Wicken Fen nature reserve in bid to boost turtle doves

Wicken Fen nature reserve in bid to boost turtle doves

The National Trust said it wants to attract more than just two turtle doves to new land it has acquired at a nature reserve.

Seventy acres (28 ha) of land adjoining Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire will be used to attract rare species including the birds.

Turtle dove numbers have been in sharp decline since the 1970s, and the UK only has about 2,100 breeding pairs.

The new land is part of a wider RSPB project called Operation Turtle Dove.

The birds used to be frequent visitors to the UK following their annual migratory path from breeding grounds in mid-summer through western Europe to wintering grounds in west Africa.

But due to habitat loss, food shortages and unsustainable levels of hunting, they are now one of the UK’s fastest-declining wild bird species.

Some of the newly acquired landscape at the reserve, near the village of Reach, will be used to support turtle doves and other farmland birds, thanks to a £58,000 grant from Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme and further donations for hedgerow tree planting.

Alan Kell, countryside manager at Wicken Fen, said: “Turtle doves feed mostly on arable and mixed farmland, where its staple food of wildflower seeds and farmed crop grains are found on the ground.

“The species nests and roosts near to its feeding grounds in thorny scrub, tall wide hedgerows and dense scrubby woodland edges.”

He added: “This acquisition and the support of [the recovery programme] will provide the opportunity to restore scarce habitats such as lowland meadow, hedgerows, arable field margins and ponds.”

He said it would “expand Wicken Fen to provide a green corridor for the benefit of both nature – including many nationally threatened species such as the turtle dove – but also for people, by providing additional access to green spaces”.

Mike Shurmer, head of species for RSPB England said: “The ambition of the communities we work with through Operation Turtle Dove to help save these iconic birds is nothing short of amazing, and if we continue with this momentum, it won’t be long before we can expect to see turtle dove numbers starting to rise across the UK.”

Back to top button