The big change ar reserve

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Early September sees a big a change in our wildlife as we swap African breeders for Arctic winterers.

Going out in the last few weeks have been yellow wagtails, wheatears, meadow pipits and stonechats.

One notable sighting at Yorkshire Water’s Tophill Low Nature Reserve has been a pair of turtle doves – one which is extremely welcome this year.

The turtle dove was once a common and widespread bird of our countryside whose delicate purring could be heard coming from thickets all over East Yorkshire. In many ways its fortunes should have improved with new agri-environmental schemes like Entry Level Stewardship which sees farmers paid to leave field margins which grow native annuals favoured as food by the doves. Unfortunately in recent years we have seen these birds dwindle to really quite rare proportions – Michael Flowers whom runs bird watching courses to Tophill Low and across East Yorkshire only found these birds present at a handful of sites this year. The best place in the county used to be the old Kiplingcoates station on the Hudson Way where the scrubby hawthorn and old rail road flora supporting regular sightings but they were barely seen this year.

The reasons for this decline are partly due to the awful summer and bad migration which saw many birds arrive late like a lot of African migrants.

But longer term climate change is seeing the Sahara expand making migration more difficult, and their wintering grounds in the Sahel south of the Sahara are being rapidly changed as modern agricultural practices spread further.

Their cause is not helped by hunting pressure in the Mediterranean.

Birds on passage are often targeted with even British firms reportedly advertising trips to shoot the birds in Morocco this summer to ‘maintain a healthy wild population’ of a bird which has declined by 90% since 1997 and is considered the bird most likely to be extinct in the UK by 2020 according to the RSPB.

We can only hope these delicate doves are heard in our hawthorns next May.

Tophill Low Nature Reserve is located 4 miles from the A164 at Watton.

Open daily 9am to 6pm. Admission £2.80 adults and £1.20 concessions, sorry no dogs.

For more information visit www.tophilllow.blogspot.com. For more details on Michael Flowers bird watching courses visit www.eybirdwatching.blogpsot.co.uk.