Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Let Me Introduce You

25th November 2009

I miss my large flock and mourned for them, but still have some white and coloured doves visiting every day. Here are most of what I call the After Doves.

In the beginning the birds seemed upset. It was heartbreaking to see a single dove sit on the roof waiting patiently for the others that never came, then fly round in circles to come back and wait again. Gradually the ones that were left either flew away entirely or reformed into little groups.
I had suspected that Peace, the dove that came down the chimney the day my mother died, lived in a different place to the main flock - or maybe she was tempted away by the green ringed (not by me) white male dove that I now call Harmony. They are still visiting, usually only in the mornings, and have been joined by a single white dove.
This is a beautiful multi-coloured pigeon that was my new Joseph. I often have a 'Joseph' (coat of many colours!). She was one of the survivors and turned out to be a Josephine but I havent seen her for quite a while. I think it's likely that the survivors have flown far and wide looking for new family groups to belong to.
Josephine in in the photo below, at the back, with a couple of white doves and a grey at the front. There are several greys and they look pretty similar. The two browny-pink ones are called Chocolate Brownie (new CB - I had one that died naturally) and Ruffle (at the front). They were always with the shot flock and I thought that they were related. Now Ruffle comes daily, but CB hasnt been seen for a while.

Here's a grey I recognise - a light grey with distinctive bands. I call him BlueBand. He doesn't come every day and I wonder where they go for food when they are not at mine!

This next one underneath was taken in the summer - is it CB and Ruffle? Hard to tell but I think so.At the most, just after the shooting, I saw a maximum of fourteen birds together, coloured and white. Now the most I might see is eight or nine, and usually just small groups of two, three, four or five...... or just a single bird. As I type, I caught the reflection of a bird in the computer screen and went to look out of the window and it was Blue Band on his own. You might wonder how I recognise them all, but it's quite easy with birds you see regularly. Many have distinctive markings or characteristics. I don't recognise any of the whites, except Peace, Harmony and Spartacus.
I thought Spartacus had been shot with the others, but he was so named as I suspected there was at least two Spartacus's (as in I'm Spartacus, No I'm Spartacus - from the film!) and it seems that one has survived. Certainly a big bold male is still arriving on my patio and waiting for me to bring him peanuts. Peanuts are a special treat and I feed them from my hand, and the ground very near my hand. Spartacus will eat the ones on the ground first, cautiously darting in and out, and then, usually, he will tentatively do a little rush, peck at my hand and grab a peanut, hopefully rolling a few more onto the ground for himself. I crouch patiently and uncomfortably cramped within seconds, almost holding my breath and keeping my palm open and very still, to encourage him. It's always a special moment in my day if Spartacus feeds from my hand. He seems to have a mate, or a friend, who hovers close by but is not brave enough to come for peanuts. Sometimes I put a few peanuts on the door step for both of them, and because I like having them come so close to the house - reminds me of Spirit.

I went up to another local farm - not where my flock were shot - to see if they still had doves roosting in their buildings. The lady who I'd met before, was nice and said no doves were roosting, but they did come down into the field to a particular spot. We went to look and there, sure enough, was Ruffle and a white dove. They must've flown there as I was driving as I'd left them on the roof at home! The lady said they always went to that certain place - maybe minerals in the soil? I don't know.

One day I spotted a dove on the roof that first I thought was Dalmation Dove (DD) but I wasn't sure so I took a photo.
When I uploaded and enlarged it, I could see that it definitely wasn't DD but another dove, and I was so delighted to see it and then within a day it had been joined by it's twin!
I wanted to call them John and Edward, but my husband can't stand Jedward and didn't like the idea so I didn't. I haven't seen them for a little while now, so the speckled twins are still un-named. I have seen them with DD and think they are closely related. Here's another photo, not so clear.
I also have a pair of white doves regularly visiting that I call the Lover Doves as they are always billing and cooing. My last pair of Lover Doves, right at the beginning of the year, set up home in my dovecote and were Hope and Glory, parents of my sweet little squabs, Victory and Purity (RIP) so I am hoping that these two might decide to live here too.

