The summer was over and we were well into October '06 when I realised my dove, Irene, was missing. Now my little flock was settled I had never thought that something would happen to any of them, or that they would fly away. She didn't return, and John, her supposed mate, didn't seem that bothered. They had never been a proper bonded pair like Pax and Persephone, and I presume the dove people that sent them had just picked a male and a female and sent them off. I was very sorry of course and hoped that she would come back one day.
So now we were down to five doves, and the occasional visitor, although now the summer was over the visiting doves no longer seemed to regard us as 'summer camp'! We had had a ringed racing pigeon amongst the flock for quite a while - long enough for us to name him Eric, but having seen him in a bad way, gasping for breath poor thing, we had assumed he had died.
We live on a farm and not being a country girl born and bred I hadn't considered the shooting season. I don't even know when it starts........ I don't want to know. Every time I heard the guns I was petrified for my dovie angels. I tried to mentally keep them close to the garden and dove-cote by drawing imaginery circles of light around them, but one dreadful day - 2nd December - after the shoot, my exceptionally beautiful dove, Columba, less than five months old, failed to come home and the other 'baby', Lily, came home injured. We could see the blood on her white feathers.
That evening when the doves went to bed in the dovecote, poor Lily tried to follow them, but she couldn't fly. She must have been shot at fairly close to home and just glided, somehow, to the roof. So in the evening, attempting to get into the dovecote, she just tumbled into the hedge.
Hub3 and I rescued her. It stabbed me through the heart to know that men, seeing a small flock of white doves, obviously pets, had deliberately shot at them. I assumed that poor Columba was dead. He was never seen again.
And now we only had four doves.
Hub3 cradled Lily gently in his hands and we examined her. Luckily it didnt seem too bad; grazes rather than anything worse perhaps. We put her in the dovecote, with a few seeds and a tiny bowl of water.
Every day over the next week poor Lily came out of the dovecote and tumbled on to the hedge. She spent the day there, occasionally flapping her poor injured wing and trying to fly to the others. We made sure there was plenty of food for her there and her own water supply. At that time I was still feeding the others on the lawn, but it may have been then that Hub3 started complaining about how they wreck the lawn, and we started putting the pans on the hedge. Every night we caught her and put her safely out of harm's way back in the cote. Every time we checked her injuries and they were healing well,with no sign of heat or infection.
One day I went out shopping and when I came back there was no Lily on the hedge, and no Lily on the lawn or anywhere about. I was devastated and assumed that a predator - sparrowhawk perhaps or a cat or mink - had swooped down and taken her, injured and unable to fly, off the hedge. I felt dreadful., and very responsible, having left her there, a sitting target. I spent a miserable night.
Early the next day however I found her wandering out in the yard, and soon she could fly again and all was well.
The shoots continued and every time I held my breath worrying about what would happen, but all was well. We had our bonded pair, Pax and Persephone, and we had John, and we had Lily.
Now of course we had named Lily but we didn't know if she was male or female. I hoped she would be female, and I hoped that she and John would become a pair. Then we would have two breeding pairs, and our poor little flock would increase again.
The doves didn't mind the winter or the snow. They look stunning and extra white against blue or leaden grey skies. I took some amazing photos of them in the snow, but unfortunately these were lost when our old lap top died and went to heaven.
So we crept slowly towards Spring and I was hopeful that one or both pairs would start nesting again. I didn't know that another dreadful thing was just about to happen.....
To be continued.....