PIGEONS seem to be everywhere in our garden. They are big, plump woodpigeons with startling white collars.

They eat our vegetables; coo loudly and generally make a nuisance of themselves. But we have had another visitor from this family which is altogether different.

Many years ago, I bought a white dovecote, it stands in full view of our sunroom so we can watch it over breakfast. I bought four white fantail doves to live there. It is like a little house with two flats. The doves settled in happily and laid eggs and reared young.

But all was not well, because after about a year the sparrowhawk found them. One snowy, cold winter he was hungry and spotted an easy meal. In the morning we found pure white feathers scattered underneath a fence post. One dove was missing. And of course, the sparrowhawk did not stop there; he came back.

Our doves decided that enough was enough and they ‘moved house’. They went to live with the chickens, in our old, brick cowshed. They are still there now, leaving the dovecote empty.

It was empty until this year when robins nested in the lower flat. They made a neat little cup-shaped nest, with grass and moss. Then, after the brood of robins had long gone, I glimpsed a grey shadow slipping into the top flat.

I watched carefully as a shy little couple surreptitiously took a few beech twigs and leaves into the cote. They made a loose nest on the wooden boards. Here they laid their two white eggs and reared their young.

They are stock doves, hardly ever seen in gardens, they are smaller than the woodpigeon and have no white collar. Their numbers are falling, and they are on the RSPB amber list. Unassuming and gentle, the adults slipped away as quietly as they came.

Now, we have two young stock doves, scurrying about and foraging for seeds, in and out of the woodland.

Soon, they will silently join their parents in the shade of the trees on a late summer’s day.