Category Archives: News

Students on our reserves

The team who tackled the area of Crassula

Students taking part in expeditions to gain their Duke of Edinburgh scheme qualifications have been working on the Etton Maxey nature reserve.

The youngsters, from Stamford Endowed Schools, have been using their half-term break to work towards either their Silver or Gold standard awards – taking part in a series of hikes and volunteer work programmes.

Around 120 teenagers, carrying heavy back packs full of clothing and camping gear,  have been walking from a drop-off point at Greatford across country to the Etton High Meadow barn before carrying out work tasks on the Etton Maxey site.

Usually the pupils would be carrying out the expeditions in the Lake District, but Coronavirus restrictions have meant that this year activities have been curtailed.

And so after conversations with Langdyke trustee David Alvey part of the programme this year has involved working with Langdyke on a variety of reserve tasks.

These have included cutting down willow, removing hawthorn and digging layers of crassula. The youngsters have been overseen by teachers and parents working to tasks set by Langdyke volunteers including David Alvey, David Cowcill, Richard Astle and David Rowell.

David Alvey said: “It’s been a great opportunity to open up our reserves to a new younger group of people.  They have set about their tasks with a great degree of determination and have done a really good job.  They have also been able to learn about the nature on the reserves at the same time and ask questions of our volunteers.”

 

Great fen project appeal

The wildlife trust is looking for volunteers to help plant a few plants – well 200,000 of them to be precise.

And the organisation is appealing to Langdyke members to see if they are willing to get involved.

It is part of a Great Fen Water Works project to carry out wet farming planting.

The local branch of the Wildlife Trust is creating  field scale trials of wet farming to test innovative new crops for food, healthcare and industry, and to lock in carbon.  A large part of the project will be working with local farmers, food producers and landowners to create and test this new way of farming and to share lessons learned along the way.

The Trust’s Rachel Price said: “We’re looking for small groups, so if anyone would like to come along, please ask them to contact me at rachel.price@wildlifebcn.org. It would be super if there were four or five Langdyke members to form a group.”

The Trust hopes to start planting this month  through to the end of November (weather and ground conditions allowing).

Ideally, the Trust is looking for a small group of volunteers who could mainly work in the week and due to the complications of Covid-19 it can only offer whole days, 10am – 3pm, not half days.

By taking part in this project members can take positive action for Climate Change, protecting peat soils, locking in carbon and cleaning water, as well as helping to create wet habitats to benefit wildlife.

More details on the Wildlife Trust website here and here

 

 

Nature gets helping hand

Etton Maxey, July 2020 Photo: Brian Lawrence

Work has started on flailing the meadows at a number of Langdyke’s reserves to ensure we maintain a wide spectrum of outcomes for nature.

Although to some the work looks heavy-handed, the maintenance is crucial if we are to maintain the areas for future seasons.

Tractors have been out and about in recent days on many of our meadow areas.  Although they are grazed for many months by the Langdyke sheep they still need some extra heavy attention from time to time.

In a post on Facebook, responding to minor criticism of the timing of the flailing and its impact on Skylark nests, ecological consultant and botanist Sarah Lambert said: “The grass cutting looks damaging at first sight but if you continually cut grass late in the year it becomes dominated by rank species and you lose many of the smaller wildflowers including orchids.

“Many of the road verges round Peterborough have lost a lot of their botanical interest because they are regularly cut in September, even though the cuttings are removed.

“Cutting part of a site early helps to maintain botanical diversity, while leaving areas of untouched grassland for invertebrates and nesting birds. Interestingly, some of the best sites I know for skylark are hay meadows normally cut in June. Skylarks nest on the ground, in vegetation which is 20–50 cm high. This vegetation must be open enough to give the birds easy access to the ground. As long as no cutting takes place between early April and end of May, skylark populations shouldn’t be impacted (RSPB) and in future years the sward should be more suitable for nesting.”

Trustee Brian Lawrence has been out and about at the Etton Maxey reserve to capture photographic evidence of the result of the actions.

Etton Maxey, July 2020 Photo: Brian Lawrence
This area has been ploughed by David Cowcill to encourage wild flowers at, Etton Maxey, July 2020 Photo: Brian Lawrence
Plenty of visitors to Etton Maxey. July 2020 Photo: Brian Lawrence

 

 

Annual meeting is online

 

 

 

The Langdyke annual meeting – postponed earlier this year because of the Coronavirus lockdown – is to be held as an online event on Wednesday, July 22 at 5pm.

