Sunday, 11 January 2009

New Year and how are the doves?

Thurs 15th January 2009

We have had some very cold weather recently with sub-zero temperatures. The doves are hardy but the icy ground covered in snow means that they can't easily supplement what I give them with little extras of green stuff. In the worst of the weather I have relented and given them a bit more. They don't seem to mind the cold, even having baths and sitting on the snowy lawn to dry off

The flock has now reduced to approx. 50-60 birds. It's rather hard to count them as not all of them appear for each feed. I have seen hawks about - they are using my poor birds

as food in this hard weather.These were ones that got away, and I saw them heal in the days that followed. Others haven't been so lucky.
In previous blogs I was concerned about the huge flock. I keep a very rough 'dove diary' and note that on 4th November I had a morning flock of about 40 and an afternoon one (some of course would be the same birds) of 70-80, so obviously we are down quite a bit. I have been 'working out' the food. I'm finding it difficult to find any reference anywhere - even if dove books - as to how much each individual dove/pigeon eats per day. Some say one thing, others say another. I think its about one and a half ounces - that looks about right. So I am working on the principle of giving about half the feed required for the number of doves I have visiting - they must search elsewhere for the other half! There's a lot of weighing and measuring as the number of doves fall.
I am still seeing most of the doves I ringed in the Summer or Autumn. So, I'm still seeing Sooty (who fell down the chimney, remember?) and these others - Sweetie, Octavius, Octavia, Rose and Daisy. Unfortunately I have realised that Daisy is a male! I'm not seeing Columba any more, or Autumn.
Last night, at dusk when the other doves had flown away, I found a dove on the bridge to the island. It would definitely be fox fodder if I left it - I have seen fox footprints in the snow and the frost, and one morning saw a beautiful big brown fox sitting in the snow. Amazingly enough I had my camera with me, but by the time I had switched it on and ducked behind the hedge, it had loped off. A missed photo opportunity! I got my net to catch the lone dove but at the first swipe I missed and it fluttered up to the metal side of the bridge, but didn't, more likely couldn't fly away. I tried again with my heart in my mouth, because if it slipped and really couldn't fly then it would have fallen in the fast flowing water and been swept away - I would have felt like a murderer! This time the net caught it's wing and I grabbed it and took it back to the cottage. My daughter ringed it, and demanded that she name it.... so we have a pure white dove called Scarlett now. I've put it in the dove box in the shed with food and water for the night. Scarlett may be the dove I called Frosty who had been spending the last 7 or 8 nights on our roof... but he's Scarlett now.
My most exciting news is that a pair of doves have been showing a great interest in the dovecote. They spend quite a bit of time there - one sometimes in the cote and one looking up expectantly at it. Sometimes they go in together. Also I have seen them mating, and so I am very much hoping that they will set up home here, but currently they are flying away at night.

It would be so lovely to have a pair of doves here at night again. The cote looks so empty at the moment. So here's hoping........

I also have a special dove! He is unringed because I havent attempted to ring him, not wishing to frighten him. When I feed the doves on the island in the afternoons, I hold my hand out with feed and he always flies up to it. I call him EagleEye because he is always watching my movements. Although unringed and pure white I can easily recognise him even on the ground as he has a peculiar crossed beak - and a knowing look! Sometimes when he is feeding off my hand I move my fingers so that I can feel his warm feathery body - I love the fact that he trusts me enough to come onto my hand. None of the others do!

The end