Monday, 15 December 2008

Christmas Giveaway and Dove Painting

I thought it would be in the Christmas spirit and fun to have a little giveaway of some Christmassy choccy items. Please add your name to the comments (on either this blog or my other one) and I will draw the winners on the 18th Dec, contact you if you win and post them off straight away so hopefully they arrive before Christmas. If you have any preference, please say so!

Dove book - Spirit's Story - photos by me, Lindt Rudi the Reindeer chocs, Ladybird chocs, Hanging Penguin with choc balls, Snow bear finger puppet with choc balls, Santa hat with choc balls, Lindt truffles.

I bought this dove painting on Ebay. It was done for the Warehouse Project - I think something to do with music but don't really know! Now hanging in my bedroom - I love it! and a bargain at under £15

Merry Christmas everyone from my doves! They will have a special treat on Christmas day - ALL they can eat, no rationing at all!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Pink doves!

The feral flock of doves are fed at about 8.00 am and again in the afternoons, at this time of year, at 2.oo pm. I have been trying to reduce the number of the flock to manageable and affordable proportions, but despite cutting down the amount of grain given I still have about 80 doves and pigeons arriving to be fed!

Most days, just before dark, a little group of doves - from 1 to 10 - gather, hopefully, on the roof and I, unable to resist, have been feeding them a little extra supper. Initially, it was only a small group of 3 or 4 and as they started to wait regularly after the main flock had flown away, I wondered if they were always the same doves. I pondered how I could somehow mark them so I would know and decided to flick a small quantity of food colouring to stain their feathers while they ate. This worked, and the same doves - a big male and a female, plus one or two smaller doves who I took to be their young, were there every day. Now a few other doves have cottoned on to having high tea, but I won't feed them if there are more than 10. Mr. and Mrs. Pink Spots always wait no matter how long it takes for the others to give up and fly away.

Fennie, a blogger who commented on my last dove blog (Pigeons in War - see below this one) suggested (very frivolously, Fennie - lol) that perhaps my doves could be fed the same sort of food as flamingos and thus become pink! I searched Google images for a picture of a pink dove and was surprised to find that this is actually happening at Winwick Hall in Northamptonshire.
Find the beautiful pink doves under the section entitled 'Stables'. I'm tempted to try it in the summer, but where could I obtain krill from?

Maybe I will just satisfy myself with making some pink dove biscuits with my dove cutter (bought on Ebay) and this recipe, kindly sent to me by another blogger, Unpeuloufoque.

Oven 170/325/Gas mark 3

30z butter
1 egg
10 oz plain flour
2 oz golden syrup
4 oz soft brown sugar
Large shake of cinnamon or ginger

Sift flour and cinnamon into a bowl. Add butter and cut it up. Rub into flour with your finger tips. Break egg into a bowl then beat and add golden syrup. Mix until smooth . Make hollow in flour, pour in egg mixture mix until it makes a ball. Put in plastic bag in fridge for 30 minutes. Get it out of fridge. Sprinkle flour on a table and on your rolling pin - roll out to about ¼” thick. Cut out biscuits, put on lined baking tray, cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. Take out of oven and cool. Ice with 4 oz icing sugar mixed with about 1 tnsp of hot water. Spoon a little onto cool biscuits and spread with a wet knife.

For pink ones I'd have to use a little colouring, obviously.

I haven't tried this recipe yet, but apparently it is great for making the kind of cookies you thread a ribbon through can hang from the Christmas tree.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Pigeons in War

Remembrance Sunday 2008.

The National Pigeon Service was formed at the outbreak of World War Two when 7000 of Britain's pigeon fanciers gave their pigeons to the war effort to act as message carriers.

Pigeons carried their messages either in special message containers on their legs or small pouches looped over their backs. Pigeons were dropped by parachute in containers to Resistance workers in France, Belgium and Holland. This was dangerous as if caught with a British pigeon it meant facing German firing squad. The photo of the poster above was taken at the German Occupation Museum in Guernsey.
One famous pigeon was called White Vision. She/he received a Dickin Medal (popularly referred to as the 'Animal VC' and exclusive to animals and birds - see for more stories) for saving the lives of eleven airmen in 1943. White Vision was released from a flying boat ditched off Scotland and flew sixty miles in strong winds and exceptionally difficult conditions to bring a rescue party.
More details can be found on Pigeons in War at Read about some of the brave pigeons - it is quite humbling!
The Animals in War memorial is in Park Lane, Mayfair.
(Information for this blog taken from Pigeons in War leaflet from the Royal Pigeon Racing Association leaflet.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Bognor 1961

This is me, and my nearest sister, in Bognor. I'm the little one, and aged four. I don't remember the day, but I do recall that the dresses were mauve and white gingham, and my shoes, my lovely shoes, were pink patent. I cried when I outgrew them. Maybe my love of white doves stems from this occasion?

