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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

We finish 2014 and start 2015

Jan '15 Welcome to everyone - and if you are new to my blog, then I introduce myself a bit further down, but first I just want to finish off 2014 as I had written some notes....

20.12.14 – Tommy  (one of Charm and Snow White’s last babies of the summer) displayed courting behaviour for the first time today – and proved himself to be a male! The object of his affections was his mother (Charm) – and his father SW is such an alpha male that he will have no chance there (and it’s not suitable!). The next day, he started trying to attract Cloud’s interest – but she will never be a proper mate to anyone with her disability. Tommy is approx 4 months old, and pigeons are not usually effectively sexually active until they are 6 months.

 Above, Tommy chases a female on the patio - it's Cissie in the left bottom corner
Below, not a very good picture of Tommy, left, a female and Lucky, right

When I buy grain at the local poultry farm, I buy free range eggs too – and as well as the usual dozen, I came away with what John said was a ‘lash egg’ too.  Have you ever heard of a lash egg? No, neither had I. In fact, mine seems to be more of a mini egg because when I looked up photos of lash eggs on the internet – be warned, don’t do it!! – I saw some really gross pictures – all rubbery and worse!

Lash egg and normal hen's egg
So the white egg is a normal hen’s egg and the brown one is (apparently) a lash egg.

Sunday 28th Dec 14 – I was going to a family party down in West Sussex and was just feeding the birds before I went when I saw that my daddy bird, Snow White, had blood on him.

Firstly I went and fetched the Veterinus Derma Gel so it would be handy in the kitchen. He was in the nest box and is used to me approaching via the step ladder, to bring him peanuts, so I carefully and softly mounted the steps, and gently brought him out of the box in my hands. He was remarkably calm, but he is a relaxed bird, despite being the current ‘top bird’. I brought him into the kitchen and examined him. I always speak gently to the birds in circumstances like this and tell them what I am doing. The blood on one side of his neck was just smudged on the feathers, but the other side had dried blood also and when I parted the feathers, I found an injury – a bit of a hole – bad enough, but I’ve seen much worse. He allowed me to anoint the wound with a good blob of the gel and then struggled a bit so I allowed him to be free, and he flew to the wire. I don’t know for sure but they were shooting on the farm the day before, so it may have been connected with that.  The next day I was concerned when he didn’t turn up til an hour after the other ‘cote doves’ but although a little subdued he seems perfectly ok. I would’ve been very sorry to have lost him as he is a wonderful bird and a good father.

The birds on a frosty day......

The water baths freeze up, and so does the outside tap, meaning 
I have a load of work bringing water from inside for them

Both Bentley and little Endeavour are missing. Bentley may possibly have moved on, and may return, but I have to assume that Endeavour is dead. He was only a newly fledged young pigeon, still with the yellow down on his head when I first saw him, and was doing so well. I am very sad about it – he was probably less than 10 weeks only, and very cute, alert and sprightly.

But there is a success story to tell you. There was a little pigeon with the symptoms of paramyxo that I first noticed around the 27th November. It was struggling to pick up grains, so I put out a small deep wooden trough which it managed to find (although all the others did too) and kept it in the same spot in the garden especially for this one bird. I know I first caught it on the 2nd Dec because I marked it on my bird calendar – and hand fed it, and ringed it with a green ring. I hoped I would be able to catch it and feed it – because I like to give these birds a chance, but I didn’t hold out much hope of it’s long term survival. I saw it on the 3rd and 4th but wasn’t able to catch it, but did again on the 5th, and fed it up on peanuts and hard peas. After this, little Green Ring was wary of me and I never managed to catch it to hand feed again – BUT amazingly enough, it obviously managed to get enough to eat and day after day I saw it and ticked it off on my calendar. At that time, I was particularly watching three birds – Sausage, Endeavour and Green Ring who I didn’t properly name – and day after day I ticked them all off – seen – tick! eaten well - tick! By around the 26th Dec little Endeavour was no longer seen.  Sausage no longer needed to be watched, but I still notice her of course and she gets targeted for peanuts, and is well and strong. GR – who I now call Felicity (after one of the 3 pigeons I took to the Wild Life Aid in November – all put down by them due to the PMV) and she is about the only pigeon I can think of who has recovered from PMV without having been brought in for care. Gradually she stopped using the deep trough and often joined the ‘table birds’ who are the braver ones who land on the garden table when I am sitting on a garden chair feeding the homies. She can now, in one or two tries, pick up a grain or a peanut, and can now feed herself perfectly adequately. I do feel that there must be varying degrees of the paramyxovirus and maybe she didn’t have it too badly, or maybe it was something else that was wrong with her, but she had something that made her unable to pinpoint grain – and now she no longer suffers from it, thank goodness.  I would just like to mention Shirley who I met when she collected her injured racing pigeon from me some long while ago now, and who reads my blog. She emailed me to say that practically all of the birds in her loft had been wiped out due to paramyxo DESPITE being vaccinated. I was so shocked to hear this, as I thought that vaccination would definitely protect the birds and horrified to hear that this is not necessarily the case. I am so sorry, Shirley, about your lovely birds, but glad to hear that you are hoping to breed again this year with new birds.