Access to the meeting will be via the Zoom conferencing system.  The link for the meeting, which is only open to members,  is here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83100578531?pwd=dTZSNHBzM1gvakJocW1icFAxNy96Zz09

All members have to do to attend is click on the link. You do not need to download any software.  Please note the link will not be active until 5pm on the day of the meeting.

If you have not seen the annual review for 2019 you can download a copy from the website here 

In the meantime, Treasurer Brian Lawrence has an important message about business at the meeting in relation to the election and re-election of Trustees.

  • He writes:

    “Under the new scheme of governance set up when the Langdyke Countryside Trust became a registered charity there is a Board of Trustees, responsible for managing the Trust, including deciding what the Trust should be doing and how it should spend the money it raises. Although there can be up to twelve trustees on the Board, we currently have three vacancies for new trustees. Trustees are elected by the whole membership at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and serve, initially, for a three year period. They are eligible to seek re-election by the AGM at the end of their period in office. At the forthcoming AGM three trustees will be retiring, although two have agreed to seek re-election. However, we are looking to strengthen the representation of members on the Board of Trustees and are therefore looking for volunteers to step forward to serve as trustees.”What is involved in being a Trustee?
    All trustees sit on the Main Board of the Trust which meets six times throughout the year, normally every other month. Trustees also normally sit on one of the two programme committees, Conservation or People and Communities, or they sit on one of the Area Groups which cover the four areas in which the Trust works. These normally meet in the intervening months. The Main Board is the major decision making body for the trust setting the direction and objectives  as well as its policies, major procedures and budget for the programme committees and area groups to work to.  The most important functions of Trustees is to help set the direction of work and the objectives of the Trust. This is done through setting management plans, policies and by approving an annual budget to indicate how the resources of the Trust will be used in the forthcoming year. However, as Langdyke Countryside Trust has no staff and is run entirely by volunteers, trustees do get involved with the day-to day activities of the Trust. These could involve helping to arrange working parties on Trust reserves, organising events, such as meetings, or walks and other similar activities.
    If you would like further details about the duties and obligations of a Trust please see the excellent publication ‘The Essential Trustee” on the Charity Commission’s website here Who is eligible to be a Trustee?
    You must be a member of the Trust, with your subscription lfully paid at the time of the AGM, and you must be least 18 years old to be a trustee of  Langdyke Countryside Trust. You must also be interested in the objectives and work of the Trust. You must be properly appointed following the procedures. You must not act as a trustee if you are disqualified, unless authorised to do so by a waiver from the Charity Commission. The reasons for disqualification are: 
    • being bankrupt (undischarged) or having an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) 
    • having an unspent conviction for certain offences (including any that involve dishonesty or deception) 
    • being on the sex offenders’ register.

    If you have any doubt about your eligibility you can contact Brian Lawrence (Hon. Treasurer) or read the notes on automatic disqualification guidance for charities, published on the Charity Commission’s website, which explains the disqualification rules in more detail. 
    if you would like to volunteer to become a Trustee you will need to get your completed nomination form to Brian Lawrence (email : treasurer@langdyke.org.uk) by Monday July 20If you would like to consider becoming a trustee, you can discuss it further with either the Chair of the trust, Richard Astle, at chair@langdyke.org.uk or the Treasurer, Brian Lawrence, at treasurer@langdyke.org.uk, who will  answer any queries and explain the nomination procedure.

Journalist is next guest

A wildlife journalist who lives locally is the next online speaker lined up by Langdyke.

Josh Jones  (pictured, below) will be our guest on Wednesday, June 17 at 5pm – chatting to members and answering questions via the Zoom online conferencing system.

Josh is best known for his regular contributions to BirdGuides.com, including the long-standing Review of the Week column.

He also writes the monthly reports section for Birdwatch magazine, as well as contributing regular features, with topics ranging from in-depth bird identification to travel.

You can see  a few examples of his work on the BirdGuides.com website or visit his personal website http://www.joshrjones.com where there are a number of articles together with his wildlife photography.