Here's a photo - looking exactly like any other pair of white doves!

And here they are again taking things a bit further!

So, thankfully, I still have doves in the garden and hope of new squabs in the spring.
The end

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Rest in Peace - Flock of '09

Friday 16th October 2009

As some of you know, nearly my entire flock of white doves have been shot by the farmer at Pig Farm (see previous blogs) where they roosted at night, and made their nests.
I am devastated by this. The doves are a huge part of my life. Or were......

The farmer is a nice man - he really is! - and I knew he liked the doves. When they started coming to his building - a steel framed barn, he put up a wooden dovecote for them and hoped they would use it - of course they didn't, and even when he kept the door shut somehow they would squeeze determinedly in through the small gap at the top that couldn't be blocked.
The farmer is a friend of my husband's - his father died when he was 15 and he was taken out of school to run the farm. I don't suppose that was an easy life and in recent years he has had many personal problems culminating with his mother dying recently, just after mine. His farm was run as a pig farm in the past - (it isn't actually called Pig Farm by the way!) but now he and his partner run it as a livery stables - the building where the doves roosted is used as an indoor schooling area, with sand on the floor.

He warned me a while back that the doves numbers were increasing too rapidly and that he was getting complaints from the riders that the doves were startling the horses by swooping in through the door, or fluttering up from the sand. Certainly they were making a hell of a mess on the metal beams, light fittings and ground.

Before I went to Harrogate I knew that the dove numbers had dropped dramatically and I told my husband that I felt the farmer had culled them - 'He wouldn't do that' said my husband 'I know him... go up to the farm and see' but I didn't, knowing in my heart of hearts that the deed was done, but not wanting to know for sure and be upset in Harrogate.

I went the day after I got back. I could tell just by being there. The farmer, by chance, was working right near the schooling barn and he didn't look overjoyed to see me. He didn't lie, he told me he'd shot them (my pure sweet doves!) - he'd gone in one time, he said, and there were 60 of them in there. He didn't want to do it, but the horsey people were complaining and he didn't want to get sued...... I didn't ask the details and I'm trying not to imagine it..... the little white doves huddled together in rows, then the pile of fluffy limp bodies to dispose of...... I went into the barn, nothing there except feathers in the sand and you'd never know til you looked up and saw one small white dove, probably a young squab, dead, wing outstretched, draped over the beam. I hoped the horsey people saw it and felt bad, but doubt it. To them, it's problem solved and round and round the ring we go without being disturbed by little white nuisances.

The farmer followed me in to the barn. It's ok, I told him, I understand why you did it, I don't blame you. You're the only one then, he muttered - most people blame me for everything. 'I didn't shoot the blues' he mentioned 'Only the white ones'. Was that supposed to make me feel better, I wondered. I presumed he hadn't shot what he called the 'blues' because they are the ordinary grey pigeons, and some could be racing pigeons and it's illegal to shoot them, but I didn't comment. I picked up a fluffy bunch of soft breast feathers from the ground and drove away with a gloomy cloud over my head like a cartoon character. It's one thing pretty well suspecting a bad thing has happened; it's another having it confirmed.
I do understand why the farmer did it and I don't hate him, but it doesn't mean I like it. I bloody hate it! and if I'd been him I would've found another way. It's on his conscience and I hope fluttering white doves haunt his dreams. My garden seems so dead and lifeless without them. I can hardly believe that they've gone. I love all birds, but there is something magical and mesmerizing about pure white doves; you can't stop looking at them. But I have to draw a line under this, stop being tearful and move on and this blog is my little memorial to the beautiful birds that gave me so much pleasure every day, all day.
When I got home there was one single pure white wing feather near the door step, and when I went to the island, another one there. Good omens. I've stuck them in the kitchen sash window
In 2008 I was concerned about the huge flock - over 100 birds - coming to be fed. Husband was complaining and I cut down the amount I was feeding them in an attempt to disperse the flock and pacify husband! but secretly I adored having them swirling and whirling round me and every early morning as I trooped out carrying the blue bowl of grain they flew to the island to meet me and be fed, I thought of the words in the Elton John song Can You Feel the Love Tonight?......."there's a calm surrender to the rush of day"..... the doves were my 'rush of day'. Morning has broken - the doves are here! Now the morning IS broken and I'm in mourning.

