It may have been a bit chilly today and is forecast to be colder tomorrow but it has been another relatively mild winter so far. Many birds are starting to show territorial activity now that the days are getting longer and species like Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Starling and Great Tit have been singing, on and off, for a week or two now.
Whilst watching the birds in the garden this morning I noticed a Collared Dove flying into some ivy about 6 metres up a tree and I suspected it had joined another that was already there. The ivy clad tree is in the park just across the road from the front garden and I had seen a Collared Dove visit the same location a few days ago, so I began to think it was a pair that could be nest building or at least prospecting.
I watched for a while and saw that one bird kept flying down to the ground and then going back up to the same location in the tree, and although it was a bit too far away for me to be sure I thought it had carried some nest material on at least one occasion. I decided to check it out so I grabbed my camera and went for a closer look.
On entering the park I could see what I presumed to be the male Collared Dove searching for fine twigs along the side of the path. There were loads of fine birch and alder twigs on the ground for it to choose from but it was fussier than I expected. It would pick up a twig and then discard it and then go on to another. This process was repeated several times before it found one it deemed to be suitable which it then took up to its partner at the nest site in the ivy.
The other Collared Dove, presumably the female, stayed at the nest site and arranged the twigs that were brought by its partner. Given that a Collared Dove nest is usually a fairly flimsy platform of twigs there was a lot of careful placement, turning around and treading of the twigs into place. Although the nest is well concealed on a branch in the ivy it appeared to be quite substantial by Collared Dove standards and probably not far off completion.
Collared Doves have been recorded nesting throughout the year where food is abundant, although breeding activity is generally much reduced in winter. Day length probably has a part to play in reducing winter breeding activity in the UK rather than a shortage of food as there is likely to be a greater and more reliable supply of food from garden feeding through the winter than at other times of year.
While it may not be unheard of to find a pair of Collared Doves nest building in late January it is still relatively uncommon in this area and a welcome sign of spring.