The main picture of a rough-legged buzzard flying over Deeping High Bank  was taken by Josh

He also blogs  on wildlife at  http://www.joshrjones.com/blog

To join the sessions all you have to do is click on the link below.  You do not need to add any new software to your computer.

This is the link to join the Zoom online conversation with Josh
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85957666915?pwd=R3pUTVNvL09SYTVrMmo2N3pqUWtWZz09

The session will not be open until 5pm on the day so please do not try logging on before then.

Annual review published

Langdyke has 72 bird boxes positioned across its reserves;  there are eight types of orchid growing during a year at Swaddywell Pit and the Trust has planted 79 heritage fruit trees which are  growing in the community orchard at Etton.

Just a handful of fascinating facts included in the 2019 Langdyke Countryside Trust annual review, sent out recently to members.

In other areas of the report:

  • Chair Richard Astle looks at the many threats to nature in the area
  • There’s a round-up of happenings in our natural world during 2019; and
  • We take a special look at Operation Turtle Dove

Becoming a member of the Trust means you automatically receive a copy of the review each year along with a monthly newsletter of events and happenings and special access to Langdyke events. There are details of how to join on the website here.

You can read a copy of the review – which we are making widely available this year – by clicking here.

COVID-19: Stay safe in nature!

All Langdyke events have been cancelled for the foreseeable future because of the Coronavirus outbreak.

This is in response to the Government guidance on COVID-19. We are sorry to have had to take this decision, but we know you will understand.

This includes the annual meeting which is due to have taken place on April 23.

Langdyke chair Richard Astle said:

“In light of the Prime Minister’s new advice to stay at home, we can no longer encourage people to visit our reserves – that would seem irresponsible. We have suspended all work on our reserves. Our hides at Etton Maxey Pits are now locked.

“But we will be doing everything we can to keep you in touch with the nature you can find in your gardens over the coming days and weeks. We will also maintain – strictly in line with Government guidance – our livestock checking programme to ensure our sheep remain healthy.

“We will continue to use our Facebook page to keep each other in touch with what we see and what we hear; to ask questions about what to look out for and to ask for help with identification!

“We will shortly be launching a spring migrant project through Facebook so we can see who really did hear the first cuckoo and see the first swallow.

“Stay in touch, stay safe and enjoy the natural world around your home.

“Best wishes to you, your families and friends and to all our key workers, thank you.”

Richard

The monthly newsletters will continue as normal. We will also be publishing an annual report and sending it to you.
Please keep in touch via this website for further updates.

Great day at Frampton

Langdyke members had a spectacular day at Frampton Marsh – the premier RSPB Reserve in Lincolnshire – enjoying the chance to see thousands of birds.

Located just south of the Haven on the River Witham, approximately five miles from Boston, the reserve consists of a number of freshwater scrapes and grasslands together with a large area of saltmarsh, bordering the Wash.

During the winter months it is home to a large number of waterfowl and wading birds. In most winters the number of birds is breath-taking with over 6,000 Lapwing, 5,000 Golden Plover, 2,500 Brent Geese, and large numbers of Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal and Pintail.

Around 25 members of Langdyke made the visit under the guidance of Brian Lawrence and Bob Titman. The weather was kind in that visitors could enjoy spectacular views although there was a strong wind to battle against while walking.

Langdyke members enjoy the view at RSPB Frampton Photo Cliff Stanton

Vision for Clare country

John Clare Countryside
Our joint vision for a heritage landscape with nature at its heart …

Written by Richard Astle, Chair, Langdyke Countryside Trust

 

As residents, businesses, parish councils, landowners, farmers and visitors we want the countryside around us to be an area where nature is at the heart of our lives. Where swifts and swallows are a central feature of our summer evenings, where otters continue to enthral people as they play in the Maxey Cut, where bees and other insects thrive, not decline, and where there are far more, not less, ponds, meadows, wild flowers, hedgerows and trees.
And where people can walk or cycle out in safety and tranquility across this thriving countryside, enjoying the sights and sounds and even the silence of the natural world; enjoying dark skies and cherishing the heritage around them – both natural and man- made. That sounds like a countryside worth living in. But it is a countryside under threat and increasing pressure from housing growth and traffic and sadly even from lack of appreciation.
In recent years, despite many successes on and off the network of nature reserves, there have been significant declines in many key species, particularly farmland and woodland birds, such as lapwing, yellowhammer, nightingale, spotted flycatcher and woodcock; and decreases in the number of mammals such as hedgehog and hare and the variety of butterflies and moths.

