Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Life, briefly....and death again, more life, more death.

My little flock was happy during May. Sickly baby Francis was now a healthy juvenile, just smaller than Iona. John and Lily were a contented bonded pair. They had reared their babies successfully, and were now thinking of doing it again. Francis tended to stay near John and Lily during days spent on the nearby roof. Iona often would perch away from the others in nearby trees. From the size of her, I think she might be a he, but I do not know her true sex or that of Francis, even now.

Doves courtship pattern is very endearing. The male shows off in front of the female - pacing round and round in circles in front off her, his crop distended with air, lowering his head, fanning his tail. He looks like he is bowing to her. They start billing which is like kissing, and then, if he's lucky, she crouches down and allows herself to be mated (known as the cloacal kiss). The male chooses the nest, and once he has decided you will see the pair of them snuggled up together inside, which looks incredibly cute. Their cooing is very soft and peaceful; but penetrating - I can hear it in the house sometimes.

Once the nest is chosen, both doves will start to bring material to the box. I have a certain amount of hay in the boxes anyway, but they will search and find twigs, pineneedles etc and bring them back; sometimes flying up with such a long bit in their beak that they can't get through the entrance!

The nest is made and the cock becomes very attentive to the hen, following her everywhere and giving her no peace if she doesn't become attached to the chosen site, and start laying! Doves (pigeons) lay two white eggs, hence the expression 'pigeon pair' I suppose. The parents take turns to sit and incubation is about 17/18 days. The male sits during the day, the female at night,but she does the hatching.

During this time we often counted up to 13 doves on the roof, including our four. A pretty dove I called Clementine was often there. I recognised her easily, as she had black on her wings, and a black 'tear-drop' on her cheek. Her mate we called Claudius. Unfortunately we don't seem to see that particular pair any more.

After a while, Iona, strong, white and free-spirited stopped sleeping the nights in the dovecote and flew off with the feral (or someone else's) doves. Little Francis continued to stay close to home and slept the nights in the dovecote as usual. He had 'bagged' the nest box where he was hatched, and seemed very comfortable in it. This is the 'best' nest box - where he and Iona were hatched, and Lily and Columba before them.

At the end of May the new babies were hatched (in the second best nestbox!) and again I was very happy. I blogged about it at the time (Wed. 30th May blog) and how I took a quick photo of the inside of the nest box. The babies were a couple of days old. That photo is shown above. Unfortunately, and for no reason we could discover, those babies died at 2-4 days old. I blamed myself for taking the photo and disturbing the nest, although I didn't touch it of course. I realised that the babies had died when neither parent was going to the nest box. I'm often in the garden and I watch the doves then and I can see the dovecote from my armchair and also from the kitchen window, so I am very much aware of what they are up to.

Of course I decided I would have to check and find out for sure. It was terribly sad; they were tiny little things. Hub3 kindly cleaned them out for me. Maybe there was something wrong with them although they looked ok. Maybe it was my fault. I swore I would never do such a thing again. That was a bad night. The nest had been cleaned out, and there was nothing inside. Poor Lily spent a long time peering inside, then all the doves flew away, and for the very first time since I'd had the doves not a single dove spent the night in the dovecote. It was awful. Even at night I see their little faces peeking out of the windows. The dovecote was forlorn. It was a night of mourning.

I can't explain how I feel about the doves. I love my dog, Yorkie (not his real name) tremendously, and would be truly devastated if he died, despite him being a naughty pickle who wees on the floor if not watched! I am also very attached to 'my' doves. John is the only one left of the original four and he is 'mine' as are any that are born in my dovecote. I care about the visitors too, but am not as concerned about them. The visitors' numbers have crept up and up. There have been as many as 43, and they cost me quite a lot in feed, considering only four are 'mine'! Cee, my eldest daughter, said she wished I didn't get so unhappy when something happened to any of my doves. Why do you have to name them, she asked. Why can't they be just pretty, fluttering things in the garden? Well, my darling, they can't. They are living creatures and I care about their welfare. I don't want anything to die in my garden; even a dead butterfly causes a pang.

John and Lily came back with the other doves the next day, and seemed to understand that the babies were no more.They have both since spent every night at the dovecote, but Francis has joined Iona and is part of the bigger flock now. Immediately John and Lily started the courtship ritual again, and soon were sitting on more eggs. Purplecooers who were reading my blog at the time know what happened. The new babies were christened 'The Ugly Dovelings' by my husband. They hatched successfully, but only lived for just over two weeks, and it was even worse........

The photos show The Ugly Dovelings aged about 2 weeks, John, Lily and baby Francis, playing happy families and the first tiny babies before they died.

To be continued.... I'm nearly up to date, but next blog will say something about our visiting doves, and how my doves are now.


Exmoorjane said...

Have just been catching up on your dove blog, Faith. It's very lovely.... beautiful yet sad, much like life itself often is. I have also learned more than I ever thought I would about doves!

The Country Craft Angel said...

Ditto Jane. They are very beautiful. Loved the picture of the two on the 20th Blog.
There is something wonderfully serene about doves.
You are very knowledgable.
It was sad reading too, had almost forgotten Pax, it was sad that he never came back.

warmest wishes

Posie Rosie said...

What a fantastic insight into dovers and their lives, thank you Faith for sharing these lovely birds with us. Posie.

ChrisH said...

Well, I'll never pass a dovecote now without wondering what's going on in there.

Anonymous said...

It is a wonderful feeling to have such beautiful creatures surround us with love. Your doves are fortunate to have you.

Crystal xx

Blossomcottage said...

I think the Dove Community will be coming to you for their advice, you are becoming very knowledgeable, and clearly a very loving and caring owner.

DJ Kirkby said...

Amazing post, very emotive. Do they have soem sort of a genetic anomaly reoccuring with each pair of eggs?

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Oh Faith I know exactly how you feel about the animals in your care. Living with animals is so wonderful and full of reward, but it can also plunge you right down when things are not going well. But you are learning so much and that will help you deal with things if and when they occur in the future and will allow you to enjoy your doves even more than you do now.

Suffolkmum said...

I too will never pass a dovecote again without thinking of you Faith! It's easy to say don't be too emotional about them, hard to do if you are that way.

Lindystar the HOR blogger said...

Oh I hope you're going to post tommorow! I want to wait and hear the end instead of going and "cheating" by reading your other blogs. I'm so caught up in this, what a beautiful heart wrenching tale you are weaving out of real life.

ThankYou for sharing AND compiling it all in one place.

Anonymous said...

Faith aloved all the photos are teaching us all so much about keeping Doves ,it is facinating...look forward to the next blogg.....
PS...know what you mean about names Faith...cant help it.....
Oh....did u ever get the photo of my 2 yorkires Faith I posted it one day in the common room for you..?

Anonymous said...

Faith just when you get the time can you read a card for me p
Please....thanks ..OBM xx

PS will put my Yorkies up for you tomorrow in the common room...just for you...but I'll be looking for one back!!!