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Conservationists rally to protect turtle doves
CONSERVATIONISTS, farmers and wildlife enthusiasts in the south-east are rallying to the cause of one of England’s most threatened birds.
As reported, the British Trust for Ornithology’s latest Bird Atlas revealed that the turtle dove’s range has shrunk by 52 per cent between 1970 and 2010.
Now the RSPB is deploying a farm advisory team in the region to provide advice. This is part of Operation Turtle Dove, a partnership project between the RSPB, Conservation Grade, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Natural England.
So far it has helped 16 farmers, covering an area of 3,800 hectares, encouraging them to increase the amount of turtle dove foraging habitat on their farms, with a hugely positive response.
Meanwhile, four south-east reserves – Pagham Harbour in West Sussex and Lydden Valley, Northward Hill and Broadwater Warren in Kent – are providing potential nesting areas and growing plants which produce the seeds the birds eat. It is hoped that this can be rolled out across Hampshire. RSPB agricultural projects officer Hayley New said: “If we increase their foraging habitat, over time the turtle doves will have more chance of survival and they are more likely to breed and increase their numbers. “We found that 277 people called our hotline to report having seen turtle doves in the south-east over the last year Kent was one of the top counties for sightings so we want to carry on our work with farmers to help improve things for the birds in 2014.”
The turtle dove – forever associated with the festive season through the seasonal song 12 Days of Christmas – is one of the fastest declining species in the country. Its numbers have crashed by 85 per cent since 1995, according to the State of the UK’s Birds report released last week, and sightings this summer were the lowest ever.
Yet this year has seen a campaign to save the turtle dove take off in a big way. A review of the campaign to date has revealed that 64,000 hectares of farmland now has turtle dove measures – an area more than one and a half times the size of the Isle of Wight. Advisers have helped unlock £16m worth of funding for farmers to carry out schemes which will benefit the birds.
To find out more about the campaign visit operationturtledove.org
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