Introduction

Working in partnership, the Langdyke Countryside Trust now wants to ensure that we conserve the beauty of our landscape and conserve its rich local heritage.

We will endeavour to do this by establishing  an area characterised by:

  • Outstanding natural biodiversity through major habitat restoration connected through a mosaic of smaller wildlife havens and corridors 
  • An unspoilt landscape that is used by local people and the people of an expanding Peterborough, providing them with a large area of unspoilt countryside on their doorstep 
  • Well-kept heritage sites, accessible to all and working together to involve and attract visitors 
  • Cyclepaths, footways and ‘quiet roads’ – a green transport infrastructure – where priority is given to walkers and riders 
  • Prosperous and successful farming, profiting from a combination of environmentally friendly farming practice, sustainable tourism and recreational activities 

Objectives 

To create, launch and deliver an ambitious and accessible nature recovery area across the landscape areas west of Peterborough, designed, led and supported by residents, landowners, farmers, businesses and parish councils of the area. 

This nature recovery area would be recognised by Natural England and other statutory agencies and recognised in local policy documents including Local Plans. 

It would be distinguished from other nature recovery areas because it is community led and because of how it combines the natural and built heritage and its links, through John Clare, to literature and the arts. 

Project aims

Building on the substantial work of the partners to date and on the heritage and legacy of the work of the poet John Clare this project aims to:

1. Deliver significant increases in key wildlife habitats, particularly those of limestone grassland, wetland and arable farmland 

2. Raise levels of local pride, aspiration and community cohesion by helping local communities to understand, appreciate and enjoy their local natural and built heritage 

3. Pilot and champion best practice sustainable development in all aspects of future development within the area including sustainable techniques of land management both on and off the existing nature reserves 

4. Promote public health and wellbeing, providing large areas of accessible green open space for the people of Peterborough 

5. Create new jobs and economic opportunities within the area, allied to the delivery of these objectives, particularly in tourism, visitor attractions and farming and nature conservation. 

The achievement of these objectives will create a better quality of life for residents and visitors through the creation of a more sustainable local environment with easy access to rich and inspiring nature and greater appreciation of its heritage and history

Background 

John Clare Countryside lies between the Nene and Welland valleys to the west of Peterborough and to the east of the A1. The area sits across two National Character Areas – 92 Rockingham Forest and 75 Kesteven Uplands. 

The birthplace of John Clare, one of the country’s most significant poets of the natural world, it already boasts a network of existing nature reserves across a varied range of habitats, including two Natural England national nature reserves (Barnack Hills and Holes and Castor Hanglands), a number of SSSIs and several local nature reserves run by the Wildlife Trusts and the Langdyke Countryside Trust. 

To the south of the area, the Nene Park Trust manages large areas of land in the interests of the community and for nature. The William Scott Abbot Trust operates the Sacrewell Farm visitor centre on the western edge of John Clare Countryside. 

This distinctive landscape is rich in heritage – from the Roman roads of King Street and Ermine Street, the remains of Durobrivae, the Norman manor house at Torpel, the beauty of the Medieval parish churches and the history and landscape settings of Burghley House and Milton Hall and their respective parks. 

Another important visitor attraction, the John Clare Cottage, a museum in the birthplace of the poet in Helpston, lies at the centre of the area. Clare himself, lived and worked here and wrote poignantly about the environmental pressures the landscape was under in the 19th century. His voice can provide an important focus for the development of this nature recovery area. 

The John Clare Countryside project is a partnership of local organisations, initially co-ordinated by the Langdyke Countryside Trust, a voluntary, membership-based organisation but in time likely to develop its own organisational structures. The project will be created and delivered by local residents, businesses and landowners. 

Etton Maxey Pits Nature Reserve

Since its foundation in 1999 the Langdyke Countryside Trust has established a network of seven nature reserves across the area – Swaddywell Pit, Torpel Manor Field, Bainton Heath, Etton Maxey Pits, Vergette Wood Meadow, Etton High Meadow and Marholm Field Bank. The Trust has an active membership of over 120 households and runs a variety of events throughout the year. 

