It is indeed sad that the iconic purring call of the turtle dove in summer is now a rarity (Turtle dove numbers plummet 98% to just 2,100 pairs, national survey shows), but the efforts of a group of farmers and land managers in southern England is giving real cause for hope. Counts have identified 14 to 18 pairs of turtle doves breeding and foraging on the Martin Down Farmer Cluster on the borders of Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire, with several farms seeing them daily.
Developed by the GWCT, Farmer Clusters, of which there are now over 160 across the country, are groups of private land managers or ‘Working Conservationists’ forming a partnership for the benefit of soil, water and biodiversity on a landscape scale. Farmers of the Martin Down Cluster, which covers 5,500 hectares, have created 11 new lined ponds and set up dozens of smaller temporary ‘first-aid’ water sources such as lined puddles, calf drinkers and shallow fillable basins, they also provide supplementary feeding, have created cultivated margins and plots for arable plants for foraging areas, and undertake legal predation control to reduce pressure on turtle doves during the breeding season.
The co-operation, active management and passion of private land managers, often at their own expense, deserves recognition and support as it represents a lifeline for this wonderful species.
Farmland Biodiversity Advisor and Martin Down Farmer Cluster Facilitator
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust
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