TITANIC MIGRATION MAPPED
The race to save turtle doves could benefit from the latest satellite-tagging research. The RSPB has tracked the migratory route of Britain’s fastest-declining bird for the first time, providing data that could be vital for conservation.
Researchers satellite-tagged a turtle dove called Titan to map its 5,600km journey from breeding sites in Suffolk to wintering grounds in Mali.
“This is a bird that spends up to eight months of the year away from the UK,” said the RSPB’s Dr John Mallord. “We know a great deal about the turtle dove when it’s in the UK, but very little about the problems the bird encounters during migration. However, the drivers of their decline could be happening anywhere en route.”
This was the only one of four tagged birds to successfully make the journey. “When Titan left the UK last September, the legal hunting season was still open in France and Spain. We know at least one million birds are legally hunted in those two countries during the migration period. That’s a large proportion of the Western European population, and we need to investigate if it’s stopping their recovery.”
The research also highlighted the importance of Morocco as a staging post on the return journey: “After they’ve crossed the Sahara in spring, we now know they spend a couple of weeks here feeding up and refuelling before re-entering Europe.”
The turtle dove population has plummeted 96 per cent since 1970, and understanding the relative importance of key points on migration will help experts to protect them. But Mallord said time is not on their side: “At the current rate of decline, the bird could be extinct in the UK within three decades.”
An RSPB guide to turtle doves:
The beaver should be recognised as a native species, according to a coalition of wildlife groups.
The call follows the success of the official five-year beaver trial in Knapdale and the flourishing population that’s grown from accidental releases on the Tay River.
Conservationists are also asking for more reintroductions. The Scottish Wildlife Trust says that suitable beaver habitat can be found on most major river systems in Scotland, and that it would be looking to reintroduce beavers to its own wildlife reserves wherever possible.
The Scottish Beaver Trial says that the majority of the public support bringing beavers back, and that nearly three million people engaged with the project in Knapdale.
Rodent in residence: should beavers now be classed as native again?