In that time the Trust has also created a new visitor centre at Torpel Manor Field and a range of educational materials to help people understand its heritage. It has put up nearly 200 nest boxes across the area and helped plant new hedgerows and new trees. As a result, orchids thrive at Swaddywell, avocets have bred at Etton Maxey and rare moths and butterflies prosper at Bainton. We have planted a community orchard at Etton High Meadow. 

Working in close partnership with Natural England, the Wildlife Trusts, Nene Park Trust, PECT, William Scott Abbot Trust, John Clare Society, the John Clare Trust, parish councils and landowners the Trust now wants to take its work to a new level and create a nationally recognised, but still locally led, nature recovery area across the John Clare Countryside. 

Key deliverables of the project

1. Increases in key indicator species

This will be achieved through a significant increase in the area of land actively managed in the interests of nature and heritage including both 

  1. Land under the direct management of the partners – through the expansion of existing nature reserves, particularly around Hills and Holes, Castor Hanglands, Swaddywell Pit and along the Maxey Cut, linking the reserves at Bainton Heath and Etton Maxey Pits
  2. Land managed by other landowners as part of new agri- environment schemes designed to help the recovery of key species and as part of nature rich wildlife corridors which join up the network of nature reserves

As part of this work and working with partners and other landowners we would aim to::

  • Create additional hectares of limestone grassland 
  • Create additional hectares of wetland, wet woodland and wet meadows 
  • Create new ponds including in gardens and on farmland 
  • Plant trees as part of new hedgerows and as standards 
  • Create actively managed wildlife corridors 
  • Create habitat and nesting space for key target species such as orchids, hedgehog, bats, barn owl and swift 
A Scarlet Pimpernel at Swaddywell Pit Photo: Brian Lawrence

2. Increase levels of public engagement, understanding and participation in the natural and built heritage of the area 

This will be achieved through the active and co-ordinated promotion of visitor facilities at existing centres such as the John Clare Cottage, Sacrewell Farm and potentially at new facilities within the estate of the Nene Park Trust.

A jointly managed natural and built heritage engagement and education programme would be run across all the partners, providing multiple opportunities to learn about the natural and built heritage of the area and to participate in all aspects of the project, including volunteering opportunities.

The project aims to link the existing visitor attractions through the creation of a network of well-maintained footpaths, bridleways and cycle paths, making John Clare Countryside a visitor destination with multiple easily accessible points of interest, without increasing levels of car traffic in the area.

Within this context we would aim to work with local landowners to consider:

  1.  Creating and maintaining new way marked cycleways
  2. Creating and maintaining new way marked permissive footpaths
  3. Designating more local roads as quiet lanes and establish a clearer priority for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders on key roads.

The project would actively involve local people in the achievement of its natural objectives by choosing to target key species that people are familiar with, but which need help, such as hedgehogs and swift and encouraging them to provide nesting and feeding habitat in their gardens and houses. 

We would look to use on-line platforms to teach people how to recognise and support these species and to encourage them to record their sightings and to take pride in their role in the recovery of these populations. 

The partners would work together to reach out to residents of Peterborough, particularly those with limited existing access to green open space and help them to visit, enjoy and appreciate John Clare Countryside. This would include educational programmes run at locations within the city, with the aim of taking the countryside into the city, rather than waiting for people to visit the countryside. 

The project would also build on existing work designed to engage local people and residents of Peterborough (and indeed visitors generally) in the history and heritage of the area, making use of heritage assets at Durobrivae, Castor, village churches, John Clare Cottage and Torpel Manor Field. 

We would seek to replicate the successful Torpel Heritage Lottery Funded project and expand Langdyke’s existing history and archaeology group to engage more local people. 

Finally, there would also be a creative theme throughout the project, linking the natural world with art and literature. Again, this would build on existing work through the John Clare Society and John Clare Trust and previous and current arts-based projects supported by local artists and members of the Society of Wildlife Artists. 

3. Pilot and champion next practice sustainable development in all aspects of future development within the area including sustainable techniques of land management both on and off the existing nature reserves.

pastedGraphic_2.png

3. Pilot and champion best practice sustainable development in all aspects of future development within the area including sustainable techniques of land management both on and off the existing nature reserves 

Small scale housing and commercial development within the village envelopes and to support local farming are encouraged within the existing policy framework, including the neighbourhood plans (either in place or emerging) of Castor, Ailsworth, Glinton, Peakirk, Northborough, Helpston and Barnack. 

