Thursday, 23 August 2007

Bath time

As I said the Ugly Dovelings died aged only just over 2 weeks (details in blog Wed. 1st August RIP Baby Dovelings). If they'd only survived another 2 weeks they would have been ready to come out of the nest.

I didn't have time to do anything more than clean out the nestbox, which was a horrendous task as I was going to collect my elderly mother from my sister's home that morning. If it had happened at another time, I might have had a PM done on the second baby's body. I believe now that they died from malnutrition and/or poisoning, due to granular fertiliser that the lawn people had put down on the lawn and the parents had picked up and fed to the babies. The doves always have plenty of their own food available and fresh water. In future, we will make sure the lawn is not treated if the doves have babies.

I don't want to dwell on this anymore. I've found it incredibly painful that the last two lots of squabs have died, and if it was to happen again then I will have to take more action to find out why. DJ Kirby suggested (in my comments suggestion) that there just might be something wrong with the parents - I do hope that is not true, although it is a thought. They did have Iona and Francis - but Francis was small and sickly.

Lily took a day or so to realise that the babies were no more and didn't need her, but shortly she and John were billing and cooing again, and I have seen them mating. My gardener, Jay, who is a lovely chap and takes a keen interest in the doves, asked if 'that was end of it for this year?' meaning that the nesting season was perhaps over. I don't know the answer to this. My dove book says that doves can breed all year round, given the right conditions, but doesn't specify what those conditions are. Certainly Pax and Persephone who hatched Columba and Lily in July '06 didnt go on to have any more, and the first babies this year were hatched at Easter. Although I love having a nest, I am so scared now that something would happen to the babies yet again, that I think I would be quite glad if we didn't have any more this year. The weather is still so damp and miserable I can't see it would be a very good start in life for them, although this weekend it has cheered up.

So what do the doves do all day? Well, John and Lily except for occasional fun flies where they soar up in the sky and circle round a few times are generally close to home. They sit on the roof, sometimes very still, or they preen. Sometimes they come down to the lawn and walk about wherever they like, pecking at the grass or the flowerbeds or the gravel. They rarely sit in the nearby trees, although Iona used to when she had first learnt to fly. Their feeding pans are on the hedge cos Hub3 said they were wrecking the lawn when I used to feed them on it. I don't mind feeding them on the hedge, but I miss the pleasure of last summer, sitting on the grass on a sunny afternoon thowing the feed and having them gather all round me. This year, with all the wet, I wouldnt have done much sitting I suppose. Also the grains, if not eaten, get damp and germinate.

I keep a silver square washing up bowl at the side of the lawn near the hedge for the doves to use as a bath. Again because of the rain they have not needed to have a bath that often, as they have a shower instead! But when they feel inclined, and the weather is warm, they do like to have a bath. Wherever I go I am looking for a proper bird bath for them, but either I don't like the design, or its not deep enough. The pecking order applies to bathing as well as feeding. John would normally go first! The doves have a bath to keep their feathers parasite free. Sometimes when they get in they just sit in the water for ages, perfectly still, and then they flap about a few times, spraying the water over themselves and get out. I took some photos the last time. First John got in, and Lily and another dove, probably female, watched him. When he got out, they got in together! After a bath, the doves are all fluffy - they sit on lawn and spread their wings out to dry. I usually go and change the water if I see them bathing so that it is clean for drinking, and it always has a slightly oily scum on top that appears white. Doves also need water just before they hatch their eggs - the female gets her underneaths all wet so that when she sits on the eggs they soften to ease hatching.

Doves habits are not particularly clean - they excrete in the nest box if they feel like it, but they are always so sparkling white that it is a pleasure to look at them. I love white. White flowers are my favourite, and I love my white bedlinen and white towels. I also like white dresses and bikinis on brown bodies!

In the summer the doves are up before me, and waiting on the roof to be fed. There is currently usually about 20 in the mornings. The first thing I do is carry Yorkie out to go for a wee, and then I go and collect the dove food. I buy two types and mix them together - economy feed and conditioner. The last batch of economy I had was from a different company and I wasnt pleased with it at all. It had a large proportion of brown pealike pulses in it and the doves dont like them and leave it. This is annoying cos it is wasteful, costs money and has to be cleared up and thrown away. I complained to the petshop, who deliver my sacks of dove food, and am trying a different economy brand now. The doves currently are costing me about £50 a month. Although I can afford it, I don't really want to be feeding such a big flock - up to 43 birds in the evenings. After all, only 4 are really mine! However, last summer as it went into autumn the feral doves 'moved on' and only my 'homed' birds stayed. This time it may be different - as Hub3 says 'they've found you now!

Hub3 and I do not recognise all the grains in the dove mix. We know there is maize, wheat, barley and some sort of pea which is a pale bluish-green colour. The brown 'pea' we do not recognise.

Other than food and water, it is essential for doves (pigeons) to have grit which is used in their gizzard for grinding down food and is also absorbed into the gut. When the doves were under the homing net I provided a pot of grit, but now they are free they find their own. There is a gravelled parking yard just beyond our gate and they often all fly down there. They also like green stuff and pick up what they fancy in the garden, and eat lichen off the roofs. I love seeing them walk about the lawn.

Oh, I've gone off track - it was morning about 7-7.30 pm and I was going to collect the dove food wasnt I? I keep it in two metal dustbins - metal against the mice of course! and I scoop up several scoopfuls into my big plastic bowl, and take it to the hedge. The doves watch me as I spread the food on several trays and dishes, metal and plastic. Lily often flies down before I have finished. She is the tamest dove probably because she was handled a lot when she got shot. She is quite happy to be right near my hand, but I don't try to touch her. Lily is easily recognised because as well as her pink ring, she has cute feathered feet!

The other doves then fly down all together and feeding frenzy occurs! But doves are very jumpy and the slightest unusual sound and they will all rise up and fly away, landing back on the roof very shortly and coming down to feed again.

There is more to say but no time now so will have to come back again soon .....


ChrisH said...

Lovely photos - and happy birthday to your daughter.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

So glad that at the moment all is well with the Doves. I suspect that teh right conditions means that the weather is mild enough and that there is plenty of food around.

Elizabethd said...

Lovely lovely photos Faith. I think you should make them and your writing into a little book, maybe weave a story for children round the lives of the doves.

Anonymous said...

You certainly about your doves. And they appear to have great confidence in you. The photo's are beautiful. Perhaps you should think about having them published somewhere.

Crystal xx

Anonymous said...