A pigeon turned up with part of an egg shell stuck to it – so that shows that some of the feral birds are already breeding too. But mine are not, thank goodness. I love having babies, but not this early in the year when the temperature could suddenly plummet. I found a half egg shell in the flower bed too, so I have to assume that pigeons are breeding somewhere fairly close by as they usually don’t carry them that far, but just chuck them out of the nest or fly to the nearest high point and drop them.

Now a bit about me for anyone who might be new to reading my blog. The name is use for blogging about the doves, and on the Purplecoo website, is Faith – which is not my real name. (You see on my name that it says Faith aka Granny Annie – well Granny Annie was the name I was using to blog about the bears – but I probably won’t be carrying that on). I will be 58 in May, I’m married to my third husband (yes really!) and I live in a little out of the way spot in Surrey, right near the river, but also close to a small town that likes to call itself a village. I have two daughters, and two adorable grandchildren. I first got the dovecote and my first 4 doves in 2006, I think it was.

Currently I have three birds that live at home, that I call my ‘homies’. None of them can fly.  Cloud is a pure white dove, Narcissus (normally called Cissie) is a very ordinary grey pigeon, and Cappuccino (Chino) is a beautiful pale coffee colour. I’ve had Cloud as a homie for two years now, though I’ve known her longer than that and she was an adult then..... Cissie I’ve had for nearly a year now, and Chino only since September or October. The homies all have their distinct personalities and I love them, but I can only cope with three that need such special care. They are all female. Chino can feed herself thank goodness, but Cloud and Cissie both had PMV, though are now recovered, and have to be hand fed twice a day. The other day I brought them all in to the conservatory in the mid afternoon, as usual in the winter, and after a while I could hear Cloud and Cissie, pecking, pecking and I thought WHAT are they doing?.....they never do that.... and after a while, it pinged into my brain that I had forgotten to give them the afternoon feed! Poor little things, I felt so bad, but of course got them out of their crates for feeding.

Then I have the ‘cote doves’. These are the birds that have chosen to live in my dovecote. I bought and paid for the first four doves in 2006 – but since then I haven’t needed to buy another bird – I have far more than I ever wanted or need! The birds sometimes fight for who is going to live in the cote, and I’ve had some interesting pairs over the years and some wonderful babies. The cote birds are always white doves, though some of them have had some ‘pigeon’ babies – due to cross breeding or genes or whatever. My current alpha male is Snow White, who mated with Charm in 2014 (who in 2013 was Lucky’s mate). Lucky eventually found love and made babies with Loveday last year. Then we have Mr Moon and Star Light – Star Light was formerly Snow White’s mate before Charm. And they say doves mate for life!!! It’s like a soap opera here!  How they will pair up this year is anyone’s guess. Snow White is still supreme, but since his injury is down a peg or two. He hasn’t continued to put sticks in his nestbox but this may be due to the weather being changeable.

 The doves are currently sorting out who's going to live where. In the photo below, the bird at the bottom is one of my babies from last year, Clara 

The birds looking pretty on a lovely rosy winter morning......

