This morning, early, I paid a visit to the workplace of one of my favourite farmers: Duncan Farrington’s place down the road from me, the home of the Mellow Yellow range.
Those who have read the last chapter of A Message from Martha might have guessed what my visit was about, and yes, I was looking and listening for Turtle Doves, and no, I didn’t see or hear any. But there may be some lurking around – they are quite elusive when at low densities.
But it was a lovely walk with 28 species entered onto Birdtrack, including my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year (Lockdown, you know) and Yellowhammer, Yellow Wagtail, Linnets and lots of Skylarks. There were plenty of Woodpigeons and Stock Doves, and Collared Doves around the buildings, but no purrrrrring Turtle Doves that I could hear.
Duncan is a LEAF farmer and I always learn a lot talking to him – we met briefly as I got back to the car and had a quick chat about how he is increasing soil carbon on the farm, how the farm had no rain at all in May (and could it come quickly please?) and about how we’d both be really pleased if either of us found a Turtle Dove.
I’ve made visits here to look for Turtle Doves on and off for c14 years. I startedas a volunteer observer for the RSPB Volunteer/Farmer Alliance project (yes, I was Conservation Director at the time but it wasn’t part of my job) and was able to tell Duncan that he had a really good range of birds on his land including one of the few remaining pairs of Turtle Dove in Northants. I don’t have those original records but my last six Birdtrack lists for Duncan’s place, all in spring, provide 42 species in all. Pretty good going compared with my not-very-far-away BBS site.
Maybe I’ll be back on other mornings listening for purrrring Turtle Doves, but I think Duncan would rather that my birding were rained off.