Our Species of the Month for May was the Turtle Dove. These dainty little doves are currently on their way back to Europe from their wintering quarters in sub-Saharan Africa. Here we have a guest blog from Jason Cassar de Sain, who is the Technical Director for Fair to Nature farms in Portugal that grow baby leaf salads for Steve’s Leaves. The farms are one of the stops on the Turtle Dove’s migration route.

Spending my time on the Steve’s Leaves farms here in Portugal is made even more idyllic because of the wealth of wildlife we see day to day. At Steve’s Leaves we pride ourselves on being a ‘Fair to Nature’ company, which means that we ensure that at least 10 per cent of our farmland is dedicated to creating natural habitats and food for wildlife.

One particular animal that we pay special attention to here is the Turtle Dove, Europe’s only migrating dove. We are very fortunate that our farms both here and in the UK are in the direct migration flight path of the turtle dove, enabling us to help them on their way through much of their migratory journey. When I see one flying above the fields here in Portugal, I know that it’s very likely that another farmer on the ground in England will see the same bird as I do!

Turtle Dove 2 - Brin Hughes - Apr 2012 Steve's Leaves

A Turtle Dove on a Steve’s Leaves farm in Portugal

However, the Turtle Dove’s numbers have diminished by 96% since 1970, making it ever more important for companies such as ours to look after and preserve their natural migration habitats. Whilst the reasons for their diminishing numbers have not become entirely clear yet, one strong opinion is that it is caused by the loss of their breeding grounds here in Europe. This is just one of the reasons that we’re so proud to be a ‘Fair to Nature’ company, as it allows us to support the natural wildlife in whichever region we’re farming in.

The habitats created on ‘Fair to Nature’ farms like ours usually see up to 41% more birds, insects and mammal species than other areas, so Turtle Doves are able to settle on Steve’s Leaves farms as they migrate, without being in danger. As part of our ‘Fair to Nature’ promise, wild bird food crops are planted to attract and feed the birds, and in turn provide habitats and food for insects and small mammals, helping to preserve healthy natural cycles within our farms.

Scrub habitat in Portugal - Steve's Leaves

Scrub habitat on a Steve’s Leaves farm in Portugal – ideal for Turtle Doves!

For more information on Turtle doves and what we are doing to reverse the declines in their numbers, have a look at www.operationturtledove.org.

Species of the Month for May – the Turtle Dove

You can find out more about Steve’s Leaves commitment to Fair to Nature farming on their brand page.

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