One site where you can still almost guarantee them is the Oare Marshes in North Kent. This small reserve has had some cracking birds over the years, including the infamous tufted puffin, seen for 20 minutes by 7 lucky birders. Near the entrance though is an area of scrubby bushes next to some cottages where a few pairs of turtle doves return every year. With my usual more local spots such as Fowlmere not delivering the goods this year I set out early for a quick visit.
I got there by 7.30 or so having driven through some torrential rain. Fortunately, the sun was weakly poking through the clouds and it was dry there. I parked up and had a quick coffee and walked the short distance to the cottages. The doves are often seen on the roof or the adjacent telephone wires. After 15 minutes scanning though there was no sign, or sound, of them. I started to walk back towards the car to have a bit of breakfast when I glanced across into the hedgerow. There sitting staring at me was a beautiful turtle dove!
After that they all seemed to wake up a bit and I got good views of two or three chasing each other around the adjacent farmland. They also started calling, their characteristic purring call echoing out from the bushes and trees. One even started calling from a tall tree nearby but was soon moved on by a local pigeon!
It was a male bird, singing and claiming territory but without success as no females were around. If the movement of some birds northwards continues it may be that in years to come it may have more success.
I watched for about 30 minutes and it was singing almost constantly and occasionally came down to the lower branches where you could see it gorgeous lemon-yellow plumage.