The status of Turtle Dove at Eakring 1998-2007
 
From an original breeding population of four pairs at three sites in 1998, the Turtle Dove has shown a gradual decline here over the past ten years. Now down to just a single breeding pair since 2006, this migrant is possibly on the brink of becoming lost as a breeding bird at Eakring and Kersall.

This has always been a scarce breeding bird since 1998, although (like most other areas) it was once a common sight and sound of any Summer. The Turtle Dove's national decline is well documented and will undoubtably continue for many years yet. A combination of factors have helped to reduce it's UK population - most notable being the removal of many old hedgerows and a general tidying of the countryside. It also falls victim in it's thousands to the hunters gun in certain areas of southern Europe. All of these (coupled with it being a long-distance migrant) mean that things are hardly likely to improve in the short-term.

 
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  Breeding records 1998-2007

Since 1998, there has been a decline in the numbers of breeding pairs at Eakring and Kersall. A maximum of four pairs were found in 1998, but this has dropped to just a single breeding pair since 2006 after a gradual decline during the intervening years.

Suitable and unoccupied breeding habitat is severely limited here, but still available. During the past ten years, just three sites have seen pairs breed successfully with unpaired males holding territory for short periods of time at a further three.

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The Oil Bore Holes site, on the western-edge of Eakring village is the only site to have been used consistantly since 1998, with a second pair here breeding from 1998-2002. A pair nested at High Trees (on the eastern-edge of Eakring) from 1998-2003 and although a male was present there in 2004, there was no evidence of breeding and it has remained unused since. A site at Kersall held successful breeding in 2004 and 2005, but they failed to return the following year. In recent years, possible breeders have frequented an area on the the western side of Red Hill in 2005, the pastures area between Eakring village and Eakring Flash since 2006 and at Tug Bridge Farm in 2007. A pair with two young were present at this site on one August 2007 date, but were believed not to have been locally bred and there was certainly no supporting evidence of this.
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  Visible migration records

A decline in the numbers of breeding birds, has largely been reflected in the number of Turtle Doves recorded on passage since 1998. The table on the left, just about shows the general downward trend in numbers.

Both periods of migration are distinctly different. Spring migrants have generally moved through the area between April 29th and May 25th. There are a few exceptions to these dates, with an extremely early bird through on April 18th 2000 (one of the earliest ever Turtle Dove in Nottinghamshire) and there are odd migrants occasionally noted within the first week of June.

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Autumn migrants start moving through from around July 8th until September 12th. Again there are some exceptions and the table below shows a small cluster of records around mid-September. A rare build-up of a maximum of 22 Turtle Dove at Eakring Field Farm in 2003, accounts for much of the data leading to the three large peaks shown in the chart either side of September 1st. This does create something of a false impression in the figures, but the table does still show a peak in migrant numbers around mid-August, with smaller numbers of birds moving through during the third week of July and then again at the end of August and early September.
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Visible migration counts of Turtle Dove at Eakring from 1998-2007
     
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec   Total
                             
1998         15   9 21 2         47
1999       1 23   12 36 3         75
2000       1 1 1 11 14 3         31
2001         15     4 3         22
2002       1 2   13 24 2         42
2003         10   2 10 20         42
2004         8   5 2 4         19
2005       5 2   4 1           12
2006         4   14 1 1         20
2007         3   5 10 4         22
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1999 was an excellent year for migrant Turtle Doves during both migration periods, although there were still only three breeding pairs in the area. Like other migrants, this species is often affected by poor weather over the near continent during the Spring - hence there were just three Spring migrants in 2000 and 2002.

2007 was another very poor year, yet the weather was much better for migration and Turtle Doves arrived back at Eakring quite late on May 5th. The latest ever arrival was on May 11th 2006. Migrant figures produced in the Spring, have dropped markedly on the whole since 1998, matching the area's breeding pair counts.

As with the rest of the county, Turtle Doves have lost huge amounts of nesting habitat, although as I mentioned before, there is still suitable habitat remaining. Some typical habitat is shown in the above photograph at Kersall, where there are still small, hedged fields. This habitat was used by one pair several years ago.

 
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There are some small sections of Eakring Meadows which remain suitable (but unused) and other habitat remains around Eakring village and some parts of the Red Hill area. Only if the Turtle Dove population increases once more, will there be any return to the numbers of past years. At the moment I cannot see it happening, but will continue to monitor the status of this delightful migrant at Eakring.
 
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