The 100 strong flock of 2008 - with Spirit who couldn't fly on the path,

Maybe someone else culled that large flock of 2008 or they did disperse naturally because this summer I never saw more than 30-40 birds together or maybe sometimes 50 at the most, but of course they didn't stay together all day..... just met up as the sun went down and they went to roost.

Some of this summer's flock - I used to love to come home and find them all over the lawn, pecking, preening, bathing and sunbathing.

For me, this number was just right. I could afford to feed them all properly, and that of course has been part of the problem. I know I've contributed to their death..... if I hadn't fed them so much, they wouldn't have bred so fast and increased to become a nuisance to the farmer and the horsey people. A breeding pair of pigeons can, apparently, have up to six clutches a year - with the usual two eggs in a clutch, you can see how the numbers can add up!
I don't know exactly which of my ringed or recognisable doves were in the barn but these are all missing, presumed shot, and so very much mourned by me:
Hope - Feathered feet and brave single mother of my March squabs, Victory and Purity.

Photo is Hope and Glory in the dovecote in January this year.

Purity - One of the two sweet babies reared in my dovecote this year by Hope alone, after Glory was killed by a hawk, and helped by me. Green and purple ring. Named by Elizabeth D from Purplecoo and her God-dove.

This is one of my last pictures of him/her. She was only 7 months old and probably didn't get a chance to breed. I never even found out what sex Victory and Purity were.
Sweetie - Caught by me on the island in 2008 as a squab and ringed with two green rings. She was a small dove but at least 14 months old.

Spartacus - Big, bold, beautiful white male who ate peanuts from my hand, and crept up to the back door and stole the robin's food by the step when I wasn't looking.

Pearl - White dove with a few soft brown feathers on her back and named by my neighbour's little girl. She's at boarding school and I'll have to tell her next time she's home because she likes to help me feed the doves and will notice they're missing. What on earth shall I say? - 'They just all flew away, sweetheart.....' or the bitter truth.

And of course the VAST number of unringed but much loved pure white doves and their this year's squabs, and some lovely dove/pigeon crosses with black tail feathers
Rest in Peace my dovie angels - Not lost, just gone before.....

So, which doves escaped the massacre? and how are they doing? Well, the few that are left seem nervous and have to be more watchful than usual. They keep to the roof and fly away at the slightest thing. They turn up alone sometimes and sit there for ages...... it is so so sad.

There is a little hope for the future.........

Do you remember the dove that came down the chimney the day my mother died (24.7.09)? I called her Peace - see previous blog if you want to read about it. I suspected Peace didn't live with the main flock as she never seemed to arrive with them, or be there in the mornings. Sometimes she had a green-ringed (not by me!) male with her and sometimes I'd see her for several days without him. She has survived - thank God! - and he is with her most of the time. I call him Harmony. Peace and Harmony, and I am so glad she didn't die as she is linked to my mother. I don't in any way believe she is a reincarnation of my mother or anything like that, but it was odd that she came down the chimney that particular day. It's not a frequent occurrence - I've only had one other dove (Sooty) that survived coming down the chimney, and two that didn't.

Peace on the roof earlier this week.

