Operation Turtle Dove – An Appeal

Operation Turtle Dove.

Turtle Doves have declined by 93% since the 1970s. Once widespread across much of England and Wales, the species is now largely restricted to small areas of East Anglia and the south-east. After  many years of decline we are facing the very real possibility of losing this enigmatic bird from the UK.

Operation Turtle Dove, launched on the 10th May 2012, is a project which aims to reverse the decline of the red listed Turtle Dove, a species of conservation concern.

(Birds Of Conservation Concern listings reflect each species global and European status as well as that within the UK, and additionally measure the importance of the UK population in international terms).
The project partners are the RSPB, Conservation Grade Farming (CG farmers are required to take 10% of the land out of food production
to develop a specific range of habitats for wildlife on their farmed land), Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Natural England.

Operation Turtle Dove comprises of three parts:
1. Building on research into the Turtle Dove breeding grounds in England
2. Establishing feeding habitat over the core breeding range through advisory and farmer initiatives.
3. Research into factors operating during migration and at wintering areas,research is required to identify feeding habitat requirements
of  Turtle Doves and to establish other potential threats impacting
on the doves during the breeding season in England. The aim of the research on feeding habitats is to identify a management solution for
Turtle Doves which can be rolled out on a larger scale through agri-environment measures and certification schemes, such as Conservation Grade. Scientists are testing seed mixtures of plants once common in the Turtle Doves diet and measuring whether Turtle Doves use these mixtures and their impact on breeding success. These mixtures include plants such as fumitory and clover. The results are then compared with farms without these seed mixtures.

 Because the Turtle Dove population in England is so low there is no time to wait for the full results of this research so advisory activity will be carried out. This will focus on best practice management currently available and will involve working with a network of farmers including John and Ellie Savory of Great Ryburgh. Their Conservation Grade arable fields host wild birdseed mixes, beetle banks and uncultivated margins as well as previously arable fields that have been reverted to grassland.  On top of all this John and Ellie are planting up four plots of land with a seed mixture especially designed for Turtle Doves. At Pensthorpe Conservation Trust a team of researchers are using captive birds to find out what types of seed Turtle Doves prefer.Using the results of these trials will inform farmers such as John and Ellie as to what seeds are best to plant to help save wild Turtle Doves.

Knowing that this research was being carried in the Wensum Valley the WVBS committee have decided to support Operation Turtle Dove by making a donation of £100 from the Society’s funds. We hope this small contribution will go some way towards ensuring the survival of the Turtle Dove in England and our immediate surroundings.

There are a number of other ways WVBS members can support the project:-

• Report your sightings using the Turtle Dove Hotline 01603-697527 or email turtledove@rspb.org.uk
• Or by sending them, preferably on a Records Form to our Recorder David Gibbons by email wvbs.recorder@gmail.com or by hard copy at 14 Pightle Way, Reepham, Norfolk NR10 4Q.
• Help farmers to put the habitats that Turtle Doves thrive onto UK farmland by buying products that are Conservation Grade accredited. They are sold under the “Nature Friendly Farming” banner and have a distinctive bee logo on the packaging.
• Helping Turtle Doves in the way you manage your garden.  More information on the Operation Turtle Dove website.

• Or make a donation

For more information visit operationturtledove.org.uk or speak to Alwyn Jackson on 01362 637752.

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