For centuries seen as the symbol of true love, the ever popular turtle dove is in trouble. We have lost a staggering 95% of our population since 1970 and if the current rate of decline continues it could be extinct by 2020.
It’s a similar story for the tiny twite, a songbird with a population in England that has fallen by more than 90% over the last 20 years. CEMEX’s Dove Holes quarry in Derbyshire is one of the last bastions for a bird that now has only 100 breeding pairs across the country.
But if CEMEX and the RSPB have their way, Dove Holes will also become a launch pad for a better future for the twite. The rock here has the cracks and fissures needed for safe nesting. What it then requires is an abundant supply of seed to feed its young.
An area of bare ground has been sown with coltsfoot which produces an abundant supply of seed early in the season. By June and July the twite relies on seed from traditional hay meadows which are themselves in decline. The solution there has been to sow a five-hectare area within the quarry with plants like common sorrel, sheep sorrel and autumn hawkbit.
Meanwhile, in more central areas of England, CEMEX and the RSPB are similarly using sand and gravel quarries to provide a much needed uplift for the turtle dove. It too is mainly a seed-eater but the special seed mix for the weeds it loves is best grown on tilled ground, which has been made available at four sites. CEMEX sites are also able to help with tall hedgerows for nesting and a ready supply of water.
Photo credit: Tim Melling