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Dove Returned to Grateful Owner

Belle, in dog carrier, waiting to be collected.

I have mentioned before that for the last while a ringed white dove has been visiting my garden with the rest of the feral flock. She has a yellow ring on one leg, and a white ring with a telephone number on on the other.

I didn't name her but for the purpose of writing the blog I will call her Belle. She was a bold little thing, and would always run to me, and after a while would feed from my hand, with some of the other bold, or very hungry, doves. As she became tamer, I took my camera out at feeding time and tried to take photos of her feet, so that I could find out the telephone number. I got most of it from the photos, as once they were uploaded, it was easy to read, but I couldn't see all of it and so it came into my mind that I might be able to catch her.

So on Tuesday 14.10.08 at the afternoon feeding time, I scattered the grain as usual over the island, and put some on the wall near me, and had some in my open hand too. Belle, hungry as always, can rushing over in her normal way. I suspected she was a young dove, and she was moulting on her head, so easy to recognise with her pink skin showing through on her head and just a few fluffy feathers.

While Belle and the others crowded round my left hand on the wall, I brought my right hand up and swiftly down on the one I hoped was Belle. I had caught her! but holding onto her was not easy! She is a feisty, strong dove. I held her close to my body, with my hand over her head and hurried off the island to put her in my dog's travelling box. I really must get another for the doves - I'm always using his!

Belle tried to escape by bashing herself against the grille, but eventually realised it was futile. I put grain and water in the box and went to get a pen and paper. Having noted down the telephone number and feeling pleased with myself for catching her, I rang the number.

I discovered that Belle belongs to Bob Friar of Everlasting Doves in Aldershot, Surrey. He keeps beautiful white pure bred Logan Rock doves and releases them at occasions such as weddings and funerals. Please take a moment to look at his website Bob was, I think, rather surprised to get my call but of course very pleased to know that Belle was alive and well. She had been missing for about three weeks having flown away from his garden with another of his doves (sadly still missing). Belle, at time of blogging, is about 16 weeks old and the distance between Bob's home and mine is 23.5 miles.

Bob came to collect Belle the next day. He brought a purpose built dove carrying box out of his car, with little compartments, suitable for transporting several doves. Out of this he produced a bottle of wine for me, which was a kind thought, although it had been no trouble at all for me to catch and keep Belle for him and I enjoyed having her, although not keeping her confined.

I really enjoyed our chat - it's lovely to talk to someone who truly shares your interest - and Bob was able to give me a few useful tips. He also assured me that, come what may, the doves and pigeons visiting my garden would definitely not starve if I stopped feeding them.

It would be a long, lonely winter without them...........

Wish I'd scrubbed the paint off my hands before taking this photo!
The end.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

How I'm Dealing with the Problem AND Doves in the house!

Photo of my yorkshire terrier - well he does get a mention further down the blog!

First of all, I will just apologise to Lee, who commented on a recent blog. I said Lee was a lady because I didn't know - but we've been emailing and Lee is a man. So, sorry Lee, and let me know when your doves arrive. Lee and his family are getting a new dovecote and four white doves - very exciting!

I telephoned a man called Dave who keeps racing pigeons and has been dealing with pigeons and doves for 50 years. I bought Dave's booklet on Ebay (doesnt seem to be available at the moment or I would have provided a link) and the small price I paid gives me access to his phone number to discuss any problems or queries. I'd actually forgotten about this, but then remembered and thought he might be able to help. Dave was a lovely kind chap and we had a super conversation, but none of his ideas I felt were going to be very practical for me.

He suggested:

1. Trapping the doves I don't want and taking them for a drive 30 miles or so away, and then releasing them.

I feel that this would be difficult to do - how do you trap them? I would have to get big traps and entice them in with food, and I certainly don't want to pay for traps. Then it would be unfair to the doves to take them away from the landscape they know and where they roost. Also I might well split up paired doves and I wouldnt want to do that.

2. Putting an advert somewhere (he didn't suggest where) saying that white doves were available if someone wants to come and trap them.

Apparently white doves are scarce and people are always looking to buy them!!!! (Amazing!). This idea is no good for same reasons as above, and the fact that I don't want people tramping in and trying to trap doves on my island!