Talking about Sooty - he hadn't been seen for a while before so it's possible he might come back some time as will other doves that haven't been around. Some doves do seem to be travellers and occasionally I see one that I haven't seen for months. Autumn was one that I mentioned in a my last blog - ringed with the same colours as Victory (pink and green) but on different legs - she just turned up one day in June after not being seen for 7 months! But I only saw her that once. I've also seen the white dove I believe is my Columba (white ring) in June and September. If it IS Columba then he must be 3 years old, as hatched in my dovecote in 2006.

Sooty, with a purple ring

Possibly Columba - but I'm not sure if those grey smudges were feathers or just dirt. Columba was pure white.

On 9th July I was absolutely amazed to see a pure white male with an orange ring courting on my lawn, and wondered if he was my Pax. Pax was my of my first four doves, the mate of Persephone and father of Columba and Lily. He flew away after poor Persephone had her head bitten off and I haven't seen him since. That must be three years ago or so now. I don't know for sure if this dove was Pax but he was pure white (tick), a male (tick), wearing an orange ring of the type I used then (tick) and in my garden (tick) so I like to think it was him. When I started keeping doves I didn't note the leg I ringed them on - now I do.

I haven't seen Victory - Purity's sibling and hatched in my dovecote in March - since mid August, so hope he/she escaped the carnage too and will come back some time. Nero and his mate Messalina flew away some time between the beginning and mid July so hopefully living happily elsewhere. I was sorry they left at the time, but I am now so thankful. Nero was one of the most beautiful pigeons you would ever see and no photo ever captured his luxurious plumage.

Last photo of Victory eating a pea, taken on 18th August.

Nero, with others, on the little porch above the kitchen door. The two brown ones have survived.

A pretty speckled dove I call Dalmation Dove - DD for short - also thankfully survived and has been seen every day, in company with a brown pigeon with a white tail- see photo above. Sometimes there is a paler brown pigeon too, and I think it's the older brown pigeon's squab. There are also a young dark grey pigeon and a larger pale grey pigeon with black bands. And a white courting couple that I have seen mating.This is DD on the lawn in the summer.

And again here, with the white tailed brown one.

The farmer said no doves had been back to the barn - hardly surprising, would you? They are sensitive and knowing; I'm sure would be able to understand at some level. But, he told me, some are roosting in one of his other buildings - where he keeps machinery. I pray he will let them stay...... but know he'd do the same if he had to. It's all in a day's work to the likes of him.

Some of the very few white doves and pigeons left feeding in my garden this week.

I wish some would come again to live in the dovecote. Hope and Glory, earlier this year, were interested from January. I've decided that if no doves set up home by next April, I will put up the homing net and try again. I am a bit wavery about this as it is heart-breaking to get to the love the doves and then have a fox or more likely the hawk get them. I have a new dovie friend, Yan, that I met over the internet and poor Yan had such high hopes of her little flock of four. Already she has lost two to the hawk, and her special dove Ffion was sadly damaged, but survived. I am so sorry, Yan. I know how upsetting it is and I do wonder sometimes, for myself, if it is worth it. Another dovie internet friend, Lee, had the same hawk problem and told me in the summer that a friend of his. living in the New Forest, had given up trying to keep white doves, due to the hawks, and now keeps them in an aviary. Lee doesnt want to do that himself, and I agree with him, the doves are and should be free spirits. There is no solution to this - Yan has tried all sorts of anti-hawk devices, and they don't really work. And yet, there is a dovecote not far from here, in a garden that I often pass, and there is always a dozen or so doves - in the cote and on the roof. Maybe I ought to knock on the door and ask how they manage to keep them all.

I'd just about finished this blog and was talking on the phone near the door, watching the garden, when I saw two white doves fly over, seemingly chased by something. It was probably a sparrowhawk though I didn't see it clearly, and then one dove flew madly off in another direction. I didn't see if the hawk got the dove - but you see it's a sorry state of affairs as my mother used to say, and I don't really know if I'm up to it any more. When there was a huge flock the individuals were protected when there was a hawk strike - now they'll be picked off one by one til there are none left.

