Two turtle doves……?

Mainz 2009 007

On the Second Day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

So goes part of The Twelve Days of Christmas, a song that can be dated back to the late 18th century, and which celebrates the period between Christmas Day and the 5th January.  The chances are that few people under the age of 50 will have seen the culturally iconic turtle dove in the wild in Britain as it’s a species which has reduced in numbers by a spectacular 93% across Britain since the 1970s, as this graph shows.  Not only that, but the British Trust for Ornithology suggests that the turtle dove is “one of the most strongly declining bird species across Europe since 1980”.  Clearly this is an issue not just for the U.K. and organisations such as the RSPB have responded with schemes focused on turtle dove conservation.

If you’ve been following the various news items about nature and conservation over the festive period you’d be forgiven for being a little confused by the mixed messages.  On the one hand the turtle dove and other farmland species, as well as wetland birds, were shown to be suffering long term declines in the State of the U.K.’s Birds report for 2013.  But then we have the National Trust telling us that 2013 was the best year for wildlife for a long while, with nature thriving in the long, hot summer.  Which of these is true?  Both of them are, of course, it’s just that the scales at which they are assessing their results are very different.  Whilst analyses of single years are important and can provide some grounds for conservation optimism, it’s the long term trends that really matter.  And for many species these trends are not looking good.

With this in mind it was hoped that the budget announcement by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) might contain some good news for Christmas, but it was not to be: overall, there will be less money available for agri-environmental schemes on UK farms in the foreseeable future, a situation that the RSPB states “falls short of what nature needs for recovery” and the Wildlife Trusts describes as “a missed opportunity to boost investment in wildlife-friendly and progressive farming“.  As always, Mark Avery’s blog had some forceful opinions on the subject and is a recommended read on this topic.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming…..

…hopefully drumming up government support for some real action in 2014, rather than fine words and greenwash, to begin to reverse the loss of our native biodiversity.  Happy New Year everyone.

1 thought on “Two turtle doves……?

  1. Pingback: Six Kingdoms for Christmas: the cultural biodiversity of a winter festival | Jeff Ollerton's Biodiversity Blog

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