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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New kids on the block

  • May 21, 2014 9:09 pm

It’s that time of year when you might start seeing some strange new birds in your garden. Newly fledged youngsters often look very different from their parents. This baby Starling for example looks totally unrelated to the dark, glossy, iridescent adult birds. Yet they fly together in formation, adults leading their offspring to the feeder and showing them what to do, the youngsters chattering and squawking, eagerly awaiting a titbit offered by it’s parent.

Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, juvenile perched on bird feeder, Norfolk, May



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A few birds

  • February 22, 2014 10:41 pm

A quick round up of this weeks photography, I’ve been trying out a new lens combination and I’m thoroughly impressed. What do you think?

Blackbird, Turdus merula, male perched on garden fence, Norfolk, UK

Black headed gull, Chroicocephalus ridibundus, close up, coast, Norfolk, UK

Jackdaw, Corvus monedula, perched on wooden fence, coast, Norfolk, UK

Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, perched on wire fence, Norfolk, Winter plumage, UK

All of these were taken using Nikon’s 300mm f/2.8 G IF-ED VR and TC-17E II Teleconverter. It’s an extremely well balanced set up, much more manageable than my current Sigma 500mm f4.5 lens which I find rather ‘top heavy’. The sharpness and quality are excellent and it focuses quickly and quietly. The other benefit of course, of using arguably Nikon’s sharpest ever lens with a converter is that the minimum focussing distance is maintained, meaning it effectively becomes a 500mm lens that focuses down to just 2.3 meters, compared with the 4 meters of the Sigma 500mm, great for little birds, and great for getting creative.

I’m really pleased with the results from this very flexible combination, I just wish I had longer than one week to play with it!

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Snow Robin

  • February 3, 2013 4:50 pm

Here’s one from the garden back when it was snowy.

Robin, Erithacus rubecula, in snow, Norfolk, Winter

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Happy New Year!

  • January 6, 2013 5:37 pm

Happy New Year to you all!

Despite the grey weather today, I just had to get out with the camera – the reason? Well a lovely shiny new lens!

Now the folks who know me will know I’m not that much of a ‘gear-head’ and I’m a firm believer in that it’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with it that counts. So for many years I’ve been using the Nikon Nikkor 500mm f4 P lens, and in fact the majority of the photos on my website were taken with this lens. This lens was produced in 1988 (I would have been about 4 years old!) and is manual focus only, it’s a fantastic bit of glass and was the only decent 500mm lens I could afford at the time. It’s served me very well over the years, but the manual focus and resulting quantity of missed shots was often frustrating, so I’ve been long overdue for an upgrade. Enter stage right my sleek new Sigma 500m f4.5 EX APO and all the other random letters lenses seem have attached. It’s autofocus! For the wildlife photographers reading, I went for the Sigma over the Nikon for several reasons, mainly that funds wouldn’t quite stretch to the Nikon (it’s waaay more expensive than the Sigma), but the image quality compares very favourably according to the reviews and the Sigma focuses slightly closer and is more compact and lighter than it’s Nikon counterpart. The Nikon has VR (Vibration reduction) and the Sigma doesn’t, but I didn’t consider that a good reason to spend all that extra money. So I overcame my brand faithfulness and went for the Sigma.

I haven’t had much of a chance to test it out properly yet, but after a brief session in the garden with the birds I’m thoroughly chuffed with it so far! Even with the grey conditions, it focuses super quickly and quietly and is beautifully sharp. I can’t wait to get out and try it properly, but for now:

Great tit, Parus major, perched on branch with lichen, Norfolk, January

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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!

Turtle Dove

  • May 19, 2011 9:30 pm

What an absolute privilege to have these birds visiting the garden. I can’t believe after all these years I’ve finally managed to get some photos of one!

I decided this afternoon to try photographing them, but I didn’t hold out much hope as they are nervous birds. I settled down, lying on the lawn covered by my camouflage, plus some scrim, and hidden by a bush. I needn’t have worried really, as within ten minutes this beautiful dove dropped down in front of me. After checking me out, he/she happily settled down to feed on the lawn. Brilliant!

I got a number of shots, picking and choosing when to press the shutter, so as not to spook him. Eventually the sun came out…

After having his fill of the spilt seed, he calmly flew off back to the hedgerow. So hopefully I might be able to get more photos later.

I’m chuffed to bits, it’s amazing to see these birds, let alone photograph them.

Turtle doves have declined by 70% since 1995. That’s a huge amount! And this delicate dove flies across the Sahara desert to reach it’s wintering grounds. There’s an interesting article in the latest edition of the RSPB’s ‘Birds’ magazine about the migration of Turtle doves and our other migrants. Also there is currently a project to find out more about these migrant birds in their wintering grounds, called Migrants in Africa. (Click to visit their blog.)

A few other birds also posed for me, including the Robin, who is looking a bit scruffy at the moment!

And finally a Woodpigeon…



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