The end (sorry you might have to scroll down quite a bit to make a comment, I just can't seem to get this right)

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Not just doves

18th August 2009

Although less doves are visiting en masse I have calculated that there are probably approx. 40-50 visiting. The most pure whites I have seen together at any one time is 22 (browns 6 and greys 9). Nero is still definitely missing - he is so distinctive that I can pick him out anywhere, His mate, Messalina, is still missing too - hopefully they are together and haven't been destroyed. The town I live in is quite hot on culling pigeons. There used to be a large flock on Sainsbury's roof that one day just vanished; as did the pigeons on the roofs in the town. A little flock of 10 has crept back to Sainsbury's and already are making their presence felt with feathers and mess on the ground near the trollies, so I reckon their days are numbered, poor things. I was watching them as there was one very dark one and I wondered if it was Nero, but of course it wasn't. He's much too refined to live on Sainsbury's roof!

So, no Nero but I have seen Victory again - thank goodness - and it is definitely him/her as his pink and green rings are on the correct legs. He only seems to come in the afternoons though, yet I see Purity at all times of the day .... strange! Peace only comes in the afternoons too.

I went up to Pig Farm to see the nests again. There now seems to be a group of 'teenager' type squabs all hanging up the roof. They got very excited when a parent bird flew in to give food and were all tumbling over each. One of my books does say that if a squab is orphaned it will try to get food from another parent bird and often succeeds and I did wonder if that was what was happening here. I suppose it is in the interests of the flock as a whole if a parent bird was to feed orphaned babies.

My husband and I had reason to go to another local farm recently, and I noticed a dead - long dead actually and in 'pieces' - pigeon on the ground. It was ringed so I noted the number and contacted the Royal Pigeon Racing Association to report it as the number prefix was GB. If the number prefix had been NPA I would have known to report it to the National Pigeon Association. There are other prefixes - all of which can be found here - http://www.rpra.org/Home/tabid/53/Default.aspx By the way, if you find a 'lost' racing pigeon, it may hang around for a few days to rest but will then usually get on its way. Only contain it if it is injured or at risk from a predator. If you do find one that needs looking after, then give it food and water and the owner will be pleased to be contacted so he can arrange collection. What food to give it? - pigeons eat grain so wild bird seed if you have it or failing that bread I suppose. Small quantities of pigeon food can be purchased at most pet shops. I buy whole sacks of it @ the current cost of £15.99 for a 25kg sack. My preferred brand is made by De Scheemaecker Bros. which I find much the best of those I've tried. But back to the ringed pigeon, I reported it using the special form on the webpage and giving my email address and I was soon contacted back with thanks and the info that the bird had originally come from Deptford (about 20 miles away). A few days later the original owner rang me to thank me too. He said he had lost quite a few birds at that time as it was a very hot spell.

(My favourite grain, and the dovecote at The Jenny Wren Farm, Birdworld, Nr. Farnham)

I've been to Birdworld in Hampshire several times this summer (I'm a member) http://www.birdworld.co.uk/ It's a lovely bird park, very well kept with neat gardens and a super little farm, with a dovecote. The doves of course fly wherever they please all over the park and turn up in unexpected places!

And I've adopted a bird for the year! It has the most beautiful plumage and is a Rufous Crowned Roller or Purple Roller from South Africa. He now has my name on his cage - I hate that word 'cage' for birds but Birdworld do release birds back to the wild if possible.

Plenty of other beautiful and interesting birds at Birdworld too,....

Pigeons love peanuts so I thought I'd try to get some feeding out of my hand. I miss Eagle Eye from last summer who always flew up to my hand on the island. I've managed to tame a big male whom I call Spartacus and he now comes up to where I'm sitting on the grass and eats his treats.
The end.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The doves have deserted me!

