Last Chance To See?

Turtle Dove by the finder Chris Piner

Never start with an apology, but sorry for the highly unoriginal post title. It references the excellent radio series and book by the late Douglas Adams and Mark Cawardine seeking out endangered wildlife. Those of you younger than me may better remember the remake with Stephen Fry replacing the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy author. Anyway, it’s intended as homage, rather than plagiarism.

You may have got where this is going. On Friday Chris Piner found a Turtle Dove on the outskirts of Blackpool at Todderstaffe Hall. Turtle Doves are increasingly rare in Lancashire, come to that they are disappearing nationally. There hasn’t been one locally for several years and it was therefore not to be ignored as you never know if and when there will be another.

I was a bit surprised to see warnings needing to go out asking people to stick to the footpaths. I’ve covered the area a bit in the past and it would never occur to me to leave the footpaths. Almost invariably somebody seems to feel the need to get a better view or better picture these days, or just can’t be patient enough to wait for the bird to return. A friend found a small group near Scarborough recently and these issues regrettably surfaced to some degree there also.

That said I didn’t need to wait around to see this particular bird. I parked sensibly at the start of the entrance road and walked in. On the way I inadvertently flushed the Turtle Dove, a couple of Stock Doves and several Woodpigeon from a stubble field behind the hedgerow before it dropped down out of sight again. This seemed too good to be true, but reaching a gate I was able to scan back and confirm the identity before something flushed the birds and the Turtle Dove headed back towards the hall.

Changes in agricultural practice haven’t helped British Turtle Doves. But the bottom line is that numbers are crashing as they are indiscriminately shot in some countries on their migration path. If you are interested in finding out more a good starting point is the website http://www.operationturtledove.org where you can also make a donation to help save this species in Britain. Having just revisited this species for the first time in several years that’s what I am now going to do.

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