Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Death..... and Life

One Sunday in March Yorkie jumped off the chair, barking furiously because our neighbour had turned up at the gate. Hub3 and I went out to talk to him. It was bad news. He had seen something white in his garden, in the wild part, and gone out to look. It was our beautiful female dove, Persephone, Pax's mate, and mother of Columba and Lily - she was dead, with her head bitten off. He had brought her body back to us, and it was lying on the gravel. I burst into tears, but thanked him for being kind enough to bring her back. We gave her a water burial in the river.

And now we were down to only three doves. Pax, John and Lily. We didnt know for sure if Lily was male or female, but had reason to assume she was in fact and luckily female! I felt dreadful for poor Persephone. I think she may have been in the wild garden collecting bits for a nest, although there is plenty of material in ours. Or maybe she was caught in the yard, and dragged off to his garden. We assumed the perpetrator was a fox.

I felt even worse for my gorgeous Pax. He spent an anxious day on the roof, occasionally circling round, obviously looking for his beloved mate, and then flew away.* I was not surprised. Doves mate for life, except when something happens to their mate. Maybe he flew away to try and find her, or maybe to find another mate. I felt hollow though. What was happening to my doves and my hopes of a pretty flock in the garden? All I was experiencing was loss after loss.

We were down to two doves - John, definitely male and Lily who had become his new mate. We knew they were nesting, and during the day John would sit on the eggs and Lily, all alone, sat on the roof. Then in the late afternoon they would swap over, and Lily would do the long night shift.

As we approached Easter, it was hard seeing Lily spending all day alone on the roof. Without other doves around her she seemed very vulnerable, and lonely too. Hub3 says she wouldnt be lonely and I shouldnt give the doves human characteristics, but how does he know if she was lonely or not. He's not a dove.

To my joy, the babies hatched and Lily became a mother on 25th March 'o7 at 8 months old .

John and Lily seemed good parents, and looked after and fed the babies.

Yorkie was taught early on not to run after the doves. Despite him not being well-trained in other areas, he seemed to learn this lesson and has never bothered the doves. They can walk about on the lawn right near him and he ignores them. One Saturday however he was fussing about something in the pampas grass, making little rushes towards it and then backing away. I thought it might be a frog or toad and went to investigate. It was one of the baby doves!

I was glad Yorkie had drawn my attention to it; without him I doubt if I would have noticed it, hiding under the pampas grass. I didnt know if it had fallen out or been pushed out, or in fact come out of it's own accord. I named it Francis (or Frances if it should prove to be female) and we ringed it with a green ring. I put food and water near it, and that night Hub3 returned it to the nest box.He's 6'4 so can just reach up - I have to get the steps!

The babies had been in the nest for about four weeks and so it was really time for them to come out but nothing happened until the next Tuesday when a baby tumbled out of the nest on to the grass below. It didn't have the green ring, so wasn't Francis, and I was shocked to see it was double his size! This baby, ringed with yellow and named Iona, had obviously been demanding and getting most of the food!

The photo shows baby Francis hiding in the pampas grass. He looks bigger than he was because it is a close-up and there is no other dove in the photo to compare him to.

Blogs about the doves (and other parts of my life), written at the time, are still on the Country Living Magazine website (archives):

Eggs for Breakfast - Sun 25/3/07
Doves -Good and Bad News - Wed 11/4/07
Quick Dovie Blog - Fri 13/4/07
A Feeling of Freedom - Mon 16/4/07

And also on my other blog here, Faith's Blog:

What a Week - April 26th
My Day - April 27th
Update on Francis - April 30th

I am also writing the story, here, briefly so that I 'catch up' and have it all one one blog, but it makes quite interesting reading (for me anyway!!) to go back and read the old ones.

So, to continue....

Iona came out every day when the parents did, and quickly learnt to fly. Baby Francis, small and sickly looking, stayed in the nestbox.

Baby doves come to the edge of the nest and wiggle their bottoms and excrete. The nestbox was filthy; flies went in and out. The parents were still feeding Francis, but not very enthusiastically. Every day, I got the step ladder out, and using my poopy scoop tool, I scraped up the worst of it, and put seeds and a fresh little bowl of water for Francis. But I was becoming worried about his health. The nestbox stank like a neglected stable.

We were going on a weekend away to celebrate our wedding anniversary, and decided if Francis was not out by the time we came back, we would have to take him out so that the nest box could be cleaned and he could get some fresh air.

We came home on the Monday morning about midday and Francis was not out, so Hub3 put on gloves and reached up and took him out. He was smelly and dirty, but seemed to like being in the sunshine, on the grass, and walked about before hiding under the pampas grass. I cleaned out the disgusting nest but with good spirits as I wanted him to have a nice bed.
Every night we put him to bed, and every morning took him out again, until one day.... he did it himself, and learnt to fly!

And now we were back to four doves - a little family!

To be continued ......

* Pax has never returned.


DJ Kirkby said...

Mde me cry, happy and sad. Such a beautiful post.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

How on earth do you cope with all the loss and emotion Faith. So glad that little Francis had you to care for him . . . I know some people would say let nature take its course - but we are part of nature so myabe sometimes us caring for an animal is part of the course . . .

Pondside said...

Hard to read when I know what's coming up - but then interesting to have the whole history too.

ChrisH said...

Faith, this is going to be like Angel's 'Orange Man' blog for me in the sense that I'm reading it with my heart in my mouth!

Suffolkmum said...

It is really interesting to get the whole story like this. It's a bit of an emotional rollercoaster though - you really put your heart and soul into looking after them, don't you, it's very touching and obviously right for you and them.

Anonymous said...

Well that made smile. Sadness tinged with the circle of life. I'm really enjoying these Dove Blogs, Faith.

Crystal xx

CAMILLA said...

You are such a lovely caring person Faith. I was a tad tearful when I read about your Doves. As you know - I cry when I'm sad, cry when I'm happy. The bird/Doves are so beautiful.

I like the idea of separate Dove Blog Faith. I think Pax was missing his mate, so sad, hope he went on to survive.
I hate the sounds of the guns pooping across the fields when it is time for the "shoot", cannot bear it, even Daisy Boo goes and hides under the table, and she is a Hunter dog!