8th August 2009

I keep a very rough garden notebook and jot down info about the doves, so I know that on the 8th of July I was seeing a flock of just under 50 doves (and the coloured pigeons that visit are included in that number) yet by the time I came back from a few days away I noted on 24th Julyu that there were only about 25. They were definitely fed while I was away so that's not the reason. One particular morning I went out to feed them and there were only TWO waiting on the roof - instead of the large flock I am used to. That day those two were Nero and Messalina (see previous blog) and that was probably the last time I have seen them. Neither are visiting at any time of the day for food and I went up to Pig Farm and they do not appear to have a nest there. I do hope I see my exquisite Nero, my beautiful black boy again. You wouldn't think you could miss a bird, but I do - very much. And I am also missing my March squab, Victory. I haven't seen her (I think she's a her) for several weeks. Purity, Elizabeth's God-dove, is still arriving for food every day, thank goodness and also Sweetie, who I caught and ringed last year. I suspect she may have a nest but I don't know where.

There are several nests up at Pig Farm, and the little squabs I saw last time I went up are now much bigger and more vocal. The top picture shows a couple of squabs probably about 4 weeks old. They move about freely on the shelf area that is obviously behind the red metal rafter. The second photo shows them cuddled up together, and a large squab or more probably a parent dove in a nest in the next 'house' along. Doves like to live together.

The day my mother died, 24th July, my sister rang me in the morning and I went down to Sussex to help. I arrived back in the early evening having been out all day. We have a three bedroomed cottage and now the girls are gone, two bedrooms are empty, though I use them for clothes and other things. There are chimneys in all the bedrooms, and we have had doves down them before. Recently I removed two bodies from one (closed) chimney and this upset me very much, so I have removed the metal plates that close the chimneys to at least give a dove-down- -the-chimney a fighting chance! Anyway, that evening I did go into one of the bedrooms and noticed a little soot and grit in the fireplace, but I was tired and didn't think much of it. The next morning my husband and I were having breakfast in the sitting room and he remarked 'There's a dove in our bedroom' - as the door was closed I wondered how he knew, but there are slight cracks in the wood panels of the door and when I got up to look, yes there was a dove in our bedroom! Firstly I assumed it had flown in through the open window, but doves are not like the little robins and blue-tits that frequently fly into the house and I remembered the soot in the hearth from yesterday. She had obviously hidden overnight, and then walked through and ended up in our room. We caught and ringed the dove (yellow and red rings) and set her free - poor thing, she seemed dazed for a while and then made straight for the water bath to have a drink. Hopefully, she wasn't too dehydrated - doves only drink a couple of times a day. Then I checked the spare room out again and in the gap between the bed and the wall there was a pile of droppings on the carpet. She had come down the chimney on the day Mummy died and been there overnight. We named her Peace, as Mummy's name, Irene, means Peace (from the Greek) - see http://www.behindthename.com/ for the etymology and history of first names - an interesting site.

I know Peace is a female as I have seen a ringed male (not one of mine) courting her - and she is still visiting (though he is not!) unlike Sooty who came down the same chimney 19th Sept. 08 (see last year's blogs, prob. Sept.Oct for her story and pics).

However, I don't despair about any the missing doves - they often reappear unexpectedly. On the 9th July I was surprised to see a white dove with an orange ring on it's left foot and did wonder if it was my beloved Pax - one of my first four doves and my first breeding male. I haven't seen him again since, but I do hope it was him, coming to say hello.

The only explanations that I can think of for the lack of doves is many are nesting so I don't see them all together, there is plenty of food in the fields as it is summer and/or the flock split as it was too big. I don't blame the sparrowhawks for such a large decrease.

