While I was emptying my moth trap this morning (a bit of a joke because there were only four moths), I momentarily thought I heard a Turtle Dove. I normally trust my ears when they send this sort of message but this morning I decided that I was mistaken as I didn't hear it again.
The Sparrowhawk stopped by again this morning, but unfortunately as he was having a shuffle, and I hoped was going to have a preen, the postman arrived and it flew off, at the noise of some letters dropping through the letter box. The picture is through glass so It isn't as sharp as I would like.
Soon after I looked out and saw a Turtle Dove feeding on the ground, underneath the sunflower seed feeders. As you can see the grass needs cutting and the Buttercups are doing well. As far as I can remember this is the first Turtle Dove I've seen in the garden, as opposed to the one or two fly-overs before. This time I managed to ease the window open, giving a clearer view.
I was quite happy among the Feral Pigeons that make a nuisance of themselves in the garden.but flew off when something disturbed them. Once it had gone, I didn't expect it to return and I took the opportunity t get the lawn mower out. This beautiful little dove has suffered a major decline and it a Red Data species as the population has dropped by over 50% in the last 10 years.
The decline has occurred at the same time as decreases in the numbers and/or range of other farmland birds which share its diet of grass and weed seeds. It is therefore likely that its decline may be due, at least in part, to changes in agricultural practice such as the increased use of herbicides and fertilisers, which have reduced the quantity and variety of wildflowers on arable land.
Turtle doves nest in large hedges and mature scrub, and also retreat to the safety of this dense vegetation when disturbed. The loss of features such as overgrown hedgerows and hawthorn thickets on farmland is likely to have had an adverse effect on the population.
As a long-distance migrant, the turtle dove faces threats, particularly from hunting, outside the UK. It is heavily shot in France and the Iberian peninsula. Tens of thousands of birds are also shot in their wintering areas, mainly Senegal, and many more are killed on migration through Morocco.