Hoping for a summer full of Turtle doves

A post by Operation Turtle Dove supporter, Dawn Monrose…

My passion for conservation and wildlife stems from an early encounter with a Turtle dove. I was around 16 years old, already with a strong interest in nature, when one day a different bird appeared at the feeding station we’d set up at our family home. Delicately patterned in rich colours, small and shy, I recognised it from my Collins bird book: my first ever Turtle dove. That breathless moment of amazement when I realised what I’d seen will stay with me forever, and has been my inspiration for photographing wildlife.

Reading about this remarkable bird I realised just how threatened it was, having suffered a dramatic decline. I felt moved, moved to act, an urgent need to protect this beautiful creature. I kept a diary of the Turtle dove’s comings and goings, and my joy was doubled when a second bird appeared. I kept notes on their behaviour and feeding routine and was delighted when they became more used to us – we could sit quietly on the patio watching them. That soft purring song breathing out of the hedgerow will always take me back to those warm summer days, listening and waiting for that special bird to make an appearance.

Scroll forward to today, and I’m in the privileged position of having been able to watch and photograph Turtle doves in my own garden. Today I know, as I gaze out at the snow covered fields, they’re on their way back. The bird with tortoiseshell feathers that brings the essence of summer to our country is making an epic migration, and in a few weeks that dainty slice of the African Savannah will be glowing in the green British countryside once again. I hope I’ll be able to watch and photograph them again this year. As a mini-experiment I’m carefully growing some of the Turtle dove’s favourite weeds in the very same garden as my first encounter. When they arrive they’ll be looking for food and a safe place to nest, and by working together we can help them. I’m growing a variety of plants including Fumitory, which is a favoured food source, and like previous years I’ll be choosing a bird feed that includes plenty of small seeds like millet, hemp seed, linseed and canary seed.

This summer, keep your ears open and listen out for that distinctive musical purring song, and watch out for a small exotic looking dove in a field margin, hedgerow or garden. If you spot one of these beautiful birds don’t forget to share your sighting with Operation Turtle Dove, and help protect this bird’s future.

You can follow my adventures in wildlife photography (and hopefully a summer full of Turtle doves) here: http://dawnmonrose.co.uk/blog/