December, 2014

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Saving Species

The need for species conservation has never been greater. Despite notable successes in improving the fortunes of a number of bird species, more are being forced onto the list of those that need attention, both globally and in the UK. If we want to have a
  • “If you believe we will not succeed, we have already failed”

    Simon Tonkin of Conservation Grade sees the future for turtle doves.

    A turtle dove - photo by Simon Tonkin

    Is it because Turtle Doves cannot raise enough broods to sustain the population in our countryside or the onslaught of hunting? Is it because our countryside is becoming increasingly not fit for wildlife?

    Yet the Turtle Dove is not a bird that just hangs-out in the UK, it transverses the globe from north to south in search of summer seed rich habitats in the UK or wintering areas in the Sahel. Passing many countries on it’s route to feed and shelter or maybe even stop to breed in one of the many European countries the species passes through and nests in.

    You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us

    Will these symbols of love not arrive back in the summer in the future heralding the warmer and lengthening days? Will the last Turtle Dove be doomed to die in captivity just like her cousin the Passenger Pigeon?….and of course what of it? does it really matter?

    I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart

    Looking into the future as it is we will continue on our way, continually depleting the world of it’s riches losing more species, but we will nonetheless continue on, not much will change, until suddenly one day you will being telling your children’s, children of the riches you lost them. YOU stood by and did nothing, whilst an iconic species deeply rooted in our culture was lost forever. Never to be heard filling the air with its purring or seen with it’s rufous wing and pink flush underneath. This beauty will be stripped from our countryside and it is you and I that will have been responsible.

    Good Spirit, he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life

    Of course you would be forgiven for thinking that the future looks bleak indeed it currently does for for our Turtle Doves but yet there is the opportunity to change the path. At desperate times often there emerges a hero, maybe even two or maybe even a whole army of them, kind hearts that make the change for the better.

    In the Turtle Dove’s case a whole army of kind folk that keep Christmas in their hearts the whole year for the Turtle Dove; Birdlife partners, Individuals and organisations just like Conservation Grade, and of course we are very proud to be part of this important band of heroes. It will be take an an army of Turtle Dove saviours with super human powers whether it be running or walking huge distances, using the power of persuasion or super human vision of ‘if you build it they will come’  or perhaps super human mental strength to battling the evils of bad policy, problematic hunting or fighting the big issue, the way in which the countryside is managed and how little room there might be for our Turtle Doves, not just in the UK,  but across the flyway.


    We need you to join the fight, your super-powers are invaluable! you have a superpower that we need and that is the power of…..’the consumer’

    So how about it hero? want to rewrite the future with us?……why are you still reading this? go be Fair to Nature, and be that hero!…..(cape optional) and keep Christmas in your heart the whole year.

    Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate aye reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom's hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost

    Keep Christmas in your heart the whole year and ensure farmers across the flyway create Turtle Dove friendly habitats through you buying Fair to Nature. Photos by Simon Tonkin


  • What a wonderful Finance Minister! (Bangladesh’s vultures have a new ally)

    Thanks to Chris Bowden, our Globally Threatened Species Officer & SAVE Programme Manager, we have an update from warmer climes!

    Our 4th annual SAVE meeting was held in Dhaka last month and the inaugural session was pleased to have Mr. Abul Maal A Muhith, Bangladesh’s Honourable Finance Minister as Chief Guest. But we were all delighted by the Minister’s totally supportive speech on the great importance of vultures, on the urgency of removing diclofenac, and even ketoprofen which is also known to be unsafe but popular with vets (a step that none of the neighbouring countries have yet taken). This was a truly memorable moment!  All of this in front of five national TV channels and many more press, which since Mr. Abul Maal A Muhith is second only to the Prime Minister is hardly surprising I guess?

    The SAVE meeting went very well, and updated the SAVE priorities, and the  ‘Blueprint for Recovery of South Asia’s Critically Endangered Gyps vultures’ with all five SAVE countries and the thirteen Partners all reporting and working together. It was especially pleasing to see major progress being made in Bangladesh particularly over the past one year, and there was further excitement during the post-meeting excursion when participants observed the first Bangladesh Slender-billed vulture for thirty years!

     We all look forward to seeing progress in Bangladesh, (there are less than 500 vultures left in total, so the urgency is clear) and our sincere thanks to IUCN Bangladesh and the Forest Department for making us all so welcome. Mr Muhith’s support however may be the vultures’ greatest hope for the future. Further updates and report with follow on


    Photo credit: Sarowar Alam Dipu/IUCN : The Hon Finance Minister of Bangladesh (right) addressing the 4th SAVE Meeting in Dhaka.





