Pax and Persephone, John and Irene had all flown away and I just stood there in the yard outside our garden gate crying. Hub3, who hates to see me in distress, jumped into one of his vehicles and said he drive round the village seeing if he could see them anywhere. He came back with no news, and I was a crumpled heap of misery in the armchair.
I couldnt settle to do anything. I kept looking out of the window, or going out to scan the sky. The worst thing about it was the babies in the nest box. I made Hub3 promise that if the parents didnt come back he would you-know-what them rather than them suffer a horrible death from starvation.
I had bought a book with dove information in it and it gave the telephone number of a man who has kept white garden doves for many years. Despite it being Sunday, I was so desperate I decided to ring him.
He turned out to be a seemingly very surly gentleman, but doves are obviously his life so after a few minutes he warmed to me and assured me that they probably would be back. Go out and tap a metal plate and put food out, he said in an old fashioned way. Well, I don't have any metal plates, but I improvised and tapped and called. And I prayed very hard!
All day long I worried about the babies. The dove man had said that they wouldnt last longer than 24-48 hours without their parents. In another way I was glad there were babies,because the doves had something to return for. Surely they wouldnt abandon their babies?
I had gone on to our little 'island' which is in the middle of the river adjoining our cottage, and accessed by a rough bridge. From there I could see all of the sky, and some of the garden and the dovecote. I had the binoculars with me. It was late in the afternoon. Suddenly out of nowhere I saw one white dove alight on the fence separating our garden from the river. I held my breath, and crouching low, so as not to be seen I crossed the bridge and went back into the garden and watched from behind some plants.
To be perfectly honest, I can't exactly remember what happened next but one by one, slowly, three of the doves returned and fed, and then, thankfully, fed the babies. Using binoculars I could see the rings, and knew that Irene was the missing one. Eventually, about 7pm, even she had returned and was sitting on the nearby roof. I was so happy and thankful to have my beautiful doves back. (Hub3 breathed a sigh of relief probably!)
Two weeks later the babies, Lily and Columba, were ready to leave the nest and it was amusing to watch the parents trying to entice them out. When they did come out they just sort of fluttery-tumble-plummet straight to the ground. We have some pampas grass near the base of the dovecote. I don't like it particularly but it does afford shelter to baby doves, just out of the nest. Once out, we ringed them: Lily pink and Columba white. I can't exactly remember how long it takes the babies to learn to fly - a few days to a week I suppose. During that time they are very vulnerable to predators, but our garden is wire- fenced, so Yorkie, my tiny Yorkshire Terrier, can't squeeze through the hedge and we don't often get cats. There are mink in the river and these do sometimes come into the garden, and they are vicious creatures. So every night when the adult doves were getting ready to settle into the dovecote for the night, we would pick the babies up and pop them in too, to be safe. This is easier said than done - the babies don't want to be picked up by people and can move pretty fast! One night we had to be away for the night and Em had been given strict intructions that the babies MUST be put in the cote. She told us that she had spent ages, in the rain, going round and round the pampas grass trying to catch Lily. We have a small net that we use but it is still not easy, and of course you don't want to damage the bird.
Soon enough, the babies had learnt to fly and we had a lovely little flock of six. I really enjoyed this time in the late summer. I fed the doves twice a day, morning and afternoon. In the afternoons I would sit on the grass and throw their feed, and they would all come pecking round me. The summer of 2006 was a lot better than this summer and I always seemed to be sitting on the grass, in the sun, with my beautiful dove angels around me.
Pax was definitely the leader of the flock. He was the one who decided when they would fly down to feed. and often if I didnt come out quick enough with the food in the afternoons he would come up to the kitchen door and wait for me. I loved him, and I loved them all. Columba was another beautiful dove who was extra-special to me.
When friends or family came, especially with children, it was a delight to see them enjoy the doves and feed them too.
Every time I came in or out of the garden I would consciously or unconsciously count the doves, just to make sure all six were there. One day I did a double take, there were seven doves on the roof! Another day there were eight, and once even nine! I was so happy to have visiting doves.
I write to my elderly mother weekly and there was always something new to write about with the doves.
But the summer idyll came to an end in the middle of October......
To be continued....