3. Shooting them.

We both agreed that we thought this was wrong.

4. Cutting down the food while it is still Autumn and natural food is still probably available.

Well, this seems to be my only option, and I have started to do it. Today 9.10.08 I only put out half the quantity I was putting out before, and I will reduce it slowly. I hate doing this, I really do. They are so so hungry - they come whirling round me, tumbling over each other in their eagerness to get to the food. I sit on the wall and they will feed from my hand, five or more at a time.

The other day I was relaxing in my sitting-room, laptop on my lap and dog by my side, when there was a frightening bang from the kitchen and I discovered that a big male dove had flown in through the back door (which is actually our front door too!) which was ajar and was trying get out through the closed window, flapping against the glass. I caught him and wrapped his wings close around him and held him next to my body so he wouldn't struggle. My little yorkie saw that Mummy was fussing with one of those white fluttery things again and went huffily back to the sofa!

I wanted to ring the dove before I set him free so I put him in the dog travelling box with some food and water to recover until my husband came home (which was only half an hour or so). The dove, making the best of a bad job, started to peck up the food quickly. I named him Octavius as it is October, and ringed him with green (my colour) and blue (to show who he is) and set him free.

The very next day the very same thing happened again. This time the dove was smaller, and I assumed a young female. I managed to ring her myself - I'm getting the hang of these tricky ring! - with green, and red this time, and called her Octavia.

Photo of Octavius (left) and Octavia - have you any idea how hard it is to get a photo of two particular doves together out of a flock of at least 80?

A day after this, we had a more unpleasant happening. Some time after the morning feeding, I discovered a very mangled body of a dove under my washing line.

WARNING: skip the writing in brown if you don't want to read gory post mortem details.

The unlucky thing had obviously had a fatal encounter with a hawk as its body was ripped apart. Its eyes were open, looking like dead staring fish eyes - horrid! I must be getting hardened to these sights though, as after the initial shock of seeing white, bloodied feathers and a poor little corpse on my lawn, I was interested to see that spilling out of the ripped crop of the bird were grains of wheat. I put on a pair of disposable gloves (always a good idea to keep a supply handy) and placed the body on a sheet of newspaper which I then put on the garden table. I have never done anything like this before (except I vaguely remember with a dead frog in a biology lesson at school) but I was interested to see what this dove had been eating. I took a sharp pair of scissors and slightly cut the crop open further. The smell and sound was off-putting I have to say. To my inexperienced eye, the crop looked totally full. I would say that 80% were wheat grains, and the rest other seeds/grains including maize. As my feed mix is not 80% wheat - more like 20-25% - I have to assume that this dove, and no doubt the other doves, are finding food elsewhere. I did have a look at the rest of the body, but didn't do any more cutting. I would have been interested to see the stomach but couldn't face doing the deed.

Ok, safe to read on now -
I have seen Octavius and Octavia several times since I ringed them. There is a small group of 4 -7 doves that wait on the roof until just after sunset when all the other doves have flown off to roost and then come and appeal to me for food. I can't resist them so I have been feeding them a little extra at this time. Octavia seems to be one of them. There is also a rather tatty looking dove that is ringed with a yellow ring on one leg, and a white ring with a phone number on the other. I have seen the word Phone and then several numbers underneath but I can't so far get close enough to read them all. If I could I would phone the number and see where the dove had come from. I would imagine it has been living with the feral flock for some time as it is in rather poor condition with a bit of a bald head! I wonder if it's owner would want it back. I would if it were mine.

So to sum up, hopefully the doves are finding food elsewhere and I can feel less guilty about feeding them less. Currently after the morning feed, about a third to half of the doves remain on the roof and the others fly away. I suspect that they take it in turns to fly off foraging for food but keep a good look out here in case I decide to put more food out. I'm not looking forward to the winter when there just isn't any natural food left around. Of course I do love the doves, but there is just too many of them.

The end.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

BIG Problem

101 doves! (and Spirit on the ground). Dove food - Economy on the left, Conditioner on the right.

