I have already written a piece about the perilous position the Turtle Dove finds itself in with regard to its future existence so this is just recounting a pleasant hour or so that I spent this afternoon in the company of one particular Turtle Dove on Otmoor in Oxfordshire. Maybe it will turn out to be a requiem, hopefully not.
I walked slowly down the Roman Road, the trees and tall banks of vegetation on either side now at their zenith, enclosing and sheltering me in a narrow green aisle from the mild wind, creating a silence of warmth and tranquillity. The track was deserted this lunchtime and I was free to be alone with my thoughts and feelings, just sharing them with a myriad of insect life
Squadrons of young darter dragonflies flew from their sunning places on the flat white panicles of hogweed, held high on rigid corrugated green stalks above the tangles of bindweed and bramble, grasses and sedge. Damselflies, like blue needles hesitantly probing, attached themselves at right angles to slivers of grass. Meadow Brown butterflies flounced low along the track, dodging amongst the grass and bindweed as Speckled Wood butterflies winked their cream spots at me, flexing their wings from leafy blackthorn stems in the welcoming sun. White bottomed, spherical bumblebees careened around, impatient and dissatisfied, seeming forever unable to find what they were seeking as more prosaic worker bees scrambled through the egg yolk yellow stamens of the white and pink dog roses that clustered in tumbled profusion down favoured hawthorn trees.
I turned onto the bridleway and the distant gentle purring of a Turtle Dove, the Turtle Dove came to me on the breeze, and in harmony now with the gentle slow rhythm of the reserve I walked to where I knew I would find him, perched at his favourite spot, on his favourite branch, in his favourite tree, a large Oak, just across from the bridleway.
Familiar now with the many visitors that pass close by along the bridleway he is content to remain on his branch, relaxed in the knowledge of the constancy of the situation, as safe and secure as any wild bird can be and certainly with nothing to fear from the attentions of any man while he chooses to live here among us until his departure in autumn.
He knows nothing of the dire circumstances of his species and continues his being as all others of his kind have done before, instinctively enacting the inexorable cycle of life, innocent of the ever multiplying pressures ranged against him and his species.
I see him every time I come here at this time of year, almost coming to be regarded as a distant friend, his presence familiar and re-assuring, hearing before I see him. With nothing else to distract me I stopped this time just to look and share an hour, joining him in the solitary quiet of the early afternoon. He was busy preening but would stop occasionally to produce from a swelling breast, short bouts of purring, the monotonous but soothing whirring of notes that is the signal to others of his kind that it is he that occupies this particular stretch of trees and bushes.
Always at the back of my mind was the lurking, unwelcome knowledge that I was in the close company of a bird seemingly doomed to disaster, possibly eventual extinction, symptomatic of the wider world and the slow environmental decline we are sinking ever more deeply into. It is a time of great uncertainty in Britain and in the world and it is hard not to be depressed as men's egotistical greed, ambition and intolerance seems to know no reason or morality both in this country and further afield.
The dove's unheeding ignorance of my anxieties was almost a benediction, and rallying from moroseness I just stood and enjoyed the spectacle of watching a beautiful creature going about its natural existence.
The preening took on a renewed vigour after another brief song period and then, satisfied he turned on his perch, sank his head into his breast and embarked on a period of quiet contemplation as did I.
The sun shone white through a jigsaw of gaps in the oak tree's limbs and dappled green leaves, and the warm wind whispered and sighed through the reeds and willows below. He felt secure perched above me and renewed preening as another feathered aggravation prompted him to sort through some feathers. A flurry of feathers as he shook them and a couple of inconsequential scraps of white down drifted away on the wind.
He was content now and sleeked down his plumage and took on the more usual image of his kind. Shaded and secure on his branch, I left him and walked back along the sunlit track to the car park and into a human existence once again.