Turtle-y Brilliant

The one about the new Turtle Dove conservation project in North Yorkshire

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Cropton Forest, where last spring I first got involved in the Turtle Dove volunteer surveys in the North Yorkshire Forest District.

30 days wild day 28

I nearly called this post Lovely Dove-ly, or possibly Talking Turtle. Readers of this blog who caught my Day 25 contribution, ‘Triffic Tripits’ may already have detected a propensity for corny word-play in my blog titles. (A Tripit is a birders’ contraction of Tree Pipit, if you were wondering.) Anyway, the purpose of this post is to share with you some news of a brilliant new conservation project to help Turtle Doves in North Yorkshire which got underway recently, made possible by a substantial ‘Our Heritage’ grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The project is finessing its name as we speak. It was initially pitched to HLF as ‘Only Two Turtle Doves’ – An urgent quest to save our summer visitor’, paying homage to the bird’s usual, and for many people only, reference point the Twelve Days of Christmas carol, where two turtle doves receive mentions second only to the partridge in the pear tree.

I’ve spent some my day in the company of inspiring and enthusiastic partners of said Turtle Dove project, to which I am contributing some time and input ‘in-kind’ with my Scarborough Borough Council hat on. The North York Moors National Park, Howardian Hills AONB, Forestry Commission, RSPB and the N.E. Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre are also partners. We discussed progress since the project officer was appointed a few weeks ago.

I could wax lyrical about this project at length, but space is at a premium and much of it has been expressed better elsewhere, so instead I would like to recommend you read these recent blog posts about the North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project. I’m sure a dedicated website and social media outputs will fire up very soon so stay alert!

Here is an excellent summary blog, rich with useful links, on the North York Moors National Park blog, (which incidentally I recommend you follow), announcing the imminent project: https://northyorkmoorsnationalpark.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/two-turtle-doves-one-turtle-dove-and-then-there-were-none/ 

This one (on the same NYMoors blog) is a first missive by the new-in-post Turtle Dove Project Officer, Richard Baines, who will be based at The Park offices for the three years of the conservation programme: https://northyorkmoorsnationalpark.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/turtle-doves-back-with-a-purr/

If your appetite is undimmed you can see my earlier announcement about the project on the Connecting for Nature blog and sense my excitement to be involved in a humble capacity as a steering group member:

https://connectingfornature.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/two-turtle-doves-exciting-conservation-project-secures-funding/

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Dawn at Dalby Forest listening for Turtle Doves on 25/6/17
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Some dense hawthorn scrub where Turtle Doves might choose to nest
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The North Yorkshire forests, like Dalby are proving to be Important for Turtle Doves.

‘Triffic Tripits

The one about listening for Turtle Doves but finding Tree Pipits instead…

30 Days Wild day 25

Yesterday I was up with the lark and the tree pipit to conduct a follow up bird survey in Dalby Forest. My first visit was in late May. As then , I made arrangement to camp at  Ellerburn campsite with a three thirty am alarm call and hike up to the Pexton Moor entrance toll of Dalby, for this was my allocated 1km square.

I am one of about thirty volunteer bird surveyors contributing to a new conservation project for Turtle Doves, an iconic summer visitor to Britain which is an increasingly rare sight and sound. You will no doubt hear more about this project if you follow the conservation blog of the North York Moors National Park, (link here) which is hosting the project officer and has received Heritage Lottery funding for the scheme.

You may also like to read my blog on Connecting for Nature, introducing the ‘Two Turtle Doves’ project, when funding was confirmed recently, but in this post I am sharing some photos from my early morning explorations. I have to say I generally head into Dalby Forest on the toll road without pausing at the Pexton Moor area, near the entrance, so it was a joy to discover that there is such interesting nature to see even before you enter the forest proper.

Briefly, the purpose of my visit was to listen specifically for purring Turtle Doves, as part of a wider survey of randomised OS grid squares across the forest. There were some patches of suitable habitat for the bird but by no means was it guaranteed to encounter any. Fortunately the survey also asked for tallies of some additional species of conservation concern, and I was able to confirm not one but two Tree Pipit territories meet in my square, in an eminently suitable ‘tripit’ habitat east of the entrance toll. The males have a distinctive song, usually delivered from a lofty perch in otherwise open forest clearings. I was really pleased with this record, as until a few years ago I had never seen or heard Tree Pipits, so these self-found birds are extra special. And they go on my survey return. No Turtle Doves in this square, this time….but perhaps the Turtle Dove Project will help the existing breeding population elsewhere in North Yorkshire’s forests to expand. I hope you hear more about the project in the media soon and follow its progress.