Thursday 2nd October 08

(Warning: Blog contains photo of dead dove (at end)

There are too many doves around here! One day I counted 110! Any suggestions as to how to reduce the numbers gratefully received. The obvious solution is to just stop feeding them, but I just cannot do that. My neighbour says don't worry they will just fly off and find other food - but would they? Find food , I mean. I may have mentioned in the blog before that, a while ago, I saw something in a newspaper about pigeon corpses in the Trafalgar Square area of London being examined, and found to have completely empty stomachs - in fact, they had starved to death. I find that very sad. I used to enjoy feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square and taking my children to do the same. You could buy little bags of food from the authorised sellers - probably not 'tuppence a bag' but cheap enough, and then the pigeons whirled round you, feeding off your hands and even landing on your head. Rats with wings or not, none of us died from pigeon germs and I always made sure we took wipes, and washed our hands thoroughly at the first opportunity. The phrase 'rats with wings' was coined by Woody Allen, I believe. Of course I totally disagree. Rats definitely do not have the charm and cheekiness of pigeons.

I am not feeding the 100 + doves any more food than I was feeding 40, but it is very hard to resist. I feed them in the morning as soon as I get up - none too early, between 7-8 am and then I feed them again in the afternoon. The time depends on what I am doing but between 2pm and 4pm. If I'm going out, then I fill the pans before I go. BUT I have to confess that I will throw a few handfuls into the garden to any doves that are scratching around. To a certain extent I had to do this, for Spirit's sake (when she was alive - see update further on in blog) Doves like feeding together and I wouldn't have liked her to be alone all day. I also have a lame dove I call Limpet (limp pet!) arriving in the garden at around 6pm when all the other doves have left. I think maybe he has been ostracised by the rest of the flock - he is certainly hungry when he arrives, poor thing.

I'm hoping that I will find the strength to gradually reduce the feed I put on the island for the feral flock so that they will disperse to other hunting grounds. My neighbour says they won't. He says they will all turn up and fight over the food even if I only put out a cupful! But I can't starve the poor things, can I? It is a difficult problem for me as I would ideally like the feral flock completely gone before I start again with a new little flock of my own next May or June.

But the doves are SO hungry, poor things. They haunt the shed roof, the wire, the arch in the garden like little ghosties. Even one day, leaving the lid of the metal bin, I caught some who had dived inside! They will even land pecariously on the swinging house bird feeder and steal the bread and seeds put out for the little birds. What am I going to do?

I will welcome any sensible comments or suggestions on this problem.


Update on Spirit:

Spirit is dead. RIP beautiful bird. She was not at all keen to come out of the dovecote on Tuesday 30th Sept, and I had to haul her out. When on the ground I could see that one of her feet was crippled in some way; all the toes curling in. This made it difficult for her to walk and she spent much of the day sitting. It poured in the afternoon and when I got home from taking my dog to the groomers, poor Spirit was hiding under the foliage from a pot of overgrown petunias, sitting on the ground, bedraggled and dirty. I brought her inside and wrapped her in two dry warm flannels and held her to warm her up. Then I put her to bed early in the dovecote with some food, and a little water in a jam jar lid.

Photo shows crippled foot. Spirit in trug on her last morning - she couldnt stand.

On Wednesday 1st October I again had to reach into the dovecote and bring Spirit out. Both feet were now crippled and she was unable to stand. I put her in my hay filled garden trug, and tried to tempt her with food and water but she wouldn't eat or drink. As I already had a vet appointment made for my dog, I took her along with me, knowing of course that she would have to be put down. I would've kept her if she could eat and drink, but the last thing I wanted was her to starve to death. My vet is lovely, a kind gentle man, unlike some of the brusque vets I have met in the past. He stroked Spirit but said, of course, that nothing could be done for her. Though she was a feral dove, I said that I had been looking after her and considered her to be mine and therefore had to pay for the euthanasia (£13 plus £2.28 VAT = £15.28 total). I could have taken her ring off before we went and just said she was a feral dove found in the garden but she was mine and I didn't want to deny her as I had had a month of her delightful company. We will miss seeing her little face peeking out of the dovecote.

I brought her body home with me, and, putting on gloves, examined her. I just couldn't see what was wrong with her wing - it seemed just the same as the other one. All the mites had gone too. Her little body, wrapped by her wings, stayed warm for ages. I picked some flowers and left her in the trug for a while, before giving her a watery funeral in the river.

RIP Spirit


Rings - I ordered rings and they have arrived. I ordered 100 green rings and 100 mixed colours - pink, red, blue, purple and yellow from Solway Feeders Ltd. in Scotland. I found them on the internet and they seemed to have the right sized ring for the doves (pigeon size 8mm). Unfortunately when the order arrived they had missed out the purple rings, but an email soon got a polite response and the purple rings arrived very shortly afterwards. They also sell other products suitable for doves -

These rings are more difficult to put on than the original rings I had (couldnt get any of those). I practised on Spirit before her funeral. It is better to have two people doing the job - one to hold the dove and the other to ring it.

