Oriental Turtle Dove

For years I had been working with birds that had been reported in Garden Watch in the end of January. There were always some impossible birds like Ortolan Buntings and then easy to misidentify birds like flocks of Linnets and of course plenty of Green Woodpeckers – which of course are always Grey-headed Woodpeckers. So mostly I have been deleting birds in Tiira, but sometimes I have been asking more information.

Now there was a report of a Turtle Dove in Joutseno, which had been reported several days after the watch. I immediately thought about an Oriental Turtle Dove but there is always a possibility that it could be a strange-looking Feral Dove, Fieldfare, or almost anything. But once again I asked more information in hope to get some response soon.

More than 24 hours later I got an email that the bird had still been seen in the garden and it was OK to go to check and identify it. With Pekka Punnonen we had planned to go to twitch an Oriental Turtle Dove to Hamina where one had been wintering, but after I got a couple of more responses to new emails that told that the bird had white tail-tip and brown head, I called to Pekka and told that we weren’t going to Hamina but to Joutseno which was much closer!

On the 3th of February early in the morning I drove to Joutseno Haukilahti where Pekka arrived also soon. We found the right garden and it looked good. There was a feeder close to a spruce-fence and there was a nice forest with pines, spruces and other trees nearby.

We soon met the lady that I had been in contact and after some talking I was quite sure there really was some kind of Turtle Dove. She stayed with us in the garden where we could see the feeder but also the surrounding well. There was a dog in the fence but luckily it got used to us soon and was quiet. We talked with the lady and the most surprising information was that the bird had been visiting the feeder since 30th of December! She also told that the bird arrived earliest at 9:30 but sometimes later about 11 a.m.

It was more that minus 10 degrees so soon we started to feel frozen. There were lots of birds visiting the feeder like tits, 5 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Blackbirds, Chaffinches (which seem to be everywhere this winter), several Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a White-backed Woodpecker. But the dove wasn’t seen.

Finally after 10 a.m. 2 Sparrowhawks flew over us and I saw a dove flushed from the pines next to us. But we saw the bird only through the trees, but anyway it looked very promising. It was big and quite narrow-winged. But it seemed to fly very far!

We were feeling very cold so Pekka did a couple of walks towards the direction where the dove had been flying but he found nothing. But then at 10:45 a.m. Pekka noticed that the dove had just landed to an apple-tree in front of us! And indeed it was a nice “meena” Oriental Turtle Dove!

I started to take pictures but soon the bird landed to the feeder where it was a bit behind snow all the time. I tried to get a little bit closer but still couldn’t get any better photos. But after some 10 minutes when also the lady had come to watch the bird with us, the bird flew back to the apple-tree right in front of me. So I managed to get really good pictures!

We put the news out and of course said many thanks to lady and of course we had told that there would be some twitchers coming soon. And in next 2 hours there were maybe 25 twitchers visiting the garden. The dove had flight back to the pine, but was well visible with scope, so everyone saw it. It was a new and 342th species to South-Karelia!

It was good to sees o many happy twitchers which some had been waiting for more than 20 years for this bird! When there was only one twitcher with us, we decided to go birding with “Potu” Suojarinne and Esa-Matti Lampinen who had also arrived.

We headed to Hyvättilä where we couldn’t find Collared Doves but heard a Grey-headed Woodpecker. Then we found nothing in Konnunsuo, so we headed to Lappeenranta. In Pappilanniemi we saw only a Black Woodpecker and in Luukkaansalmi a couple of Cormorants and a wintering Great Crested Grebe. Then it was already so late that I had to hurry to play a match once again.

J.A.