Where are they?

  • August 4, 2013 1:28 pm

I was hoping for a Summer full of Turtle doves, but sightings have been few and far between. They are in real trouble, last years wet Summer meant a disastrous breeding season for them, and numbers are very low this year. Conservationists are concerned that this year could see the lowest numbers of Turtle doves ever. Read more HERE.

So is this the beginning of the end for this bird in the UK? Well, hopefully not. This years hot, sunny Summer couldn’t be more different than last year, so with any luck they’ll have more success raising their young. But this is a bird on the brink, and we need to take action now to help it.

My Turtle dove border is looking, well, weedy, but that’s how it should be. The warm weather has encouraged the plants to go to seed, and that’s exactly what the birds want. The Common Vetch has been a fascinating plant, in May the foliage unfurled like miniature palm leaves.

Common Vetch, Vicia sativa, emerging leaf, Norfolk, May, close up

The flowers proved attractive to ants as well as bees.

Ant on Common Vetch, Vicia sativa, close up of flower, Norfolk, May

Now, the plants have produced long black seedpods, which slowly twist open revealing the fresh, speckled seed inside.

Common Vetch, Vicia sativa, seedpod, Norfolk, August

Common Vetch, Vicia sativa, seedpod, Norfolk, August, close up

If you want to help save this iconic farmland bird there are things you can do. If you own a garden in a rural area, then why not set aside a patch for a wildflower meadow, being sure to include seed rich plants like vetch, red and white clover and the Turtle dove’s favourite – Fumitory. For more information on what we can do in our gardens and farmland, you can download an advisory sheet HERE. There are plenty of other ways to help too, you can donate to the project, or buy Nature Friendly Products by following these links.
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UK & Eire Natural History Bloggers

Bee Kind

  • July 28, 2013 4:15 pm

Usual Sunday morning chores interrupted today when I noticed a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee sitting on the kitchen windowsill, she must have got stuck indoors the previous evening. She dived into the offered teaspoon of honey, allowing me a photo opportunity.


Many people regard bees rather warily, but they are fascinating and important creatures. Bumblebee’s are normally very docile, interested only in buzzing from flower to flower. This bee clearly needed to refuel as she greedily lapped up nearly half a teaspoon of honey with her incredibly long tongue. As she drank I gently stroked her back with my fingertip, her fur was so soft and silky, like a moles velvety coat, but softer still.

Once she’d had enough, she went for a test flight around the living room, looping around in a large lazy circle to get her bearings and hovering back over the honey. Though they look rather unsteady in flight, they are actually quite agile and accurate in the air. Taking her to the window on the spoon I released her, and she completed a circuit of the garden before buzzing purposefully off down the hedgerow.

To find out more about Bumblebees and what you can do to help them, visit: http://bumblebeeconservation.org/

And why not take the Bee Kind quiz to see how bee friendly your garden is, and get handy tips on how to make it even better for them.


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UK & Eire Natural History Bloggers

Project Turtle Dove

  • November 27, 2012 10:08 pm

As I write, it’s cold and dark and the rain is dripping down the window. The grey damp chill of a British winter is a far cry away from the heat of the savannah, which is where I imagine our Turtle doves are currently enjoying hours of hot sunshine every day. They are spending the winter in sub-Saharan Africa, but I’m looking forward to next May, when they’ll be returning here to breed.

Inspired by Operation Turtle Dove, I’ve started my own project to help these dramatically declining birds.

So, I’m growing some weeds. The Turtle dove’s diet is made up predominantly of the small seeds of weeds, and in our intensively managed agricultural land, they are struggling to find enough quality food to eat. What is a weed anyway? A plant in the wrong place? A pest? A wild flower? For a Turtle Dove, and a host of other animals, it’s a food source. Which is why, with the same tenderness that I’ll be sowing my tomato plant seeds with in the spring, I’ve carefully planted several seed trays with a Turtle dove’s favourite food.

Fumitory, a Turtle dove staple. (Have you ever tried to photograph your own hand? – It’s really difficult!) I’ve also sown Red and White Clover, Black Medic, and Common Vetch.

My Mum has very kindly donated a sunny corner of her garden for Project Turtle Dove to take place. Right now, it’s just a bare patch of soil, but in the spring I’ll plant out the weed seedlings and hopefully lend a helping hand to the local Turtle doves.

Watch this space for updates!



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UK & Eire Natural History Bloggers

Operation Turtle Dove

  • October 3, 2012 6:29 pm

Regular readers will know I have a real passion for this wonderful rare bird. I’ve just heard about Operation Turtle Dove – a three year project to reverse the decline of the Turtle dove. The project is a partnership between the RSPB, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, Natural England, and Conservation Grade. For more information visit their website: http://operationturtledove.org/

They need our help – Turtle Dove sightings can be submitted to the hotline on 01603 697527 or emailed to turtledove@rspb.org.uk

To support the project, you can donate via: http://operationturtledove.org/how-you-can-help/making-a-donation

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