This bird had been giving the Kent birders the run around for quite a while! They knew it was in the area of a small estate in Otford but the precise location was a mystery! Thanks to some great detective work a small group located the bird at the weekend after establishing it was mostly being seen before 9am and after 5ish in the evening. Now we don’t need Oriental Turtle Dove having seen the Chipping Norton orientalis but this one was meena the more western race, now these are an unlikely split but we find ourselves more and more inclined to seeing all the different taxa rather than worrying about species! Plus its still a very rare bird in the UK. Now this one had given itself up we decided to take a run down to the deep south.
The journey was somewhat longer than we thought but we arrived just after 3pm to be in place well before 5…. it was a good job we did too and at just about 4pm I spotted the bird in a tree in its favorite garden. We were able to watch it well from off The Butts and then walking round a little way we saw it closer in some bare Ash Trees. The bird showed well for at least a couple of hours as it roosted then dropped into the garden to feed before flying up to a small Apple Tree with Wood Pigeons.
The bird provided a nice comparison with the Oxfordshire orientalis, being much paler and whiter on the belly and UTCoverts with the pale area extending up the centre of the belly towards the lower breast. The overall look of the bird was less dusky than the Chipping Norton bird and it to my eyes seemed less bulky overall. The outer wing coverts where a lovely dark grey with large dark centres and pale tips producing the effect of faint wing bars. The tail was seen well and the characteristic differences from European Turtle Dove could be seen. The darkish grey of the rump ran up the back and almost up to the mantle, separating the chestnut scapulars etc from each side. The scaps had large dark centers, giving a slightly scalloped effect to the back, ETD feathers always seem to me rufous with small dark centres, this bird to me looked the opposite, with dark feathers with rufous fringes. The nape had the characteristic bars of a Turtle Dove, here there were at least 4 dark grey/black bars separated by pale grey (white on ETD) bars.
Although the bird looked less dusky than the Chipping Norton orientalis, it looked to me more dusky and darker than a European Turtle Dove.
It was lovely to watch this bird for such a long time and enjoy the sunny evening!
The area was full of birds including the loud and squawky Ring-necked Parakeets!