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CEMEX taking part in Operation Turtle Dove

Turtle dove (photo: Andy Hay)

Company working with RSPB on mission to help reverse decline in one of the UK’s iconic birds

CEMEX UK and the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) are working together on an urgent and important mission to help reverse the fortunes of turtle doves. Together they have begun a three-year conservation project at four carefully chosen CEMEX quarries in central England.

Turtle doves are declining at an alarming rate; their UK population is currently halving in number every six years and 95% of the turtle dove population has been lost since 1970. This UK decline has been paralleled by a 77% decline across Europe since 1980.

Turtle doves are the UK’s only migratory dove. They breed in England and will soon be embarking upon their 3,000 mile journey to spend the winter in sub-Saharan West Africa. The main contributor to their decline is thought to be the loss of suitable habitat and associated food shortages in their breeding grounds.

Unlike other UK dove species, turtle doves rely upon seeds for food. Changes in farming practices have led to field margins and hedges, once rich with seed-bearing plants, being replaced by commercial crops, offering very few of the small seeds that they need. This is a problem because turtle doves require seeds to feed their nestlings.

Several CEMEX quarries have the potential to support this threatened bird. Norton Subcourse in Norfolk; Hatfield in Hertfordshire; Southam in Warwickshire; and Tattershall in Lincolnshire all offer suitable habitat with dense scrub and water. The project involves growing a special flower mix to provide the bird’s ideal food to complement the nesting habitat.

The seed mix being sown at the quarries will provide flowering plants that produce seed by early May, around the time that the doves arrive from their winter homes and are in need of plentiful food to bring them into breeding condition.

Volunteers will record turtle dove numbers in early summer at the four quarries sown with the enhanced seed mix. Five other sites without the seed mix will also be monitored for comparison.

The CEMEX and RSPB project forms part of Operation Turtle Dove and will link with similar projects that BirdLife International is co-ordinating along the migration path across France and Spain. Operation Turtle Dove is a partnership between the RSPB, Conservation Grade, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, and Natural England.

Rob Doody, CEMEX UK’s director of aggregate operations, said: ‘This project highlights the positive impact that we can make on the natural world. The balance between the natural and built environment is a delicate one which must be preserved not only for nature but future generations. After all, what would the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ be without two turtle doves.’

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