Until recently two-thirds of our back garden was surrounded by Leylandii hedging that provides privacy and acts as a good windbreak while providing cover for birds, with regular nest sites for song thrushes and blackbirds in its depths. However, it grows inexorably and we eventually decided to take drastic action so had its height reduced in mid-January from eight to five feet.
About a week later a pair of collared doves moved into the back garden, showing interest in a natural gap in the ivy covering an old tree stump and then taking over a stick platform built there last year by wood pigeons.
Previously, although collared doves have been resident further along our street, we have only occasionally seen them in the garden, once or twice a year at most and then only briefly. I presume that they have moved in to take advantage of the much more open garden with the hedge cover, so loved by approaching sparrowhawks, reduced.
With the garden backing on to Farnley Woods their fear of falling prey to sparrowhawks is well grounded. The hawks rely on surprise, flying low along one side of a hedge before looping over it to hit unsuspecting birds on the other side. On the day we moved into the house, back in 1996, I saw a male sparrowhawk doing exactly that and plucking a fleeing blue tit out of the air with an outstretched foot.
For some days after their first appearance, both doves were around every day, their cooing different to, although as monotonous as, that of the wood pigeons we have been used to hearing. About the 10th February, it went quiet but with one bird now sitting tight on the stick nest (pictured), presumably incubating eggs and its mate only appearing briefly to take over.
I shall be fascinated to see whether the doves survive the marauding sparrowhawks, especially once the eggs hatch and activity around the nest increases as the adults come and go to feed the nestlings.
I will also be intrigued to see if the doves are followed by house sparrows, of which there is a colony at the far end of our street. Until now, they have also kept away from our garden, leaving the triple nest box erected years ago to be used by blue and great tits.
Image by Denis O’Connor
Wharfedale Naturalists Society