A person called Lee commented on my last blog and ask me to email her (him?) and I have done so. I'm assuming she is a lady - anyway, she is getting a dovecote and two pairs of doves very soon. so CONGRATULATIONS Lee I am sure they will bring you lots of pleasure (and probably a few problems too!). I am looking forward to hearing from you again.

The End.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Update on Spirit and Sooty

Me holding Spirit (sorry about the boob shot!) and Spirit, lefthand corner, watches men at work!

Thursday 25.9.08

Spirit has now been with me for four weeks. She still can't fly and I wonder now if she will ever be able to.

Spirit fans her feathers and stretches, but still can't fly.

I had a fright the other day as I came out into the garden one morning first thing and she was nowhere to be seen. I even put my hand into the dovecote to make sure she wasnt hiding right at the back. I then walked out of the gate into the gravelled yard beyond, but no sign of her. I was a bit upset thinking that maybe she had tumbled out of the dovecote, as she does, but landed on her back and then some vicious visitor, like a cat or mink, had discovered her and carried her off. There was no sign of scuffle though, and no large quantities of feathers in one place. I then hoped that maybe somehow she had discovered she could fly and flown off with the rest of the flock, but I doubted it.

I kept looking out at the garden, and about half an hour later I saw a dove on the wrong side of the gate trying to get into the garden. It kept ducking its head, and looking like it wanted to squeeze in, but we have wire at the bottom of the gate to keep the dog in the garden. I went out, and of course it was Spirit. I held the gate open, and in she walked! She must have falled out of the dovecote, onto the hedge, and then walked along and dropped down into the yard side, rather than the garden side. I was relieved to have her back as she has become a special pet.

We have been treating her for mites. I had thought the infestation had cleared on its own, but of course it hadn't. I don't know much about pigeon mites but they look like grass seeds, long shape rather than round, and they were on her breast and her wings. Sometimes they were visible and sometimes not. I suppose they burrow into the feathers seeking the skin and the blood. Yuck! I bought some Johnson's Anti-Mite and Insect Spray from the pet shop, which contains natural biodegradable Pyrethrum. The most effective way of treating the bird is for two people (wearing gloves) to do the job together: one holds the bird, covering its eyes while the other parts the feathers and applies the spray. The pigeon house or dovecote must also be treated. It seems to have worked, but I will be keeping an eye out.

Spirit has taken to sitting just inside the open back-door, or on the branch near the door that I have put there for her. It doesn't bother her as I go in and out. One day my Yorkie snapped at her as she sat in the doorway and was severely reprimanded. Normally he's good with the doves, but he probably thought it was a bit much if they start almost coming into the house!

Saviour, Spirit's mate, doesn't seem to be with her any more - he may be with the main flock of course, but doesnt seem to come and sit with her during the day which is a bit sad.
Sooty, the dove who fell down the chimney, has been seen every day, but is not much cleaner. I'm pretty sure she is a young female. I am also seeing Columba (one of the first babies reared in the dovecote) every day. So I have three ringed doves at the moment - Spirit (orange), Sooty (purple) and Columba (white).
The end

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Too early for Father Christmas

Sunday 21.9.08

I was cleaning up in my daughter's bedroom the other day and although I heard a rustling noise, I put it down to the papers I was collecting up. Very soon I heard it again, and realised that it was coming from behind the metal flap in the chimney place. This metal flap probably has a proper name, but I don't know it - it is pushed forward to open if one was to have a fire, which of course we don't in the bedrooms, or left shut against draughts. I gingerly pushed it slightly, and much flapping resulted so I assumed a bird, and probably a dove, had fallen down the chimney!

Luckily the poor frightened thing fluttered upwards and I was able to push the flap forwards and twist it out (flap not dove!). I had my camera handy and so took a couple of photos quickly - that might seem cruel to keep the dove waiting to be rescued, but it wasn't really as it was just sitting inside the chimney.

Sooty - sorry, not very original name I know! - resisted being rescued but I managed to grab her wing and dragged her out as gently as possible, and held her close to my body, which is how you are supposed to hold doves. This didn't do a lot for my white T-shirt! Sooty also was a horrible grey colour. I don't think she can have been down there long though as I've been in the room every day.

I put Sooty in my dog's carrying box with food and water to recover, and she quickly started eating. After fifteen minutes, and as the other doves were around, I thought it best to release her. I ringed her first - in purple, John's colour - and then tried to bath her in the dove's washing up bowl bath on the lawn, but she struggled and so I set her free.

