Wicken Fen purchases land to help European Turtle Dove


New land purchased by the National Trust at Wicken Fen will be managed to attract European Turtle Doves.

Some 28 ha of land adjoining the Cambridgeshire reserve will be used as part of the Operation Turtle Dove project, which aims to boost numbers of the declining summer migrant. Other farmland species will also benefit from the land acquisition.

European Turtle Dove is one of Britain's most threatened species (John Wall).

The land purchase was possible thanks to a £58,000 grant from Natural England's Species Recovery Programme and further donations for hedgerow tree planting.

Alan Kell, countryside manager at Wicken Fen, said: "Turtle doves feed mostly on arable and mixed farmland, where its staple food of wildflower seeds and farmed crop grains are found on the ground. The species nests and roosts near to its feeding grounds in thorny scrub, tall and wide hedgerows and dense scrubby woodland edges.

"This acquisition and the support [of the recovery programme] will provide the opportunity to restore scarce habitats such as lowland meadow, hedgerows, arable field margins and ponds."

Mike Shurmer, head of species for RSPB England, commented: "The ambition of the communities we work with through Operation Turtle Dove to help save these iconic birds is nothing short of amazing, and if we continue with this momentum, it won't be long before we can expect to see turtle dove numbers starting to rise across the UK."