In the photo below, Lucky (left) is trying to seduce Charm back again, but Snow White (middle) is having none of it – he still wants her!

Lucky seems to have the back nestbox, SW and Charm the front top, and Mr. Moon and Star Light’s side one seems to be causing some problems. Clara, who was hatched in my cote last summer – is proving himself to be a male (I got the name choosing wrong there!) and he fancies setting up a nursery there. See him in the photos below, with blood on his wings. He doesn’t seem to be very much injured, and it could be someone’s else’s blood, or he may have got a slight wound from fighting. Tommy (one of the two last babies from SW and Charm last summer) is young, but feisty, and I’ve seen him going in and out of that nestbox too. He is technically a few months too young to be a proper daddy yet.

 Snow White, left, and Charm in the nestbox they had last year
The funny photo below is ME! with Cissie on my head! I took the reflection in the kitchen window and you can see the cote reflected behind me. After feeding, Cissie likes to climb up my arm, to my shoulder, and then my head - where she perches for a while, enjoying the higher view, before falling or fluttering down to the ground.

Then we also have birds that were hatched in my cote – like Dolly, Dusty, Mercy (Tommy’s sibling), Fleur, Grace and others. I look out for these birds and feed them a bit extra – they are my grown-up babies! And I also look out for other doves and pigeons caught and ringed by me because they were poorly or special in some way – like Pandora (beak injury in summer ’13 and fully recovered), Sausage (weak and feeble a month or two back but now super!), Charity (stunned herself banging into the conservatory window ages ago but now fine), Bianca (can’t remember the circumstances under which I ringed her it was so long ago!), Bandit (cheeky one always robbing food from the hutch a year or so ago) and so on.......

After them, there is the lowest tier of pigeons and doves – unringed birds (some I recognise and some I don’t) – I feed them all but they don’t get singled out to be thrown peanuts etc. They make up a huge feral flock, and I am attempting to cut down the grain, to cut down the numbers...... I always say this!

 Since Endeavour went, I have noticed another very young bird - here it is, the mottled one, hiding behind a pigeon. I call it Devvy (after Endeavour, who I miss) .....come on out, Devvy!
 Ah, that's better.....
 Very sweet young bird
 On Sat 10th January 15 I had a lovely surprise. My 'old' baby, Autumn came back. Here she is, and I noticed from my dove calendar that the last time I saw her was 28th Oct 14, so quite a long while. Where on earth has she been..... and what's she been living on? When she comes back, she always acts as if she's never been gone...... comes up to me looking for her peanuts!
Below, Autumn's at the fore-front

Autumn is my oldest surviving 'baby' (that I know of) - she hatched in my cote in summer 2012. So now she's about 2 years 5 months old. Somehow she has avoided predators, illness and major accidents - and though slightly ruffled looking and grubby on the wings - she seems perfectly fine. She did have a slight injury to her wing once, and since then it has always drooped, but she obviously flies well. A feral pigeon is unlikely to live more than 5-6 years at the very most - it's a hard life out there - and most won't survive beyond the first year. Below is a photo of Autumn, with her sibling, Spring. Autumn has yellow and red rings, so it's Spring on the top here.

I also feed my little robins – they come to the backdoor for soaked mealworms – I call them all Robs! Plus I have fatballs out for the blue tits etc.

We have a cat, called Loopy, who we adopted when our neighbours relocated back to South Africa. We’ve had her for coming up three years I think but after the first 3 days, she escaped from the house, where we were trying to get her used to us, and has lived outside in a tumble down shed ever since, just coming back to our shed kitchen for food. Nowadays, she comes in to our proper kitchen at night through the cat flap, and appreciates the aga, and has a bit more food, and she will sit on the path and we miaow back and forth but she won’t get near enough for us to touch her.

So now you know what’s what and who's who, we will see what will happen this year...... Below are photos of Cissie and Cloud having a bath together - they are not usually so companionable! I think Cissie enjoyed it more because she could prop her head up on the hose pipe I'd left in there - her head's wobbly sometimes because of the PMV illness she suffered from.

To be cont......

