Turtle Dove

  • September 7, 2015 8:27 pm

What a privilege to have this bird visiting the garden. He was still around this weekend, and really feeding up before his long flight south. The slightly better weather meant I could get some more photos, although I’m yet to catch him in the sun. It’s not going to be long before he departs, but I’m already planning for next year. This year I planted a small native wildlflower meadow, which has been brilliant for the bees and other insects, but next year I’m going to make it more Turtle Dove friendly and add some more of their food plants like Red Clover, Common Vetch, and Black Medick, and continue to encourage the Fumitory which has grown rampantly this year.

Here’s the Turtle dove with a Collared dove in front, the Collared dove is actually the larger species, but this young one looks smaller as it crouches feeding in the grass.




For an advisory sheet on how you could help Turtle doves in your garden, follow this link: http://operationturtledove.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Turtle-Dove-Advisory-Sheet-Gardens.pdf

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At Last

  • August 31, 2015 1:10 pm

As regular readers will know, the Turtle Dove is a bird very close to my heart. It was the bird that inspired my passion for all things wild, and an equal passion for it’s conservation.

Since June, I’ve had this remarkable bird visiting the garden, but have struggled with time and light to actually get a photo. Today, well it’s a typical rainy bank holiday Monday, but for once I’m glad. For some reason, the Turtle Dove visits more frequently in wet conditions, perhaps the garden is a more comfortable place to find food on days like today.

So at last, hunkered down under my hide in the rain, Robin singing from the hedge and all legs and arms completely numb, the Turtle Dove drops down from the neighbours Walnut tree to feed on the seed I’ve scattered for it. I almost feel relived to see this bird in the viewfinder, and despite the dire lighting, I manage to get a photo.

It’s behaviour is interesting too, associating with the slightly bolder Collared Doves, but not letting it’s diminutive size stop it from getting a good meal. Frequently it pushes the larger Collared Doves off the food with a softly scolding ‘Tchoo’ noise as it hops towards them, a noise I’ve never heard before.

Soon this dainty little dove will be on his way to Africa in an incredible 5,600km migration to where he’ll spend the winter, travelling at speeds up to 60km per hour, he’ll even cross the Sahara Desert. These beautiful birds are in real trouble. The population has declined by a massive 91% since the 1970’s, and we are in real danger of losing this wonderful bird, the sound of the Summer.

For more information, and a map following the route of a satelite tracked Turtle Dove click: HERE

And of course, lots of interesting things and how everyone can help over at the Operation Turtle Dove website: HERE

Turtle Dove, Streptopelia turtur, garden lawn, August, Summer, Norfolk

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Dove Step

  • January 3, 2014 7:33 pm

Happy New Year to you all!

I just wanted to make you aware of a fantastic group of people, who will be walking 300 miles to raise money and awareness to save the Turtle Dove. A subject very close to my heart as regular readers will know. Turtle Doves had a terrible year last year, and we need to do all that we can to save this incredible bird.

So take a look at the Dove Step website here: http://dovestep.wordpress.com/

And finally a bit of Turtle Dove eye candy for you all:

Turtle dove, Streptopelia turtur, on garden lawn


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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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Two Turtle Doves

  • December 18, 2012 9:10 pm

Just a quick midweek update, you can purchase these chocolate Turtle Doves, made by Chocally, in support of Operation Turtle Dove.

Take a look here: Chocolate Turtle Doves

They look delicious!



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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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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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  • July 11, 2012 9:47 pm

Those who have followed my blog for sometime will remember that last year our garden was graced by the presence of a pair of Turtle doves. This year, as May approached, I waited with baited breath to see if they would return. They did, only to leave again for a while, perhaps just passing through. A few weeks later another returned, and we have had infrequent visits ever since. Frustratingly I haven’t had the time (or good weather!) to try and photograph them, and when I have tried a bird hating neighbour often shoos all the birds away. Each to their own I suppose, but I can’t understand that attitude when a very special rarity – the Turtle dove – is visiting your garden. To me it’s a real privilege to see this bird. Anyway, I finally had a chance tonight, and after a fair wait this beauty dropped down to feed.

The harsh light was pretty tricky and I had to work hard for these shots, but what a treat to get this bird in the viewfinder.

Somehow I also feel relieved, this is a bird on the brink, so to see it again means it’s still hanging on. There’s a small article in this month’s BBC Wildlife magazine on the Turtle dove, and the reality is it’s future is bleak – “the bird species most likely to become extinct in the UK over the next decade.” Could it be that my children won’t ever see a Turtle dove in the UK? The RSPB is trying hard to save this bird, but having declined by a staggering 91% over the last 40 years it’s going to be tough.

Laying there, enjoying this little birds company, a whistle of wings overhead alerted me to the approach of a Stock dove. A new bird for the garden, a pair of them have overcome their fears and are making regular visits. This one was too busy eating to even look at the camera.

These lovely, rather shy birds seem to be doing well around here. From a distance they seem quite plain, but they have a beautiful slick of iridescent green and purple on their necks that makes them quite attractive up close.

Fingers crossed I’ll find the time for more Turtle dove photos…

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Down at the bottom of the garden

  • July 1, 2011 6:12 pm

Tried an early start in the garden yesterday, the light was really nice. Also tried out a new hidey hole, the same bush, but the other side. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze, but the birds seem more relaxed!

Here’s a Collared Dove,

This young Blackbird kept me company for a while,


Finally the Turtle Dove put in a brief appearance, but seemed rather nervous today.

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Teased by the Turtle Dove

  • June 2, 2011 2:00 pm

Well the last few days have been pretty frustrating. Attempting to get some more photos of the Turtle dove, but not doing very well!

A mix of sunshine and showers have made for interesting and difficult lighting conditions. Here are a few that I’ve managed to process today, still got more to go through though.

The local Robin has been keeping me company whilst waiting for the Turtle dove to appear.

A couple of young Greenfinches have also been hanging around. You can see in this photo that the light was really poor, and it was raining too, I would have liked to get both youngsters in focus, but couldn’t get a quick enough shutter speed.

After teasing me with his soft melodic purring song from the hedgerow the Turtle dove eventually put in an appearance in the rain.

Only to disappear a few seconds later, spooked by my neighbour. You should just be able to make out a rain drop in the background… (Click for a larger view.)

But the Robin came back.

The Turtle dove did eventually return in slightly better light.

Get outta the way Woodpigeon!!!

Still a few more from the garden to go through…


And here they are…

This female Chaffinch and her mate are the latest visitors to the new feeding station.

A fledgling House Sparrow – you can still see the yellow gape. Siblings in the background. It’s a treat for me to see House Sparrows around, as where I used to live we didn’t have any.

Anyone bored of Robin photos yet? My composition went completely wrong with this shot, with the Robin right in the centre of the frame, but I liked the pose and lighting and it’s nice and sharp, so it seemed a waste to bin it. So I cropped from the right, so the birds position in the frame was better, and then extended the canvas on the left by the same amount that I’d cropped, and used PhotoShop’s ‘content aware’ tools to copy the background. The content aware tools do a really great job. Saved this shot anyway!

Trying for the Turtle doves again tonight…. Fingers crossed!


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