

On one occasion they showed he went to the Forest to take hawfinch eggs. Hawfinch is a red list species, which means it is of the highest conservation concern, the charity said.

The RSPB said the birds are now mostly restricted to England and they have declined in many areas.

Upson, from Suffolk, claimed to have stopped egg collecting, and the evidence found indicates that he was active between at least 1991 and 2001, the charity said.

Mark Thomas, RSPB investigations officer, said: ''That a police officer should knowingly break the law in pursuit of this obsession is shocking, and we welcome his conviction.''

The egg collection was found in an old suitcase in Upson's loft, along with hundreds of egg data cards, which he had faked to suggest the collection was old.

The notebooks found in a plastic container hidden in the water tank in the loft gave the accurate details of when the eggs were taken, in full written accounts, according to the RSPB.

He was given a 14 week sentence suspended for 12 months and must pay £120 in legal costs and must complete 150 hours of unpaid work in the community.

Magistrate Eamon Lambert, said: “Your actions had a marked effect on the bird population and a serious impact on the environment.”