In September, shortly following the suspension of Turtle Dove hunting in France, ‘Jos’ left his Dutch breeding grounds in Zeeland and headed south. The journey to his wintering grounds in the Sub-Saharan Sahel region of Africa took him over the Mediterranean, Atlas Mountains and the Sahara – a one-way trip of 4200km, taking 17 days. Since he arrived in the Sahel, Jos has spent the bulk of his time at 2 different locations, both along the Senegal River and its tributaries.
Turtle Doves from Western Europe follow what is known as the ‘Western Flyway’, which goes through France, Spain and Morocco. Suitable wintering habitat needs to have food, water and good roosting locations. Doves tend to use acacia scrub and trees for roosting, and research indicates that crops such as peanut, sorghum and millet, and natural scrubby grassland could be important to the species. If any one of these 3 things is missing, Turtle Doves quickly move on to other areas.
Many Turtle Doves spend the winter around the Senegal River and surrounding area, which we can see reflected in Jos’ movements. The Senegal River basin spans 4 countries (Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal) and, for the large part, has a sub-Saharan desert climate. Peanut, millet and sorghum make up a large proportion of the agriculture here, while acacia grows along the river banks, and on drier slopes. Furthermore, irrigated rice paddies in the Senegal River Valley result in spilt rice grains after the harvest – an important food source for Turtle Doves during drought. It’s little wonder this area is popular with overwintering Turtle Doves.
If all goes well, Jos will spend Christmas 2020 in this same area.
Join us in following Jos via our online map: https://www.zomertortels.nl/
Photo: Daniel Triveau, Flickr