First of all, I want to show some photos of EagleEye - mentioned in my last blog - who is the only dove who comes to my hand for feeding. He has a crossed over bill which is unusual (defect, but doesnt stop him eating) See him on the right of the photo - if you double click the photos should enlarge.
We had extreme hard weather in Surrey, with snow fifteen inches deep in our garden - we measured! We couldn't get out of the front door and my husband had to shovel a path to the gate for us to walk down and my little dog to go out.
There wasn't a dove in sight on the first snowy morning and there was absoulutely no way I could've got to the island to feed them. It was hard enough to plodge through the snow - going over my boots - to get to the big garden table, a few yards away. The snow was piled high but I managed to get it off with my rubber broom (very handy if you haven't got one and brilliant on floors, even carpet - I recommend it!) and put down food and water for the doves there. They turned up late and miserable and were balancing on the wires. A few tried to perch on the roof as normal and just sunk into the snow, so funny bless them! - see photo. They didn't like the new strange feeding routine but of course hunger forced them into it.
I expect many pigeons around the country, and many other birds, perished through cold and being unable to find food. Certainly the dove flock is now smaller than it was and currently I have no more than 40-50 visiting.
I have had quite a few deaths of ringed and unringed doves. Rose, Daisy and Scarlett RIP. I am more used to it now I suppose. Thankfully not all die in my garden so I don't have too much to bear. I realise now that there will always be losses and sparrowhawks! but there will always be doves!
I had an unexpected visitor. A ringed dove with yellow, white and purple rings was coming in daily with the others. I suspected it might be Belle again, but she hadn't had a purple ring. (To read Belle's story go back in the archive to my blog dated 15th Oct. 2008 'Dove returned to grateful owner). I emailed Bob and he confirmed that yes, it was naughty Belle flown away from home again, and leaving her squabs (chicks) behind and missing her (obviously these were fairly grown-up squabs or they wouldnt have been able to manage without her). I said I'd try and recapture her like I did back in October and if I did would return her to him myself so that I could see his doves. Bob keeps white doves for weddings and funeral releases in Surrey. Click for more info http://www.everlastingdoves.co.uk/
Then we got the heavy snow and all the doves were nervous and flighty and there was absolutely no way that I was going to be able to catch Belle. I was just glad to see her at the feeding table and know that she was getting her rations.
The snow eventually melted and we got back to normal feeding on the island again. The lover doves (see previous blog) started to rekindle their interest in the dovecote again.
One day last week I had the kitchen door open and several doves were milling about, close by the step. One very bold dove walked in. My daughter was with me and it made us smile how this dove just calmly walked about the kitchen, pecked at my sweepings - ignoring the porridge oats I threw down for it! - and then walked in and out of the pantry, past the dog's water bowl, under the table and then hopped up the step into the sitting room. We caught her, and ringed her, and named her Goldilocks for coming uninvited into the cottage! and then of course set her free.
We then decided to entice some other doves into the kitchen as Belle was there with them just outside the door. We threw down bread and all unsuspecting Belle and two others walked in.... and we smartly shut the door behind them. Pandomonium broke loose! The doves knew they were trapped and fluttered and flapped round the kitchen, knocking down bottles of washing-up liquid and the ornaments on the window-sill. I quickly caught first one and then the other of the two we didn't want and popped them out of the small pantry window. Then we caught Belle and I put her, with food and water, in the dove box.
I rang Bob and arranged to take her back to him the next day and see his doves - a little adventure for me! And the story of that will be in my next blog which I will do asap.