I almost called this “The REAL Lonesome Dove.” For the past three months I’ve been haunted by the plaintiff calls of a dove in our neighborhood. With the quarantine in full swing and due to the vulnerable state I’m in with both age and the cancer thing, I’ve really paid attention to the protocols for social distancing and mask wearing. Clearly I’ve had a little too much time on my hands so for some reason I high centered on this dove.
I caught a very brief look at him and thought at first he was a “Mourning Dove” which we had all over the farm in Missouri. But his strange (to me) call revealed him to be, instead, a “Eurasian Collared Dove.” From about the time I woke in the morning, then off and on until about 8 in the evening, his plaintive calls seeking some companionship would ring through the trees, one right after the other.
But they were never answered.
According to the field guide, this type of dove is not uncommon in this region but this poor fellow seems to have none others of his type to answer his calls. So morning and afternoon into evening he repeats his lonely calls hoping that someone will answer.
I was going to try to make this a semi-photo-based post and hauled out one of my long lenses to use this as an excuse try my hand at birding photography. (As I said, I’ve had way too much time on my hands.) But though I could hear him calling from one tree or another, all I could ever catch sight of was part of his body. He sat way back in the branches and I thought that could not be a very brilliant spot from which to attract any passing dove babes. But from around six-ish in the morning till almost dark I could count on hearing his “Ca-COO Coo” call repeated as if it were a looped recording.
I’m not an ornithologist so have absolutely no knowledge about the cognitive ability of birds generally, much less of doves, or of this type of dove in particular. So I do not know, for example, if, for him, every day is a completely new world and he is unaware of the previous days and weeks of failure, or, conversely, were the endless mornings filled with hope and the endless evenings of failure and despair adding up in his mind to where he considers simply flying into the next truck to come by. But if he was in despair it did not slow down his calling out to any potentially passing lady dove that might be in the market for a persistent suitor and answer.
As time went on I began to worry about the forlorn dove calling endlessly but to no avail The Bible says that God even sees the tiny sparrow that falls and surely a stately dove would be a little higher on His attention list. So one night I addressed the Almighty on the Dove’s behalf. I pled his case with eloquence and sincerity, a real example of my best law school moot court training. Surely it would not be beyond Divine abilities to shoo some equally lonely female into the vicinity to hear his call and at least give him a chance at love and companionship before he pined away from loneliness and heartbreak. Surely his pitiful cries were not falling on divinely closed ears. I rested my case satisfied I had done my best. Perry Mason would have stood slack-jawed in awe of my presentation.
To my surprise, the next day when I woke up and listened as always for his calls, the trees were silent. All through the day I never heard a single call from him. Was it possible? Did God answer a simple human plea and actually send him a lady faire to warm his nest and give him comfort? Or was He just tired of the incessant Ca-COO-Coo-ing over and over and over…
That night and the next day there was no call from him… nor on the third day. Wow, I thought, he finally scored. “Good for him!” In a way I was actually sort of jealous.
But on the fourth day I heard him call again. A little tenuous and not as full throated as before, but unmistakably the same voice. This time the calls were not continuous at first but would last for a half hour or less perhaps, then be quiet. I dragged my big lens out again to try to find him but to no avail. I thought once I had managed an interesting head shot framed in the leaves but as I was ready to shoot he turned back into the dense foliage. This birding thing is harder than I gave it credit for.
But about the dove and his lady, what could possibly have gone wrong? This is Southern California so perhaps his species’ notable collar was not up to dove image standards? A little lopsided, perhaps?
Our neighborhood, it turns out, is also home to a small group of crows. They are the busybodies of the local bird world and stick their considerable noses into everyone’s business. I was willing to bet dollars to donuts they knew the story. And so they did. And being the unrepentant gossips they are, were happy to share. It turns out this drop-dead gorgeous lady dove flew in from the beach, heard the calling and dropped by to see what was happening. They chatted and discussed nesting arrangements and her trousseau, and things seemed right on course to a happy ending. But just as the exchange of sprigs was about to happen, our hero produced a multi-page pre-nup that so offended her she gave him the bird, so to speak, and stormed back to the laid-back doves at the beach.
Wow, what an ingrate. And to think I prayed for the guy! The crows thought it was highly amusing and said they heard from the parrots that the surfer dove lady spread the word about what a jerk he had been so it was unlikely another would come this way.
So now he is at it again, calling his brains out morning and night to try to lure another lovely and hopefully desperate dovette into his clutches, presumably with pre-nup at the ready. But the word is out buster… You may be hiding in your tree and calling out a very, very long time.
And as for my photography, the next time I decide to try my hand at birding I’ll try an easier target… like a bird feeder, or perhaps the zoo.