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.
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.