You may have seen one in your garden but increasingly, they’re becoming a much rarer sight. European turtle doves (Streptopelia turtur) are in rapid decline – by as much as 93% since 1975 – and are now a Red List endangered species, according to the RSPB.
Turtle doves are a migratory species, spending their summers in SE England where they nest and breed. Marden is one of only twelve zones in Kent identified by the RSPB as being the best habitat for European turtle doves; indeed the charity has been working hard in the Marden area to conserve the species and to count and record breeding pairs as part of its Operation Turtle Dove project.
Nicole Khan, RSPB turtle dove conservation advisor, who heads up the operation in the area, said: “We have been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of passion and enthusiasm there has been within the Marden community to save this iconic species.
“From farmers creating areas of feeding habitat (in most cases on a voluntary basis) to local people carrying out breeding bird surveys to help us monitor the turtle dove population in and around Marden.”
But said Miss Khan: “We do have concerns that this great work could be undermined with the proposed 2,000 houses in Marden.
“We believe that this could potentially lead to habitat fragmentation as well as increasing disturbance to turtle doves.
“The RSPB is committed to continue its work to save turtle doves in Marden and across Kent.”
Marden Planning Opposition Group (MPOG) argues that an extra 2,000 houses will irrevocably harm the countryside and its wildlife and crush the village of Marden. Chairman Claudine Russell said: “Wildlife and environmental sites are proven to be interlinked and such is the character of the interconnecting network of hedges, field ditches, ponds and in line trees that are intrinsically characteristic of the Low Weald.
A development of this size immediately adjacent to one of the sites for Operation Turtle Dove will cause irrevocable harm to this species.
Given how much everyone has been enjoying the countryside and wildlife since we have been in lockdown, will a vast housing estate badged as a garden village be worth the potential loss of turtle doves in the area?”
The group is urging all Maidstone residents to lobby their local councillors “to save the turtle dove – and Marden.”
Mrs Russell said: “We are not against all development, but the scale of this particular proposal is out of all proportion to our village and its infrastructure.”
Read the full article at Kent Online. And keep your eyes peeled!