Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 9 May 2016

Ashill, Norfolk

Every year in May I visit a site outside of the village of Ashill for the purpose of locating one of our sadly, most severely declining summer migrants, the Turtle Dove.  For many years now the site in question has produced singing and displaying birds, and this morning this was my intended target species.
Yellowhammer at Ashill 09/05/16
It was pleasing this morning to see good numbers of singing and displaying Whitethroats with 6+ birds noted.  One Lesser Whitethroat was heard and it was interesting to see the differing habitat requirements of the two species. Whitethroats are happy with low hedges with nettle and other long cover to nest in, whereas Lesser Whitethroats choose taller 'untidy' hedges with more mature tree species within.
Yellowhammers were well represented with several pairs seen, also seen was a female bird carrying a beak full of dried grasses for nesting materials.

Several Collared Doves were calling, lots of Wood Pigeons about, and a pair of Stock Doves were seen at my intended destination, I stood and waited.  The wind was stronger than recent days, and although very warm, I had to listen carefully.  A couple of Willow Warblers also sang.  Then, at 0700, I raised a smile when I heard within this bird song the familiar "turrr turrr" song of Turtle Dove.  This beautiful and extremely welcome song was heard on a number of occasions, I was also treated to a brief view of a Turtle Dove in flight.  
My walk back continued with thoughts of this Turtle Dove and what this bird has overcome to reach our shores.  As well as natural obstacles, this species is a favourite quarry of hunters around much of the Mediterranean, and I have read very sad accounts of millions of these gorgeous birds being killed each year.
Much literature is written about the plight of this, the worlds only migratory Pigeon/Dove species.  It is sadly a rare bird in Britain now.  I hope their fortunes change.


  1. Hi Paul....
    the Turtle Doves came in late this year, but ours made it back again... that purring song was heard by both of us on Friday last... and despite some pretty appalling weather here, have been whirring away all week... it is one of my favourite songs...along with the "wurble-wurble" of the bee-eater...

    The Turtle Dove has an extremely "clipped" wing beat... I call it the racing dove! Very fast, economical flight style... evolved for distance and stamina!!
    We have Collared Doves here, too... and whilst a close relative, they are far mor loose-winged.
    I haven't commented much recently, but have been reading...
    spending too much time looking at 45second bursts of video from the camera traps.

    We have watervoles on film and the Barn Owls who have evicted the Tawnies from the Barn Owl box... and are very busy!!
    We aren't sure if the eviction was a forced one... or whether the Barnies took over once the Tawnies had left... I haven't found the correct set of clips, yet!
    But give me time....
    Good birding,

  2. Turtle Doves are few and far between on my patch Tim....sad to say. I always raise a smile and a "welcome back" under my breath, however, as we know, come Autumn migration, the journey of this beautiful species is a dangerous one sadly.
    Yes, the Turtle Dove flight has as you say evolved for undertaking long journeys, its speed is undoubtedly what gives the those that shoot these beautiful birds their challenge sadly.
    I am very glad that you have Water Voles. I see them occasionally on the patch...a welcome species indeed.
    My thoughts are that the Barn Owls probably waited for the Tawny Owls to leave, given that Tawnies are probably more powerful....I look forward to see your findings from your clips.
    Thanks once again for your post Tim and good birding also.