UPDATE: BBC2 featured our Turtle Dove during their Winterwatch programme on Friday 31 January at 8.30pm.
On Saturday 25 January Vision’s Nature Conservation team partnered with the local North East London RSPB group to host a Big Garden Birdwatch Walk at Valentines Park. The event coincided with the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch campaign, which is now the world’s largest survey with around half a million people regularly taking part.
The aim of the walk was to create a family friendly nature walk where local people could enjoy and experience nature right on their doorstep as well as demonstrating that allocating just one hour to record wildlife is easy and something everyone can get involved in.
2020’s Big Garden Birdwatch Walk was an unparalleled success! Last year we ran a similar event where 33 species were recorded, including a Marsh Tit which was a first for Valentines Park. At Saturday’s event, this record was beaten with a total of 37 species spotted, including the truly incredible record of a turtle dove! Local birder and photographer Peter Hopkins was able to capture the beautiful bird on camera during the walk.
Vision’s Nature Conservation ranger, Anna MacLaughlin said:
“This is an amazing sighting as the turtle dove is the UK’s fastest declining bird species, with UK extinction considered highly likely in our lifetime. There were approximately 125,000 breeding pairs in Britain during the 60s, that number has now declined by 98% and it’s thought there are barely 1000 breeding pairs left in the UK, mainly as a result of loss of roosting sites and food resources, as well as hunting.
Our walkers were both surprised and delighted to see a turtle dove at all, but particularly at this time of year – as Europe’s only long distance migratory dove they’re usually found wintering 5000kms away in Sub-Saharan Africa!”
Migrating to the UK is a perilous journey for the turtle doves each summer, with hundreds of thousands shot as they pass through the Mediterranean. However, in recent years there are known to have been overwintering birds in Kent and Hampshire, so perhaps with changes to climate, habitat and food availability, more and more might choose to stay on our shores.
Photo credit: Peter Hopkins