One of the hundreds – possibly thousands – of Pyramidal orchids at Etton-Maxey

The project would develop guidelines, based on the local nature partnership’s Developing with Nature toolkit, to help developers support the objectives and aims of the project in terms of best practice design concepts and for achieving net biodiversity gain and work with local landowners to identify and promote new techniques of sustainable land management and techniques of nature conservation. 

4. Promote public health and wellbeing, providing large areas of accessible green open space for the people of Peterborough 

A primary function of the John Clare Nature Recovery Area will be to provide the combination of accessible green open space and protected areas for nature necessary to complement the economic growth agenda of the local and wider region. 

JCC would be planned and managed to offer opportunities for local people to enjoy the countryside, and its thriving natural world and well conserved built heritage. 

The project would consider carefully how to manage increased access to the landscape area to ensure that we do not create additional traffic or put undue pressure through disturbance on important sites for nature. 

Initial thinking is that we would encourage people to use existing (and improved) access points rather than create new ones and look at ways in which they can be linked by well-maintained footpaths and cycle ways. It might also be worth considering developing improved access point(s) (car park with footpaths etc) in the northern part of the area, perhaps as part of the evolving Etton-Maxey Pits complex, which already attracts dog-walkers and birdwatchers. 

Another idea is to create access points into the JCC within the urban area of Peterborough from which people could walk or cycle out into the area. 

5. Create new jobs and economic opportunities within the area, allied to the delivery of these objectives, particularly in tourism, visitor attractions and farming and nature conservation. 

The creation and long-term delivery of the John Clare Countryside vision would create a small number of jobs both directly and indirectly. 

Directly we would expect to see between 2-5 permanent jobs created to manage the delivery of the vision and of key projects within it. These would include a partnership and project manager role, plus conservation jobs in managing the expanded network of nature reserves and public education and engagement roles. Commercial opportunities would also be created through 

contracts with local suppliers to deliver projects such as creating new ponds, mowing areas of grassland, planting hedgerows etc, where these cannot be delivered by volunteers. 

The increased visitor numbers would also support the creation of new jobs at existing visitor destinations. 

We also expect that the increased visitor numbers would lead to new jobs in other leisure facilities through increased demand at local shops, cafes and pubs and potentially to the creation of new facilities in the area, such as tea-rooms, cycle hubs etc. 

The partnership would like to explore whether it could link into the University of Peterborough to support the local skills agenda with an emphasis on courses linked to sustainable development; natural sciences and land use. 

Conclusion 

The John Clare Countryside concept will deliver significant benefits to both people and wildlife.
The strength of the concept lies in the fact that it already exists. JCC is an established landscape feature that contains a mosaic of nationally important natural habitats, nature reserves, heritage sites and is supported by ambitious and like- minded local partners.
It is already happening – much has already been done and will continue be done through the efforts of the existing partners.
But our ambition is to make this so much more.
JCC has the potential to combine improvements to the health and wellbeing and social cohesion of local people with landscape-scale nature recovery. It can support the wider environment capital ambitions of Peterborough and the natural capital plans of our statutory partners.
It is an ambitious, but relatively easily achieved long-term project that can be sustained because it has been created and will be delivered by local people and landowners who have a personal interest in making it succeed.
It is about creating a thriving and cherished landscape – good for people, good for nature, good for the future. 

Current supporters (September 2019) 

The following organisations have been involved in developing this plan and support its aims and will be involved in its delivery 

  • Langdyke Countryside Trust 
  • Nene Park Trust 
  • Wildlife Trusts for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
  • PECT
  • WilliamScott AbbottTrust 
  • Protect Rural Peterborough
  • John Clare Society
  • John Clare Trust
  • Natural England 
  • Natural Cambridgeshire
  • Peterborough City Council
  • Milton Estates

Proposed target species for public engagement 

Flower rich grassland

  • Orchids -Man, Pyramidal, Fragrant
  • Glow worm
  • Grizzled and dingy skipper

Woodland

  • Marsh Tit
  • LS Woodpecker
  • Longhorn beetle
  • Purple emperor
  • Bluebell

Wetland

  • Cuckoo
  • Lapwing
  • Otter
  • Toad
  • Frog
  • Fresh water mussels

Villages and gardens 

  • Swift
  • Hedgehog
  • Toad
  • Frog
  • Wall Ferns
  •  Bats 

Farmland 

  • Skylark 
  • Turtle dove 
  • Brown hare 
  • Key arable plant species 

Saving the turtle dove


Special efforts have been underway designed to encourage Turtle Doves to breed on Langdyke’s Etton Maxey reserve.  Project co-ordinator Martin Parsons explains how the scheme evolved …

Turtle doves were once a common summer visitor to England, but since the 1970’s their numbers have declined by 93 percent.

