Sunday, 20 October 2013

Turtle Doves - Extinct in my Lifetime?

Seeing as Mark Avery has been kind enough to share my badger homework today, I thought I might do his Sunday book review.

A few days ago when I got home from school I got in and found what looked to be a very old book on my kitchen table,. It had been given to me by a generous man called Stephen Entwistle who buys and sells old books. Anyway I looked inside and it was filled with records and pictures of birds recorded by a lady called Rita Howell. She lived on a farm on the Wirral in Cheshire.

It must of been her pride and joy because there were feathers and all sorts pressed in it, there were even the crest feathers from a lapwing.

Here is the front page of the book, it was originally a bird guide, but the lady put all her records in at the top of the page of the birds she had seen and the dates she saw those particular species. I can imagine her walking across those chalk fields and lifting her bins up and being in wonder at watching those birds.

When I was talking about her pressing feathers she had collected these spectacular Barn Owl Feathers.

But the most interesting thing for me is that when I had a flick through the book I realised two birds that she saw regularly in her days, but now are not far of extinct in the UK the Cuckoo and the most amazing Turtle Dove.

I have never seen a Cuckoo or Turtle Dove before, but in 1962 Rita was seeing them in the fields of Cheshire. So are they in such a bad state that it is to late to bring them back or can we all work together to help them come back?

Our World Tuesday

Wild Bird Wednesday


  1. That book is a very important bird book - it was my first and the same for many other birders of my generation no doubt, I still have it at my parent's house though not with any pressed feathers and I'd have been told off for writing in it. I do keep a notebook of all the garden wildlife which I will hide somewhere for future owners to find.
    I do hope turtle doves come back to the north west their purring is the quintessential sound of summer - really miss my Norfolk days when they were common in the fields around my house.

    Keep up the good work



  2. I totally agree with above comment, the cooing of the turtle doves is a wonderful sound. Both the cuckoo and the doves seem to be plentiful here in Australia I'm pleased to say..

  3. Hi Finley What a wonderful gift and it will be great for you to go though it to see the differences in bird species and numbers from years ago and today. It is very sad to see the decline in these birds. The BTO are doing research into the Cuckoos and until a few years ago they did not know what routes they took to Africa or where they settled there in the winter. If you go to their archives, you will learn what they are continuing to learn about these birds and how things can be improved. I personally have never seen a Turtle Dove as they do not come to Northern Ireland although I have seen one on the continent. Keep up the good work. Margaret

  4. Findlay that looks like a great book, when you get some spare time have a look at

  5. I too had that book when I was your age Findlay and my mums still got it.
    I only saw one Cuckoo this year by the River Weaver at Acton Bridge.. my first for a couple of years.

  6. what a neat book and gift! i hope you will be able to see them some day.

    (that was a chickadee photo-bombing my painted bunting - very much like your coal tits)

  7. What an amazing gift you received. I've got that book myself, although it's the revised edition of 1965. Interesting to note that in yours it contains 236 species, and in mine 243.
    Sadly I think the way things are going, the Turtle Dove may well become extinct in your lifetime. I used to see them most summers when I was your age, but this year was the first time in about 3 years.
    Hopefully the new wave of wildlife enthusiasts like yourself, will be able to reverse the unfortunate trend and hunting habits of some parts of the world, before it is too late.

  8. Hi Fin, saw a Turtle Dove at Leasowe Lighthouse not long back (1st one I've seen for yonks) a rarity on the Wirral !! Also seen lots of Cuckoos at Llyn Brenig which is an amazing place to go birding :) get your mum or dad to take you next summer and maybe me and Shaun will come along. Great to have these old books with records that have been kept so meticulously.

  9. Great review Findlay,lots of birders would love to read it.

  10. Those old Observers Books really were very good in their time. I've only got two left - Butterflies and Caterpillars.

    The situation with Turtle Doves is extremely sad, and I also fear that Cuckoos will go the same way, although they do seem to be doing quite well in Scotland, which is where I've seen them most in the last few years.

    Turtle Doves used to be always on the wires at Rutland Water between the Lyndon Visitor Centre and Waderscrape Hide where we do the Osprey monitoring in summer. I'm sorry to say that they've not been there for about four or five years now.

    Keep up the good work.

    Best regards to the family - Richard

  11. Wow Findlay you have obviously left a good impression on Mr Entwistle. How very kind of him leaving you this book..... it now belongs to another generation who will carry it forward. Rita Howell will be very pleased indeed.

  12. What a wonderful gift! With such talent and ardor at your age, YOU are our best hope for maintaining species in peril.

    We wish you all the best!