I was in our kitchen just finishing off a cup of coffee with my VLW when a text came through from Ian Lewington, our esteemed county recorder, saying that the oriental turtle dove that had been seen in someone's garden in Chipping Norton in December had turned up again in another garden in the same town. The address was given and it was £5 "entry fee" towards a bird charity. I needed no further encouragement and immediately set about getting my gear in the car. My VLW had been wanting to go to Chipping Norton to look at an antiques centre there anyway so she decided to come along and it was a little under half an hour later that she dropped me off by the road in question before she drove back to park in town and to look at her antiques.
There were road works at the top of the road but as I hurried down the road I soon spied Ian standing out in the road, checking to see whether the bird would be viewable from outside the house at all (which it wouldn't). He was helping the house owner plan the forthcoming tidal wave of twitchers that would be unleashed once the news was out. Ian ushered me into the kitchen were there were already assembled the usual hardcore county birders. I noted that for once I'd actually managed to arrive at a county twitch before Badger who is usually one of the first off the mark though he turned up a matter of minutes later. It was a very genial atmosphere in the kitchen and the bird was showing so well that everyone was very relaxed and chilled.
The bird was initially preening in an apple tree in the middle of the garden and so I took some video footage to be getting on with.
Having a preen in the tree
After a short while it flew down to the bottom of the bird feeders not more than 5 yards from where we were watching and proceeded to hunt for feeder spill on the ground. It wandered around in a very unconcerned manner on the lawn, quite oblivious to how cripplingly rare it was and looking contented and much smarter than in the fuzzy photo's I'd seen of it in December. The main problem was it was far too close for me to indulge in my usual digiscoping photographic efforts! I managed one half decent shot and then gave up and used my point and shoot camera instead. The "proper" photographers were loading up on wonderful frame-filling mega porn but here are my dodgy efforts for what they're worth.
OK, here comes the science bit: what makes an oriental turtle dove as opposed to a European one is as follows:
- The primary projection to tail projection ratio is 1 to 1. European TD has a longer primaries relative to the tail projection
- The dark grey/purple hues of the chest and breast: European TD has more pink colouring
- The head is more uniform in colouring; ETD has more contrast in the head
- The primary coverts are dark with very narrow tips; ETD has broaded buff tips
- Darker feather centres than ETD
- Narrow pale wing bars formed from pale tips to coverts
- Uniform dark grey back and rump; ETD usually has some brown in there
- the grey outer tail colouring of orientalis as opposed to white for meena
- the grey undertail coverts which would be white in meena
Photo showing the grey outer tail feather and UTC's that make it orientalis as opposed to meena
It's flukey finds such as this which make birding so interesting and it was wonderful to see such a crippling mega at such close quarters and so conveniently close to home!