30 Days Wild – Day 21 – Derby, and another mystery bird

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_21The plan for today had been to take a trip to Chaddesden Wood, as I’ve blogged from there before and the ponds are usually good value.

But a miserable day yielded little wildlife, and the ponds themselves look to have been very badly treated, whether by people or dogs or both it’s hard to say. But the surrounding vegetation has been so comprehensively trampled it’s hard not to see it as vandalism.

The only thing seen around the wood was a solitary male blackcap singing, but he was hardly posing for a photo.

Male Blackcap, just about

Male Blackcap, just about

There was also a family of blackbirds about, and I did manage a distance shot of one of the juveniles.

Juvenile Blackbird Chaddesden Wood LNR

Juvenile Blackbird
Chaddesden Wood LNR

Back in the garden where we were staying the birds were similarly wet and bedraggled, and in the case of one nuthatch, some very odd behaviour.

Jump for joy

Jump for joy

This bird behaved a lot like a fledgling, moving around quite chaotically and occasionally flying into things, but from the plumage appears to be an adult, so I’ve got to assume it was just an effect of the weather.

The new baby blue tits were having a hard time of it too, as were their parents.

Baby Blue Tit

Baby Blue Tit



And the omni-present grey squirrels we see there.


Grey Squirrel

The title promised a mystery bird though, so here it is:

Well, it's a pigeon...

Well, it’s a pigeon…

Now, you’ll be forgiven for just thinking “It’s a pigeon”. Or maybe “It’s a baby pigeon”. While it is a pigeon, it’s not a Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus), and it’s not a Domestic Pigeon (Columba livia domestica). It’s something that, while fairly abundant (250k breeding pairs in the UK), is not seen a lot in towns.


A different angle

My first thought was indeed “Baby pigeon”. But my brain was rebelling against me, and that nagging doubt was there immediately. What wasn’t stacking up? Was it a hybrid?

The picture above gives the best clues, with a darker rump, those little black bands along the wings, a larger eye, the greeny-blue neck. Much smaller. It’s a Stock Dove (Columba oenas). Relatively common, yet a bird I haven’t actually seen in years, and I’ve never seen in a garden.

Whether this is an isolated bird, or one of a pair nesting in the wood (where they nest in holes), I do not know. It hadn’t just been blown in, it had apparently been visiting the garden for a week or so.

So there is a lesson there, one I’ve mentioned before. Don’t let your brain leap to conclusions on IDs. Give it a minute. Be careful that you don’t dismiss diagnostic features of one species as anomalous markings of something more familiar.

Stock Dove Derby, June 2015

Stock Dove
Derby, June 2015

The name ‘stock dove’ may imply domestication (‘breeding stock’), but actually it’s from an old english word for stump/log, a reference to their habit of breeding in holes in old trees.

BTO Pigeon ID Sheet (pdf)

RSPB Stock Dove facts


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I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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