The Oriental Turtle-Dove ranges mainly from Asia to Japan. Technically it has now been seen three times in California but realistically the chances of seeing one in the USA are basically 0% (see #221 below).
I received a NARBA (North American Rare Bird Alert) text that a presumed wild Oriental Turtle-Dove was identified in Palo Alto on February 2nd….while I was preparing for our February 10th Alumni gathering in San Francisco. Frankly, I had never heard of this species. It doesn’t even have a range map in the field guides but heck, a potential ”lifer” is always exciting.
The bird was continuously seen for a couple of minutes every morning around 7:30am before disappearing into a residential area from the 2nd through the 10th. I arrived at dawn on Friday, the 11th and took my place among fifteen or so anxious birders at the ”stake-out” area.
By 7:30 am the crowd had grown to over 50. One elderly lady mumbled ”It isn’t going to show” and walked despondently back to her car. I wondered how she could give up so easily but maybe she was a local and had already seen it. By 8:15 I thought she could be right. Ugh! Then at 8:25 a voice rang out: “in the redwood!”. It was right in front of me about 50 yards away!! Binoculars first for the positive ID and then quick, camera, need a photo for this blog! No more than thirty seconds elapsed and it was gone. But I knew I had captured it. I had a similar confident feeling of exhilaration as the Olympic snowboarder who nailed her first half-pipe (and won gold!). A reach comparison, perhaps, but not for me! Check out the diagnostic orange-red eye!
Oriental Turtle-Dove (Palo Alto)
During the chaotic moment of birders scrambling to view and photograph the dove I noticed a young guy that I thought could be our friend’s son from Sacramento. Three years ago I had shown him a rare Garganey (Eurasian duck) and I am very proud to write that he caught the birding bug after that special experience. But by the time I had snapped my photos, calmed down and gathered my wits, he was gone. So I texted him and immediately my phone rang. Miles Horton and his friend (Alex Albright) had indeed witnessed the same spectacle I had. The pleasure seeing them and satisfaction I felt knowing I had helped inspire a life-long hobby in another person far outweighed seeing ABA AREA #807.