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.