Friday, 19 December 2014

The birds of the year - I look back over 2014

December 2014

Currently, as I write, all is calm with the birds. My little squab, Endeavour, comes every day and is doing so well, as is Sausage. I always look out for them both and they get extra food. My daddy dove, Snow White has started building a nest. Please don't build a nest, Snow White, I said, it's only December, but he just looked at me, and sent me a telepathic 'Don't be silly!' and carried on collecting sticks!

As always, there have been good times and bad for me and the birds over the last year.

January - One of the worst things happened in January with two mother doves (Charm and Rose Red) abandoning their nests in the cold night, leaving three babies and a nearly hatched egg to die - absolutely dreadful and took me ages to get over it. I had had Echo, a bird with PMV symptoms, for about a month, when I got Narcissus (now usually called Cissie) - also suffering from it (19th Jan). Echo eventually managed to fly off, but probably didnt survive. Cissie is still with me, with Cloud, my white dove, a PMV survivor and Chino, who can't fly (well, none of the homies can)

Above, Echo

Big Boy also turned up in January - suffering from a problem with his beak which meant he was unable to eat. He was a wonderful bird, very big and strong - a ringed racing pigeon - and worth trying to save.

Above, me examining Big Boy's beak

Big Boy recovering

February - Big Boy was released, and then re-captured a week later and taken to the vet for anti-bios. Poppet, a small pigeon that I tried to look after (after a hawk attack) was eventually killed by the hawk virtually as soon as I released it. Moppet, a sweet little white dove caused me much worry as it struggled to eat, and was eventually brought in...... very poorly as you see below.

March - Cissie went out for the first time after her quarantine from PMV.

April - Big Boy was still around in April and May, but now not seen for a long time.

May - The first living babies of the Spring - Fleur and Fern - had three parents because their mother, Charm 'divorced' her last year's partner, Lucky, and went off with Snow White! Lucky, feeling he had a share in the babies, fed them whenever he got a chance! It was a very odd situation with the doves. SW had had a mate called Rose Red who was killed by the hawk - then he had a new little wife - Star Light - for a very short time, before dumping her and seducing Charm away from Lucky! Star Light eventually found a mate in Mr. Moon and they also had a nest in the cote. And poor old Lucky eventually teamed up with a white female I called Loveday, and also had a new nest. You can understand Lucky's confusion - he had had a total of 5 nests with Charm before SW muscled in! - 1st - May 13 - babies Dolly and Fennie. 2nd - June 13 - eggs 'hatch. 3rd - July 13 - Harlequin and Columbine. 4th - Aug 13 - Alpha and Omega and 5th - Jan 14 - the babies that died. By the way, out of those 5 nests, only Dolly is still visiting the garden and the only one living, as far as I am aware.

Above, Lucky feeds Snow White and Charm's tiny babies

Brownie Mo arrived in early May - a sweet little brown pigeon with a broken beak and dried blood all down his front - he became a real favourite, with me looking out for him and trying to make sure he got enough to eat. By the 3rd week in May I had managed to catch, ring and hand feed him, but of course released him, and he carried on coping ok.

Above, Brownie Mo in a bad way

The baby bluetits in my 'postbox' nestbox also fledged - adorable!

June was busy. Destiny, a dove hatched in April 13 in my cote, came back, perhaps looking for a mate in June 14 at 14 months old, and looking fantastic! Tufty, a racer with a withered leg turned up, and eventually the leg and foot dropped off (Dec '14 -he's still around though!), Muffin and Tiffin were little brown pidgies that I took an interest in during June and July, but no longer seen now. Stockie was a baby stock dove that I caught and ringed, as rather baby-ish but eventually coped well on his own.

July saw me concerned about a juvenile blackbird, who was around for quite a while, but eventually not - probably just grew up. Below - Blackie comes into the kitchen.

Patience, proving himself male, turned up again and was courting. He had had a bad hawk experience the year before but survived and was kept by me for a month before being released and went on to live a full life.

Above, Patience in June '14, come back to court in my garden
and below, when I first 'met' Patience in Feb '13  - 16 months earlier!