I have uploaded two montages of photos with music to YouTube - thanks to Jane Grey for help there. If you haven't seen her beautiful Hope in Paris sequence of pictures (baby woodpigeon) then click on her name on my list of followers and you will see the link below - well worth a visit. My own selections of photos are titled 'A Pure White Dove' and 'White Doves Bathing'. When I work out how to put a link from YouTube to my blog I will do so! The end.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Nero's in Love

8th July '09

I am so proud of myself as I have added a random slideshow of my dove photos to my blog - anything techie usually takes me ages but I accomplished this in a few minutes. Hope you enjoy it!
Having done that I realised that it is over a month since I wrote my dove blog so thought I should do an update - as much for myself as for any readers.

My two babies, Victory and Purity, are now grown-up and approx. 4 months old. Surprisingly enough they are exactly the same age as my eldest daughter's pregnancy! They are a similar size to many of the other doves visiting, but I recognise them by their coloured rings. I think that Victory may be female, but I'm not sure yet. I was hoping that Victory would be male and Purity female - suits their names better, doesn't it? Anyway, they are well and visiting regularly at least twice a day for food.
I have seen my black dove, Nero with a dark female pigeon, both at the farm where the doves roost and here at home. He has been trying to fix his interest with her for ages - he is so beautiful how can she resist? He is much blacker than the photo - I can never get one that shows off his irresistable darkness with the iridescent purple and green neck feathers.

Here they are at home, on the roof and the lawn

And here they are in a very bad photo at the roosting farm which I will now call Pig Farm in my blogs as not wanting to identify it by name, and they used to keep pigs there.I read somewhere that pigeons tend to choose mates that look similar to themselves or their parents, and Nero and his love would seem to bear that theory out - as she is a very dark grey bird with a white patch on her back like he has - but the expensive and informative book I got for my birthday - Feral Pigeons by Richard F. Johnston and Marian Janiga - tends to disagree, and says that, according to their data 'more matings occur between birds of unlike plumage, and fewer between birds of like plumage, than would be expected on the basis of chance'.

This book informs me that as these birds are monogamous (which I knew) they choose their mate carefully (if they have enough choice) on the basis of age, breeding experience, dominance status, size, feather parasite load and plumage colour and pattern

Nero appeared to choose Messalina (that's what I'm calling her!) and she seemed to resist his advances strongly for a long period of time. It seemed like he was always after her - I'm surprised either of them got anything to eat as there was only ONE THING on his mind! Male pigeons walk, run or fly after the object of their affections, never giving them any peace, and pecking them on the neck to try to bring them under control!

Oh there you are! .......eating!........................................ Well here I am! See me!

Look how gorgeous I am!................................... Hey, don't walk away!..................
Eventually, some part of his charm worked and I caught this series of photos as the sun went down.

Messalina is on the left...................................................and now Nero is, puffing out his chest in courtship

Billing.......................................................................and then Messalina starts to crouch down

Nero mounts Messalina.........................................and they copulate (cloacal union)
This takes seconds so clever of me to capture it in a photo!

Messalina on the left, starting the henpecking that always follows marriage!!!

But they will stay together, and nest building - according to the book - starts about 5-7 days after the first copulation. So soon I will take another trip down to Pig Farm to see if they have started a nest. There are currently about 4 or 5 white dove nests there, with squabs being raised.
Back to the other doves -
A flock of just under 50 ( white doves and pigeons) are currently visiting - last year at this time it was approx. 40.
I had a surprise recently - Victory (pink ring and green ring) was on the front lawn when I went through the garden on my way to the island to feed the doves. I walked through the honeysuckle arch and there in the lavenders was Victory again. 'You cheeky thing!' I said 'How did you pass me?' and then I realised that this dove, also with pink and green rings, was not Victory at all but a bigger, older dove, with the rings on the opposite legs. I checked my records and discovered that it must be Autumn. Autumn was a dove that I caught and ringed last October and haven't seen since before Christmas! Wonder where he/she has been all this time, and why he went away? Remember those deep snow days? Somehow he found food then because he definitely wasn't visiting my garden for it.
The End. (you may have to scroll down for the comments section - I still can't work out how NOT to have a huge gap!)