Friday June 26
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. That lovely phrase comes from the Song of Solomon: and yes, the voice of the turtle was heard in my own land today.
For about a minute. But Eddie and I both heard him distinctly.
Turtle dove: the most rapidly declining bird in Britain, a pell-mell loss of 95 per cent in 20 years. We’re losing turtle doves for a complex suite of reasons; the most obvious of them is that they get shot on migration.
Turr, they say. Turr. Hence the name: nothing to do with turtle-turtles. And they have gone from ordinary to special birds in less than a human generation: from birds you heard as a matter of course to birds you boast about.
So hearing one is really something to savour these days, something to pause for. Really special, I told Eddie. We have to listen and hope that one day, there’ll be more of them, and the song will be beard more often and more widely, softly pouring from above our heads.
I always associate turtle doves with the idea of the Edwardian idyll: the time before 1914 when it seemed that nothing whatsoever could ever go wrong: peace and plenty would endure forever. Life should be like that: we should be reclining on a deckchair listening to a chorus of turtle doves beneath a luxuriant elm with a nice drink while cricket match is going on the other side of the hedge.
But no longer. Today the voice of the turtle is a wake-up call. So the world hears it – and hits the snooze button once again.