12 July 2016

Turtles migrating north

For many, the song of the Turtle Dove is synonymous with warm summer days in our countryside. Thetford Forest, Norfolk has traditionally been a great place to hear them purring; however over recent years it has become increasingly more difficult to find them. The 2015 Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) report, published recently, puts the decline into perspective "Turtle Dove down by 93% in the UK from 1995 to 2014!". The full BBS report highlights other declines, but also some big increases.

The decline in Turtle Dove is also noted in the ringing totals, with an average of c. 40 birds ringed in the whole country since 2010 (and only 12 in 2015) compared to an average of almost 140 in the 1980s. With so few birds ringed, the re-encounter rate of a Turtle Dove is very low, but however slim, there is always a chance to provide useful data.

Colour of location: Ringed in Britain & Ireland, Found HereRinged Here, Found in Britain & Ireland
The majority of the recoveries of Turtle Dove have been in Portugal, Spain and France with just four sub-Saharan records. Soon the map above will need to be updated to show the 2016 records of a BTO-ringed Turtle Dove being found on the Faeroes! This second year Turtle Dove (below) was ringed on 23 May 2016 on Fair Isle only to be seen alive and the ring read on 30 June 2016 at Vidarlundin Park, Torshavn.

Turtle Dove on Fair Isle about to make another epic journey North. Photo taken by Lee Gregory.
Not only is this an exciting report for Fair Isle (the only other previous recoveries of this species were of a bird caught on 5th May 1982, which was shot in Spain on 01 September 1982, and another ringed on 6th June 1974, which was shot in France on 4th September 1977) but it is also a great report for the whole of Britain & Ireland. It is great to hear that this bird wasn't shot or found dead either.

Thanks to David Parnaby and the rest of the Fair Isle Bird observatory team for highlighting this.

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