12 Days of Christmas: Turtle Dove project aims to boost numbers of once common bird

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It’s harder than you think to find two turtle doves.

But as part of our festive series of articles mirroring the ‘12 Days of Christmas’, we’ve managed to find a pair not too far away.

This picture comes courtesy of barrister Richard Bennett, who snapped this pair at the Sutton Bank Visitor Centre run by the North York Moors National Park. He said: “This pair settled on a tree and began a courtship display of beak rubbing and preening. I’m interested in natural history and was lucky to have my camera with me.”

Turtle dove numbers have declined dramatically in recent years but thanks to conservation projects, including one in North Yorkshire, numbers will soon hopefully be on the up.

Cath Bashforth, an ecologist with the Forestry Commission said it was important to help preserve the species.

And Richard Baines from the Turtle Dove Project said: “Turtle Dove populations in the UK and Europe have declined by 95 per cent in the last 20 years. This project aims to raise awareness and set up conservation areas.”

The three-year project (2017-2020) is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, North York Moors National Park, the Forestry Commission, the RSPB, North & East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre and the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.