  • Birds of Christmas Present

    Thanks to Tara Proud, the RSPB's International Species Recovery Officer for this post:

    I am passionately committed to turtle dove conservation and I’m lucky enough to manage Operation Turtle Dove. This year the Operation Turtle Dove project team have lots of great progress to celebrate and I want to share some of these successes with you.

    Birds Without Borders

    Just this week I have been working with similarly passionate conservationists from Birdlife International partners from across the turtle dove flyway, this is part of Birds Without Borders. We’re linking up and building upon turtle dove conservation work from the UK and along the flyway through western Europe (The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, France), northern Africa (Morocco) to their wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa. Together we are committed to saving this species – and stopping them from becoming a Bird of Christmas Past.

    Making a Real Difference on the Ground

    In April we were able to employ two full time turtle dove advisers, who have so far given advice to farmers and landowners on providing turtle dove friendly habitat on over 15,000 hectares of land, this is an area larger than Bristol! These advisors are working across turtle doves core range. Between them they cover the counties of Kent, Sussex, Essex and Suffolk which support over 50% of the UK breeding population of turtle doves.

    In addition, private landowners including schools, campsites, landfill sites and nature reserves have also been provided with advice to establish targeted turtle dove habitat on their grounds.

    If you farmer, land owner or land manager in Kent, Sussex, Essex or Suffolk you could play a critical part for the conservation of turtle doves, to help us to save this species please contact us on this email address to find out how, we would love to hear from you.

    Tristan Reid and Jonny Rankin are two of Operation Turtle Doves biggest supports and this year they have lots to be happy about... not least raising an incredible £5000 to support important turtle dove conservation work

    Generous Support for Turtle Dove Conservation

    This year Tristan Reid, Jonny Rankin and the Dove Step team have gone to incredible lengths to raise funds and awareness for Operation Turtle Dove. Tristan has run '1000 miles for Martha' in 14 marathons and Jonny and the Dove Step team have walked 300 miles in 13 days. Jonny also joined Tristan for his final and 14th marathon of the year in October. Supporters sponsored their efforts and together they have raised more than £5000 this year. Fundraising efforts like these help support vital turtle dove conservation work.

    Both Tristan and Jonny have turtle dove fundraising plans for 2015 too, including an ambitious Dovestep 2 which will include kayaking cycling and walking from England to the Spanish border, reflecting the route of the dove's migratory journey. Tristan plans to run a minimum of 2,000 miles including 20 marathon distances.

    Important Advances in Turtle Dove Science

    Right at the start of this year, RSPB scientist Dr Jenny Dunn and PhD student Rebecca Thomas began turtle dove research on their wintering grounds in Senegal. This research was the start of a project to understand how to protect turtle doves when they are in Africa.

    Jenny has been leading research on turtle dove breeding grounds in England for the past three summers, and 2014 saw successful completion of the fieldwork for this part of the project. This research has been focussed on looking for a link between availability of food and the health and breeding success of the birds. Follow this link to learn more about this research and if you want to support more of this important turtle dove research, please donate here.

    JENNY DUNN RELEASING A TURTLE DOVE - In 2014 we have made important advances in turtle dove science which is being used to inform our conservation work

    New Support for Turtle Doves

    Beyond our work advising farmers about turtle dove friendly habitat management, we are also working in partnership with CEMEX UK to provide turtle doves with the habitat they need when they come to the England to breed. CEMEX are one of the world's largest building materials suppliers and cement producers. Together we have begun a three year conservation project at four carefully chosen CEMEX quarries in central England. This is because CEMEX quarries have the potential to support this threatened bird. The quarries offer a suitable habitat with dense scrub and water.  The project involves growing a special flower mix to provide the bird’s ideal food complemented by the nesting habitat.

    Conservation Grade have been working hard with farmers along the turtle dove flyway to provide safe passage and the habitat turtle doves need when they make their migration through Europe. You can help turtle doves by buying Fair to Nature products from Steve’s Leaves as these are sourced from turtle dove friendly farms in Portugal.

    So I hope you’ll agree that we have made some really exciting progress for turtle dove conservation this year. But we must not lose sight of the scale of the challenge we face to save this beautiful bird, if you want to support our continued conservation efforts please donate here.


    Simon Tonkin will write the final blog in this festive series of blogs, about ‘Birds of Christmas Future’, in which he’ll talk about our future plans for turtle dove conservation.