Sunday, 22 December 2013

343. European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)

European Turtle Doves are small, slim doves with intricately patterned plumage. Their preferred habitat is open lowland woodland with undergrowth, often near agricultural areas. They are summer visitors to the UK, migrating to spend their winters in subsaharan Africa. It's well known that Turtle Dove numbers have declined massively in the UK (by 93% since the 1970s), meaning that there is a real possibility they could soon be lost as a breeding bird in the UK if this trend cannot be reversed. They used to be fairly widespread here but are now mostly restricted to parts of East Anglia and the southeast (I myself have never seen one). The causes of their decline are not fully understood but are very likely to include factors such as loss of suitable habitat, both breeding and wintering, and severe hunting in the Mediterranean, through which they pass on migration. To understand these causes more fully, Operation Turtle Dove has been set up by a coalition of partners (the RSPB, Conservation Grade, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Natural England); their aims are to:

  • build on research into the Turtle Dove breeding grounds in England;
  • establish feeding habitat over core breeding range through advisory and farmer initiatives;
  • research factors operating during migration and at wintering areas.

Turtle Dove, ©trebol_a, via Flickr Creative Commons.
So why have I skipped ahead and chosen to do Turtle Dove today? I haven't lost it, or run out of brown paint from doing all those eagles, and it's not anything to do with Christmas. In fact, it's to draw your attention to Dove Step, a fund-raising adventure to raise money for Operation Turtle Dove! The Inked Naturalist Tristan Reid, Jonny of the Pacific and Sir Rob of the Arctic are planning on walking a whopping 300 miles next March, covering the summering Turtle Dove range in the UK from East Anglia to the North East! It's both a bit barmy and brilliant, and I am looking forward to reading of their adventures on the Dove Step blog. Please consider sponsoring them on their JustGiving page, to help fund vital research into conservation efforts to help the Turtle Dove before it goes the same way as the Passenger Pigeon.

Turtle Dove painting.
Seeing as it's a special one, and also my last one of the year (I'm going to have a break over Christmas), I chose a slightly more challenging pose and have spent rather longer than usual on the painting. Happy Christmas!

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