I wondered at first if she couldn't fly, and saw myself with another dove to catch and put in the dovecote at night, but after wandering about for a bit, she eventually flew to the roof with the others and seemed perfectly happy.

(Sooty left, Spirit right)

I've seen her every day since and also seen her give herself a bath, but she remains very grey, poor little thing.

(Sooty - a day or so after falling down the chimney, and after a bath. Her feathers are very tatty and soiled)

Hopefully this won't happen again in the sitting-room when the fire is lit this winter!

The End.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Update on Spirit

Sunday 7.9.08

Close up of Spirit

Spirit in the garden. In the second photo, see her perched on the rung of the garden chair watching a courting couple!

We have had Spirit living in the garden for about ten days now. Unfortunately, her wing is not better and she cannot fly. Hopefully, it is healing internally. Other than that, she seems very happy and healthy. She appeared to have some evidence of mites when she arrived, but now is clean. Her feathers are pure white, she eats well and seems content to spend the day on the path, or hiding in the flower-bed. When I pick her up to put her in the dovecote at night, she squeaks but doesnt really struggle any more. I hope she realises I am helping her. When it's bedtime - around 6pm at the moment - she walks out from the flower-bed and then I pick her up.

She is definitely a female, as I suspected, as I have seen another male courting her. See the dove/pigeon in the photo! Poor Spirit, she couldnt fly away from his unwanted attentions and I had to shoo him off. Saviour, being a gentleman and knowing she is poorly. has not tried to force his attentions on her!

Spirit with unwanted male

I'm so glad Saviour hasn't abandoned her (yet). He comes down each day and spends some time with her, on the path or in the flower bed. One day they walked together to the back of the house, and sat together there. It's very touching, and one of the reasons I love the doves. for the 'human' characteristics they display.

Spirit and Saviour on the path, as seen through the kitchen door, and sitting together at the back of the house.

My Yorkshire terrier doesnt upset Spirit.

The end.

Sunday, 31 August 2008


Spirit in the flower bed

Saviour waiting on the roof


On the 27th August, two doves spent the night on our roof. I was pleased to see them, but knew it was unusual and thought maybe they were just passing through.

The next day I realised that one of them had an injured wing and had drifted down to the garden but couldn't fly. I am pretty sure it is the female and I named her Spirit and her mate, Saviour, as he brought her here where it is safe.

The garden is fenced and my dog doesnt annoy the doves, so a poorly dove is fairly safe during the day, when I am around.

Thursday the 28th was about the worst day for me to find an injured dove in the garden. My poor little Yorkshire Terrier, who suffers from a collapsed trachea, was very ill indeed and I thought he was going to die, or have to be put to sleep. While my daughter watched over him, I nipped out to feed the doves and that's when I discovered poor Spirit. She was hiding in the flower bed, and her wing seemed to be drooping and slightly out of position. I put some food near her and a little bowl of water; she edged away from me while I did this.

In the early evening I was less worried about my dog as he seemed to be improving, thank goodness, so I went out to the garden to look for Spirit. She was in the same place, perched on a pot but I knew she would be vulnerable there all night - cats definitely come into the garden occasionally and we have also seen mink, and no doubt a fox could get in if it was really determined. I trapped her easily by bringing the big fishing net I keep for the purpose down over her as gently as possible, and then scooping her up. You have to hold doves with their wings together and against your body, and then they are ok and don't struggle.

I popped her up in the dovecote for the night, and put in a few seeds too. I have a weeny little terracotta water bowl for poorly doves in the dovecote, and I put it on the outer ledge. Saviour, on the roof opposite, could see her I'm sure.

Last night was the fourth night Spirit has spent in the dovecote, but the first night I couldn't see Saviour on the roof. I hope he hasn't abandoned her. Doves mate for life, but maybe he thinks she won't recover or maybe he has found a better roost for the night.

During the day, Spirit hides in the flower bed or comes out and walks on the lawn, especially if other doves are about. I don't normally feed the doves on the lawn any more (see previous blog) but I have been putting some down, so the doves are around for Spirit's sake.

Three times since she has arrived I have found her in the garden lying on her back, feet in the air, and her head turned to the side. It seems to be when she has been trying to hop up a little higher, to a step or a pot, to roost on and she's fallen down.

It's lovely having a dove in the dovecote again, and I have ringed her with orange. Pax's colour but I doubt he will ever come back. I MUST get some more rings; keep saying it and never do it.

