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Camera traps will monitor endangered turtle doves on farms

PUBLISHED: 14:01 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:01 27 March 2019

Four neighbouring farms within the Upper Wensum Cluster Farm Group are working together to help turtle doves. From left: Earl Cathcart, John Savory, Eliza Emmett (UWCFG advisor), Steve Connor (Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society), Chrissie Kelley (head of species management at Pensthorpe), Liz Hill, Helen Savory, Richard Savory and Colin Palmer.

Four neighbouring farms within the Upper Wensum Cluster Farm Group are working together to help turtle doves. From left: Earl Cathcart, John Savory, Eliza Emmett (UWCFG advisor), Steve Connor (Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society), Chrissie Kelley (head of species management at Pensthorpe), Liz Hill, Helen Savory, Richard Savory and Colin Palmer.

Eliza Emmett

Four neighbouring Norfolk farms are working together to help endangered turtle doves find the right habitat for nesting and breeding in the Wensum Valley.

A turtle dove at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve. Picture: Ian BurtA turtle dove at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve. Picture: Ian Burt

The drastic decline of the threatened birds’ population – estimated to have dropped by 93pc between 1995 and 2014 – has been attributed to factors including the loss of suitable habitat and a lack of seed and grain for food during the breeding season.

So the Upper Wensum Cluster Farm Group (UWCFG) is working on a pilot scheme on a small area surrounding Harpers Green, a common south of Fakenham.

Four group members whose land surrounds the green have sought out areas where hedgerows and ponds can be managed for the birds’ benefit, and where supplementary feeding can be carried out from late April, when turtle doves begin arriving back from their winter homes in Africa.

“Camera traps” are also being placed to monitor the birds’ breeding success in areas where they have been known to nest.

Farmers within the Upper Wensum Cluster Farm Group are working together to help turtle doves. Pictured: One of the camera traps installed to monitor the birds.Farmers within the Upper Wensum Cluster Farm Group are working together to help turtle doves. Pictured: One of the camera traps installed to monitor the birds.

Eliza Emmett, UWCFG advisor, said: “Harpers Green is a common sandwiched between four landowners in our group and we know that a handful of turtle doves are going back and trying to breed there.

“So we are trying to do something in this mini-area with these four committed landowners, who are all very excited about it.

READ MORE: Survey reveals Norfolk’s five most abundant farmland birds

“We are going to give them supplementary feed and they will choose the best places around the common that have the right hedgerows and the right access to ponds.

“The main purpose of the supplementary feeding is because, following their migratory journey, the turtle doves are tired, hungry and need a safe habitat where they can recover and start planning to breed.

Four neighbouring farms within the Upper Wensum Cluster Farm Group are working together to help turtle doves. From left: Richard Spowage (Pensthorpe reserve manager), Liz Hill, Earl Cathcart, Helen Savory, Richard Savory, Chrissie Kelley (head of species management at Pensthorpe), John Savory and Steve Connor (Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society)Four neighbouring farms within the Upper Wensum Cluster Farm Group are working together to help turtle doves. From left: Richard Spowage (Pensthorpe reserve manager), Liz Hill, Earl Cathcart, Helen Savory, Richard Savory, Chrissie Kelley (head of species management at Pensthorpe), John Savory and Steve Connor (Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society)

“We are going to install camera traps in these areas. It is a little camera that has a sensor so when anything goes near it will start taking pictures to monitor their health and see whether they are breeding – and, if so, are the chicks reaching adulthood and going on to migrate?”

READ MORE: Wensum Valley farmers combine local knowledge to conserve a cherished Norfolk landscape

The four landowners are: Colin Palmer at Horningtoft; Andrew Hill at Horningtoft; Richard, Helen and John Savory at Gateley; and Earl Cathcart at Gateley.

The project also calls on the expertise of the Wensum Valley Birdwatching Society and Chrissie Kelley, head of species management at Pensthorpe Natural Park – the lead farm among the 21 members of the UWCFG, and also a key partner in the Operation Turtle Dove initiative working to conserve the species.

If the pilot project is successful, it could be rolled out across the group.

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