To see Patience again, so fit and well, was one of the most incredible moments of the year! It shows how feisty the pigeons - if you find an injured one - give it a chance! They CAN survive! - GO HERE FOR ADVICE! Just don't feed any injured bird straight away - they need to be warm and stabilised first.

My Dolly had an injury which I treated with medi-honey and she's been fine since and still around every day. My friend gave me an injured young magpie, Chester to look after, who died very shortly, poor little thing.

August was stressful with lots of hawk attacks. Gulliver, a baby stock dove, was brought to me and I raised him for a couple of weeks before he was released, but he got poorly and died at about 9 weeks old. Below, Gulliver, left, a baby stock dove, when I first got him - judging him to be about 3 weeks old. The other bird is Chance, a baby pigeon, who def was 3 weeks old.

Cissie, my homie, was dramatically rescued from the river. 
Another bad few minutes for me - and her! But she soon recovered.

By this time SW and Charm had had Fern and Fleur, Daisy and Dusty, and then Clover and Clara - out of this lot I still see Fleur, Dusty and Clara. Lucky and Loveday had had Desiree and Chance - and I still wish I kept Desiree in as she was a fragile little thing and doubt if she made it for long. Star Light and Mr. Moon's first nest was unsuccessful. Mercedes and other birds died due to the hawk, but Mercedes2 was brought down into the flower bed by the hawk, rescued and ringed by me, and still seeing her! At the end of August I flipped and decided not to blog for a while.

October - so I last blogged on 26th Aug and then not again til nearly 2 months later. By that time Mr. Moon and Star Light had had Twinkle and Little Star (who I found as a dead hatchling, two or three days old). Twinkle was raised and fledged, but found dead but still warm under the cote one day after I'd come home from being out - I can still see his poor little body, and I was very sad about that particular death, though they all affect me.  Below, Twinkle

SW and Charm had their last babies of the season and these two Tommy and Mercy are still seen and both tame enough to eat from my hand - today 19th Dec I had them both eating from my hand at the same time, and could see they are like twins, very similar size and now over 4 months old. They were named after Tommy, an 'old soldier' pigeon that the hawk killed, and Mercedes, another tragic victim - her death was so awful. But they live again in my two gorgeous young birds.

Above, Dec 14 - current birds - far left, front is Dusty (green rings), middle back is Tommy, and far right, not quite in the picture is his sibling, Mercy.

Tommy, white dove, four months old
Above, Tommy
Below, Mercy is on the left

 Mercy, left, and friend, come to eat from my hand

In September, after struggling with the half a beak disability for 5 months, Brownie Mo was caught by the hawk, mauled about and brought in by me, by died very soon. I was so very sad to lose such a plucky little bird.

Above, Brownie Mo's funeral

And Brownie Mo in better days, bathing - the one just out of the bath is Tufty, the racer who lost his leg and foot, but manages fine with his stump!

 Other September birds were Sooty, Sheridan, Bentley, Petronella and Cappucino - my new homie, Chino! These birds all had their stories - see the relevant blogs - and Sheridan and Petronella are now dead. But at least I can look after Chino, who can't fly.

Above, Chino

November brought Sausage - see Nov blog for his story and early December, Frost and Endeavour - see Dec blog for their stories. Frost was dying but Sausage and Endeavour still around!

So an eventful year as always which brought some very special birds into my life. If I had to give medals then Lucky would get one for making the best of a bad job and Brownie Mo one for pluck and endurance. It does sound like it is all deaths when I read back over this blog, but many of the doves and pigeons last several years before going to meet their maker so it's not quite as bad as it seems!

I treated myself to a little Christmas present - and here it is - a pigeon stone! And nicer than it appears in the photo. It is a 'Cobble Creature' painted - find more about them HERE and also on Facebook, Etsy, Folksy and Ebay. Vanessa doesn't just paint birds on stones - there are all kinds of sweet creatures, so do have a look. Irresistible!

I do intend to continue to blog about the doves, pigeons and other birds so do please come back in 2015. Wishing you all a peaceful happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year, and thank you for reading all my blogs and everyone who comments (or who just reads and doesn't comment!)

To be cont....