I will let you know how Spirit gets on.
The end.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Doves v Lawn

Aug 2008

The Doves This Summer

My husband thinks that the doves wreck the lawn. I don't agree. I think it was the dry weather we had in June that dried out patches of the lawn. He suggested that I feed the doves on the island, and I mulled over this idea in my head. There are pros and cons, but the biggest pro is that if I want to try again with my own new flock next year, which I do, then I need to get the feral flock feeding away from the dovecote. So the pros and cons are


Husband can't complain doves wreck the lawn if they are not on it!
It doesn't matter how much they 'wreck' the island as it is rough grass.

The feral flock will be feeding well away from the dovecote which will have to be covered with a homing net when we get our own new flock.

As they will be feeding on the island, out of my sight, I won't feel like running out to feed them so often, so they will finish all the bits of feed they don't particularly like (saving money).

They may be more protected from the hawk on the island as it is quite small and a fair amount of it is covered by the tree, thus blocking hawk's vision and downward swoop.

When the lawn treatment people come I won't have to be so worried that the doves are eating the stuff they put down to feed the lawn.

I won't see the ferals feeding and bathing on the lawn in front of me. Big con.

I will have to traipse over the rickety bridge to the island at least twice a day, rain or shine, to feed them.... ok in the summer, dodgy in the winter.

If anyone else feeds the doves for me, like my neighbour, he will have to go over the rickety bridge.

Getting the doves to feed on the island might be tricky.


Anyway, I decided that , in the long term, it would benefit me if I could move the ferals feeding place to the island so I told husband that I agreed to his suggestion, but he must give me time to get the doves used to it.

I started by moving the doves feeding pans every day a little further down the lawn. This was fine while we were in the open expanse of the lawn in front of the house. Every morning the hungry doves fly down to me and of course they could see where I had moved the pans to. Then
we got to the narrow bit under the arch which goes into a smaller patch of lawn in front of the conservatory. They didnt like going through the arch for some reason, but of course, hunger driven, they did. The next bit was even trickier - the narrow grass path between the flower bed and the conservatory, opening onto another small patch of lawn with the washing line in it. Again they accepted it, although it was a nuisance for the day or so while they were on the narrow grass path.

They liked the washing line and happily sat on it, like little white socks blowing in the breeze, waiting for me to fill the pans. Of course, rather inconvenient for me as I couldnt risk using the line and having nasty additions to my clean washing!

Then I had the major problem of getting them fron the garden to the island. They did not like this one bit. The gate to the bridge to the island is mostly shut (and padlocked) to prevent anyone coming over to the garden from the other side of the river. Now I wanted to keep it open to show the doves where I was putting the pans, but it was a hazard to my little dog who is intrigued by the island and quite capable of trip-trapping over the bridge, and maybe falling in! The bridge is only wooden planks with gaps between. I sorted this problem by putting a piece of wood across the gateway,

The doves were still resistant despite being hungry. I put pans on the bridge, loose grain on the bridge, pans on the island, loose grain on the island wall... but no they wouldnt cross over. Pathetically they watched me from their vantage points on the top of the house, the washing line and their slip-slidy positions on the conservatory roof. I was firm and kept calling them, and throwing more (imaginery) grain down to tempt them and eventually one or two bold ones came fluttering round me, and the others followed.

The whole process took about a week, and now the doves are very comfortable with the new arrangement, and although I miss feeding them on the lawn I am looking forward to getting a new flock of my own next Spring. We will get six this time. Last time I started with four,one pair had babies very quickly so we had six, but it will be better to have three pairs to start with. I have already started thinking about names, and when it comes to the time I will choose one name from Purplecooers suggestions.

Over the summer the flock has increased and today 16th Aug '08 I counted about 65 feral doves. It's getting too many by far, but I try to only put out the same amount of food. Some of the doves are a bit scruffy - maybe they are coming in from a distance for the food. Sometime during the summer the feral pigeons were culled in my local town-that-likes-to-call-itself-a-village. I knew immediately that it had been done because, to me, the town seemed quieter and less cheerful. When I was up in my Pilates class in second-floor studio I looked out and saw two dead pigeons on a flat roof, confirming my suspicions - they hadnt been gathered up after the cull. It makes me sad though I can understand why it is done. Pigeons do make a terrible mess, especially when breeding under the eaves etc and old buildings have many hidey holes. I think some of the feral pigeons who escaped the cull have joined up with the feral white doves. I'm seeing many more grey and coloured ones now.
Doves on the island as seen through the garden fence!
The end

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Pinkie's Flock and Chess's flock..... and Angel

This blog is just a general update, more for me than for anyone reading!

