Our winter turtle dove!

Alison Gardner, Operation Turtle Dove Project Coordinator for the RSPB, writes….

On the 21 January the turtle dove hotline received an intriguing email from Mr Robert Briggs. He reported several garden visits by a TURTLE DOVE stating that this bird must be somewhat out of its comfort zone in his back garden in PEMBROKESHIRE!

It gets more exciting as Mr Briggs email went on to say it had been spotted ‘sitting on our bird feeders – photos (not brilliant due to being taken through two panes of glass) attached.’

Photo taken by Robert Briggs, Pembrokeshire

To my amazement there it was, the most unusual photo I had ever seen of a turtle dove surrounded by snow!

The office here at the RSPB Eastern Region was captivated by this fascinating turtle dove, who was meant to be warming in the hot arid sub-saharan Sahelian region of Africa. What an enduring hero our turtle dove could be! Much supposition has been banded around such as this bird being on migration and became ill before leaving the country OR an early migrant returning to the UK even. However, this could very well be an escaped captive bred turtle dove as further photographs showed some abrasions on the tail feathers, although it is most definitely not ringed.

It seems this resourceful dove is enjoying the seeds of other nearby gardens too as Lyndon Lomax, a keen birdwatcher, reported this sighting on the Pembrokeshire Birds Blog Spot http://pembsbirds.blogspot.co.uk/ on the 28th January. I believe he was alerted to the bird’s presence by Mrs Jenny Briggs…

Photo by Lyndon Lomax, Pembrokeshire

He goes on to say a winter turtle dove was last seen in December 2010 so this is not an anomaly it seems in these parts of Wales.  Also interesting is that it is spending time with a pair of collared doves. This photo was taken by Lyndon – what a turtle dove – heroically braving the freezing weather!

Here are some further photos and updates to the spectacular turtle dove braving temperatures against the odds!

Photo by Robert Briggs, Pembrokeshire

Wednesday 23 January – A forlorn appearance reported:

‘Our seemingly resident turtle dove appeared, looking rather forlorn, in our garden again at 3.30 this afternoon. It may well have popped in more regularly since I last emailed but given how grey and dismal the weather is currently we spend rather less time looking out on to the garden than usual and sitting out in our conservatory frightens off most birds so we view from further indoors.’

Sadly the turtle dove did not visit the garden on the weekend of the Big Garden Bird Watch which Mr & Mrs Briggs were disappointed about. What a record that would of been towards their submission!

31 January – It seems that our turtle dove is taking refuge somewhere as Mr Briggs reported windy weather over the last few days which would put most doves off coming into the open regularly.

08 February – The turtle dove has moved to new feeding area as it has not been seen for several days but it seems to have been visiting a nearby neighbour fairly regularly.

09 Feb – Then we receive this wonderful update with more photos! Mr Briggs writes:

Photo by Robert Briggs, Pembrokeshire

Our final sighting was on Wednesday the 13 February confirming that the turtle dove is definitely not ringed and has a few feathers missing,

‘Just to keep you up to date….. Turtle dove appeared at 09.40 yesterday and again at 12.40, staying for about 15 minutes on the second occasion. This morning it was back at 09.00, again looking for food round the base of our bird feeders.

Further to a question you posed some days ago, the bird is definitely not ringed now that we’ve seen it walking about in the garden rather than sitting on fences, in trees etc. 

We do wonder if it is missing a few feathers on its left wing, but it doesn’t have any problems flying. Weather terrible today so our friend is looking a bit bedraggled.  Hopefully we’ll have some brighter days and even better views.

The turtle dove was on its own this morning and yesterday (jackdaws and a wood pigeon apart), but it has been seen with collared doves on other occasions.’

We aim to keep you posted on our turtle dove’s appearance in Pembrokeshire so watch this space!

If you have a similar stories of any wintering turtle doves please do email me at turtledove@rspb.org.uk