Funnily enough, I saw my first Turtle Dove of the year yesterday morning, somewhere (I was lost actually) in deepest Suffolk. I was driving along a B-road (which, because this was Suffolk, felt like a C-road) and I was thinking about Turtle Doves and regretting the fact that I hadn’t seen one, when a Turtle Dove burst out (there is no other word for it), burst out, of a roadside bush and flew along in front of me for a few moments. Great!
And today the RSPB has released information on the journey of a Suffolk Turtle Dove called ‘Titan’ who was fitted with a satellite tag. The device shows that Titan is now back in Suffolk and spent the six months of the winter in Mali.
Flying mostly under the cover of darkness, Titan travelled around 500-700km per night flying at a maximum speed of 60km per hour.
Titan’s outbound journey to Africa, where he wintered for six months, took around a month to complete. On his return, he spent two weeks making his way through France, initially following the Atlantic coast (risking illegal spring shooting), before leaving from Dunkirk and touching down in Suffolk.
The last chapter of A Message from Martha is about the declines of farmland birds in the UK and Europe, particularly the Turtle Dove which has now declined by 96% since 1970, making it the UK’s fastest declining migrant bird.
It is hoped that information of this kind might help in the conservation of this declining bird. Previous research and that of the RSPB more recently, has shown that Turtle Doves produce rather few young when they nest in the UK, and also that they may be prone to disease. Life’s not easy for the Turtle Dove.