There seems to be two small feral flocks. Pinkie's flock is named after Pinkie who I have mentioned before. Pinkie is the tamest dove out of all who visit my garden. She is definitely female as I have seen her being 'courted' (but not mated). She wears a thick bright pink ring, so is easily recognisable and obviously someone else at some time ringed her.

I go out to feed the doves at 7.30 am in the morning. Pinkie and her flock are usually waiting for me, on the roof or the lawn. They walk and fly towards me, which is gratifying, and I always wear my bright turquoise dressing gown as I read in my dove book that pigeon fanciers keep a special coat that they put on when they go into their lofts so the pigeons recognise them. One day when it was pouring recently I put my white coat over my dressing gown and the doves didn't come down to feed until I had gone away. I scoop up their food from a metal bin near the house into an old blue plastic round washing up bowl that used to belong to my mother and then I collect their feeding trays from the shed kitchen where I leave them overnight. I take any food left over in at dusk, and clear the table of stray grain to discourage rats, as we have had problems with them in the past.

I set the trays on the big garden table that I use as a feeding station and start filling them. Pinkie is always the first to fly down, while I am still filling the trays. She is a big, confident dove and will start eating and the others quickly follow, fluttering down around me - but not too close! Two or three will often stay on the roof until I move away. I read an interesting article about how one bird will watch over the flock, taking the role of sentry while the others eat, and this does seem to happen here. Often one dove will stay on top of the roof, scanning the sky. I also stay close for the morning feed to discourage the hawk. And keep away the magpies, the squirrel, the pheasant and the jackdaws who like to take over the table.

I also scatter food for the little garden birds on the edge of the table and nearby ground.

Then I move a short distance away and watch them; always checking their feet for rings, in the hope that I might see John, or Columba - who came back at Easter - or even Pax. And now also for Angel.


Angel's Story

I came out of the kitchen door just as the hawk was tussling with the dove almost in front of me - it was all so quick that it was impossible to really see. The hawk flew off and the dove sort of hopped to shelter - the coal bunker again - and got stuck. I picked her up very gently, holding her wings close against her body and she had blood on her. My husband came and terribly gently stretched out her wings to see if they were ok. We felt she was frightened and scratched more than badly hurt and put her, with food and water, in the dog travelling box 'hospital' for the night to recuperate. If I have a poorly dove I always put the box up high in the shed, and make sure the door is firmly shut.

The next morning, early, I brought the box out of the shed and Angel appeared keen to get out as she several times tried to batter down the grille door. I carefully removed her and ringed her - not an easy feat without assistance. I would have waited for my husband to come home and help, but felt it wasn't fair to Angel. I had to use a pink ring but it doesnt show up well against a dove's pink feet. I don't know why they make them pink and white! My last selection were pink, white, green, orange, yellow and purple. Red and blue would be more sensible than pink and white.

I put Angel onto the feeding table and she walked about and fluffed up her wings a little, and then tried to fly ..... and couldn't! She fluttered to the ground and spent the next couple of hours, hiding near the hedge or sitting on a very low perch we have at the bottom of the dovecote.


Eventually she seemed to have got her head together and flew away, buI haven't seen her since then. I don't blame her for not wanting to visit the garden where the claws of death might be waiting.


Pinkie is probably the leader of her morning flock, and often the only one that I can recognise amongst them all - the rest being totally white.

Chess's flock come in the afternoon and are less tame. Chess, so named by my daughter, as he has beautifully marked black feathers in his tail, is definitely male as I have seen him displaying courting behaviour. I don't think he is the leader of the flock, but he is one I can recognise easily. Sometime Liquorice, a dark feathered dove, is there too, and another one similar to Chess with dark tail feathers.


There are about a dozen doves in each little flock, and sometimes in the afternoons they are all there together, sunning themselves on the roof. I often have individual doves just turn up for a quick feed when the main groups are elsewhere, or sometimes a pair will stay for the afternoon or a small group of three or four.

I had really been thinking about homing another flock of my own - say 6 doves - next Spring, but now after the attack on Angel I am wavering again.

A dove came to the table a week or so ago, and appeared to have what looked like an egg between its legs. I managed to get a photo - see what you think. (If you click on it, it should enlarge) I started worrying that it was some sort of horrible tumour, but my husband said it was obviously just an egg, that had got stuck (with *hit as glue - nice!) and would no doubt soon get crushed. How weird though!

There's always something interesting to see!