This article about the plight of turtle doves and partridges, and how the mention of them in the traditional Christmeas song ‘The Twlve Days of Christmes’ appeared in The Independant on the 22nd December 2012. You can read the full article here →
The following post is from Operation Turtle Dove supporter and Twitchers Retreat B&B owner, Maria Fountain:
In 2011 we had a pair of bedraggled strange birds land in our garden, as non birders we did not know that we were in fact looking at a pair of TURTLE DOVES that had just arrived from their migration from Africa!! We nurtured them through until early September 2011 when they flew away.
This year on 12th May 2012, I had refilled the feeders and looked out of the conservatory dining room window and the Turtle Doves were back again, they had found their way back to TWITCHERS RETREAT Bed and Breakfast at Snettisham!
We are a small four star gold bed and breakfast just 10 minutes walk from the RSPB reserve at Snettisham. We have a wildlife garden and pond surrounded by marshes and two neighbours who have not touched their gardens in years thus providing a bird paradise with thistles, brambles and much more. Just like the birders who are visiting the RSPB reserves that we cater for, the doves returned every day for breakfast (we provide flexible breakfast times to enable the birders to go out early in the morning and return for a full English breakfast freshly cooked up until 10.30ish).
The doves appeared to be nesting in the conifer hedge at the bottom of the garden and one or both came regularly throughout the day to feed on the fine finch seed we provided for them. When they first returned they were in poor condition but after a week of constant feeding they started to plump up. It was a thrill to watch sometimes one or both of them feeding together. We waited in anticipation for some young but it was not to be.
We have a huge variety of birds visiting our garden from kestrels to moorhens nesting on the pond to the 30 plus goldfinch, dunnock, siskins, four varieties of tit and many more. They all provided us with babies and hours of delight watching their antics on the feeders.
On the 18th August our doves left us and started the long flight home to Africa. Alison, from Operation Turtle Dove, came to see us to look at the habitat we provided and our friends across the road, Clare and Tim, who have a 3 acre field have also come on board and will be setting aside a piece of their field and seeding it to provide natural food for the Turtle Doves.
We are now just waiting for next May when we hope our distinguished birds will return to TWITCHERS RETREAT B & B where they, like you, will be assured of a warm welcome.
Please go to http://www.twitchers-retreat.co.uk/bed-and-breakfast-snettisham/ for further details on this beautifully warm and welcoming Birders B&B.
Conservationists trying to save the UK’s most threatened farmland bird have been given a helping hand by members of the public who’ve been calling a special hotline to report sightings.
Since Operation Turtle Dove was launched by the RSPB, Conservation Grade, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Natural England in May, the hotline has had 429 calls reporting the elusive bird.
Highlights include two unusual sightings on the Welsh coast, an area not usually associated with turtle doves; a B&B, frequented by visitors to the RSPB’s Snettisham nature reserve, where a pair of turtle doves nested in the conifers outside; and various calls from people who thought the ‘purring’ sound turtle doves make was coming from a group of frogs.
Norfolk came top as the county with the most reported turtle dove sightings (112), second was Suffolk (69), closely followed by Cambridgeshire (61), with Essex (32), Kent (29), and Lincolnshire (20) coming fourth, fifth and six.
Alison Gardner from Operation Turtle Dove, said: “It’s great that we’ve already had so many people supporting Operation Turtle Dove and looking out for these birds. At this time of year, just before turtle doves head off on migration, juveniles and family groups are easier to spot so we’re hoping for some more reports before the season’s out and are appealing to anyone who spots a turtle dove to call and give us as much information as possible.”
Turtle dove numbers have fallen dramatically since the 1970s with just nine birds now for every 100 there were forty years ago. Once widespread across much of England and Wales, the species has been lost from many areas and are now primarily restricted to areas of East Anglia and southern England.
Reasons for the turtle dove’s population crash are not fully understood. However, since the 1960s the diet has changed from mainly the small seeds of wild plants to one dominated mainly by crop seeds, which are scarce early in the breeding season and may provide a poorer quality diet for turtle doves.
Simon Tonkin, the RSPB’s senior farmland advisor, said: “Turtle doves feed almost exclusively on seeds. Many of the traditional wild foods are now scarce on farmland and it is uncertain whether crop seeds are providing an adequate substitute. Additionally, turtle doves prefer to nest in hedgerows or areas of scrub over 4m tall, habitats that
Operation Turtle Dove’s hotline has also received a number of calls from people with large gardens, often backing onto agricultural land, who’ve spotted turtle doves taking food from their bird feeders and using the garden pond to drink from and bathe in. RSPB researchers have also found nests in gardens and amenity areas bordering farmland, which may reflect a shortage of resources on agricultural land meaning the birds are forced to find alternatives to survive.
Simon added: “This means farmers and householders in rural areas have a huge role to play in the conservation of this beautiful bird. While there are some great advocates out there doing all they can, it still needs more support.”
To report your turtle dove sightings, call the Operation Turtle Dove Hotline 01603 697527 or you can submit your sightings, together with any photos and stories you’d like to share, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two advice sheets on how to help turtle doves, one for farmers and one for people with large gardens or outside spaces that back onto arable fields, are available free from the RSPB by emailing email@example.com / calling 01603 697589.
“I saw two Turtle Doves in the garden last week. They stayed for about 1-2 hours and seemed pretty relaxed and in good condition. I saw them again the next day but not since then. It was a really nice experience as I’d never seen or heard of them before, and I never realised how rare they are!” A Dennis from Lincolnshire via the Turtle Dove Hotline
“Here are the photos of the Turtle Dove in our garden on the 20th May. This was our third sighting during the last week feeding on mixed wild bird seed with added sunflower hearts on open ground in the garden”. J Pope from Kent via the Turtle Dove Hotline
For at least the last couple of years, Turtle Doves have been feeding on corn out of the mixed bird food, supplemented by organic wheat. Last year I recorded their first visit on the 5th May. Three Turtle Doves have been in my garden today (15 May). I was alerted by loud ‘turring’ and watched as one of the original pair chased the newcomer away. P. Popley from Yorkshire via the Turtle Dove Hotline
“Over the last week we have had Turtle Dves coming into our garden…. after seeing the ad in the paper, I thought I would send you some pictures”. M Cole from Suffolk via the Turtle Dove Hotline