They are our only long-distance migratory dove, and now face a range of threats including unsustainable levels of hunting, the disease trichomoniasis, and loss of habitat on both their wintering grounds in sub-Saharan and breeding grounds in Europe and England.

There are now around only 14,000 pairs attempting to nest in Britain, and the bird is on the brink of disappearing from our summers.

Operation Turtle Dove

Operation Turtle Dove (OTD) is an RSPB project, partnered by Natural England, Pensthorpe Trust and Conservation Grade, designed to help turtle doves during their summer visit to Britain.

The objectives of the project are:

  1. To increase the amount of feeding habitat available to turtle doves within their core breeding range in the UK.
  2. To provide early sources of food to enable turtle doves to recover from their migration when they return to breeding grounds in late April-May.
  3. To work with farmers and landowners to establish and manage turtle dove habitat within current and new agri-environment schemes.
  4. To deliver free farm advisory visits to farmers within core turtle dove breeding range.
  5. To raise awareness of the plight of turtle doves.
  6. To encourage people to submit their sightings.

Langdke and Turtle Doves

Turtle doves sightings have been reported in the Etton and Maxey areas in several recent summers.

So in 2018 Langdyke Countryside Trust contacted Andrew Holland, RSPB Fens Farm Conservation Adviser, and in October hosted an on-site visit, to explore how Langdyke might help our local turtle doves. 

Turtle doves are seed-eaters, and like to feed on plants such as English vetch, black medick, bird’s-foot trefoil, white clover, red clover and common fumitory.

Almost all of these plants are available on our Etton-Maxey Pit reserve, but to assist with breeding success, a supplemental supply of seed is very welcome.

In addition, suitable scrub habitat such as hawthorn, and a supply of freshwater is required. So to be useful to the turtle doves, the feeding sight must be near water, contain bare ground, and have thick scrub or hawthorn trees nearby.

The carpark at Etton-Maxey Pit was identified as a suitable location.

Feeding

In April Langdyke collected 60kg of supplemental feed, and a team comprising Mick and Keren Thomson, David and Jill Cowcill, and Martin and Kathryn Parsons began putting out 2kg of seed three times per week.

The OTD seed mix comprises white millet (35%), oil seed rape (35%), canary seed (10%), sunflower seed (10%), and wheat (10%). This mix of small round seeds makes an acceptable and nutritious supplement to the turtle dove’s diet. 

Sightings

Turtle Dove Photo: Brian Lawrence

By early June a pair of turtle doves were regularly visiting the carpark, as were a variety of finches and other birds.

On August 5 five turtle dove were seen at 6:30am, and a further supply of 20kg seed mix was obtained so as to extend feeding through August.

Sightings peaked at ten turtle doves (four adult and six juveniles) on August 18. Turtle doves can only rear two young with pigeon milk at a time, so six juveniles is likely to represent a successful second brood.

We are encouraging anyone who has seen turtle doves this summer to enter their sightings on BTO’s BirdTrack system, since this is the monitoring system by which OTD success is measured.

Ringing

In late August the opportunity arose to work with David Neal, an experienced local bird ringer, to try and ring some of the Etton-Maxey Pit turtle doves.

So on Monday August 26  strategically placed nets were installed before sunrise. By 7:30am one juvenile and one adult male had been successfully caught, ringed, weighed, measured, recorded and released safely back into the wild.

A Turtle Dove captured and successfully ringed. Photo: Martin Parsons
The dove is carefully ringed and details taken

Next year

Our plan at Langdyke is to continue with creating suitable habitat and encouraging the required food plants for turtle doves, and to recommence supplemental feeding next spring.

We are also investigating with the BTO whether there is more that we can do by way of gathering helpful data on these precious but endangered birds.

  • Main Turtle Dove photo by Brian Lawrence