September is a very busy month, especially this year, for farmers and for me - there’s still more to 'get-in' on the harvest front, lots of work to do with cropping plans on farms and measuring out stewardship areas and....reflecting, lots of reflecting.
September is normally a month for me to reflect with the farmers I work with on how good or bad the harvest is, how good we think the farmland bird breeding season has been and what might we have done differently to make both of those things better.
This September I’m not only lamenting a poor harvest and seemingly poor breeding season due to the weather but also the passing of Martha.
I never personally knew her but do you know who Martha is? ‘Martha’ was the last surviving passenger pigeon Ectopistes migratorius in existence.
It’s been estimated that when the first Europeans arrived on the American continent the population of passenger pigeons was between 3 and 5 billion individuals a number which is apparently close to the combined total of the individual birds of all species to be found in North America today. The species reportedly would congregate in vast flocks, a flock of passenger pigeons on the move must have been, as an American would probably say, an ‘awesome’ sight.
Suffering the effects of habitat change and unsustainable hunting the passenger pigeon was reduced to just one single bird, Martha, who died On September 1st 1914 in captivity in Cincinnati Zoo.
Why am I reflecting on that so much? Well it seems the turtle dove has a number of similarities to Martha and her kin. Changes in the way in which we farm mean less food resources are available for Turtle Doves and that means there are far fewer broods compared with the 1960’s.
For that reason the RSPB together with farmers, Conservation Grade, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and Natural England have been working tirelessly to help create much needed habitats whilst also research the birds needs on farms in Eastern England, where many of the remaining turtle doves can be found. You can find out more about this project here
I’m also reflecting upon whose going to be the saviour of the Turtle Dove?...you or them? The truth is, on reflection, all of us, you, the farmers are vital. This bird is going to need help here on its breeding grounds but also across migratory routes and on in its wintering grounds.
But charity begins at home and together we can make a real difference for Turtle Doves :