Friday, 27 March 2009

First Picture

Friday 27th March 2009

I just couldn't resist! While Hope was off the nest - which is most of the day now! - I got the step-ladder, put it up on the path, and used the zoom to get a picture of inside the dovecote. I didn't want to upset Hope or the baby/ies so I didn't put the ladder right up against the dovecote. With my naked eye I could see a fuzzy, misty little shape in the gloom and the photo shows the little baby, all yellow and fluffy! Yes, I know he's not cute, but I am so happy to see he is well. There may be another one in there too!

So this is the 'one week old' photo

Hope prefers to spend her day sitting on the roof, or flying with her friends. I am always concerned about her safety, and the welfare of the squab/s, until I see her back in the nestbox again.

I have managed to mark her, by flicking food colouring onto her back, and it is helpful that I can recognise her at feeding times.

I am still trying to have no expectations, but after seeing the baby, I can't help it!

The end

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Very UN-happy Mother's Day

Wednesday 25th March 2009 Last photo of Glory. I was taking a picture of him to show you the pink colouring on his tail, which was my only way of marking him.

Warning: Sad blog and a couple of sad photos.

On Mother's Day last Sunday, I fed the doves on the island as usual at about 7.30 am. Glory, my daddy dove, was there amongst them all, and I threw him extra, as I do all the special doves that I recognise. Then, as it was Sunday I went back to bed for a bit. How I wish I hadn't. I got up again about 9.00 am and opened the kitchen door. My first thought was that there were petals all over the step, but after that one split second I realised that they were lots of little white feathers and the trail took my eyes to the left and there was a bloodied dead dove lying in a flurry of feathers in front of the coal bunker. I rushed down to the dovecote and was relieved to see a dove inside, but rushing back I was thinking 'Please, please don't let it be Glory!' but of course, it was. His little body was still warm. If only I'd been in the kitchen I might have averted the attack ... because of course it was a hawk that got him. A dove looks very beautiful, even in death, even if it has been violated like poor Glory - the closed eye, the turned up claws, the tragic limpness. I knew it was definitely Glory as I had marked his tail with pink food colouring (see previous blog). I was just so devastated that I was numb, I think. The horrible hawk had only eaten a small part of him - only a mouthful or so..... what a terrible waste. And the mess.... birds have an unbelievable amount of feathers. And poor Hope, how was she going to manage.....

The first egg had hatched out on the previous Thursday. I had been out in the garden, going to and fro from my 'second' kitchen which is a sort of outhouse and has my washing machine in it, and one trip, there was the egg shell, bang in the middle of the path, where it hadn't been a moment before! It was like a birth announcement - We have a baby! I was so happy. It made my day! I carefully picked the shell up and put it on my kitchen window sill. The next day, when Hope came out of the nest box she had an eggshell attached to her underneath, which quickly dropped off and I collected that too and put it with the other one.

So the poor little new baby squabs lost their daddy when they were only 2/3 days old and I was seriously worried that Hope would abandon them.
I didn't know whether I should show her Glory's body - doves do seem to mourn their dead -and I thought she might go off looking for him if she didn't know he was dead. So, in the end decided to put him on the hedge. She came out of the nestbox, but if she saw him she gave no sign and flew to the house roof, relieved herself, then flew down to the lawn, had some food, a quick drink and then back to the nest box - again ignoring, or not seeing, the body on the hedge.

I then removed him and gave him a little funeral, like I do to all my dead doves. Call me eccentric if you like, but I put pretty spring flowers on his body, hiding the worst of his wounds, and carried him over to the island on a flat woven basket. I did shed tears then - it all seemed so unnecessary - out of 40 odd doves, why poor Glory? I stroked his snow white feathers, humming 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' like I always do. Then I put him in the fast moving river to be swept away forever. R.I.P. Glory, my beautiful daddy dove.

I was going away that afternoon for the night, but there was nothing more I could do anyway, except make sure my husband kept an eye out for Hope. What will be, will be, I kept saying to myself as I drove down to West Sussex to visit my mother. Later that evening my husband rang to say that while he oiled the wood table and chairs in the garden, the hawk had made two more attempts on the doves - maybe I'd disturbed it with Glory and that's why not much of him had been eaten. Maybe it was still hungry and that's why it tried again. Both times my husband yelled and threw something at it, and both times the doves got away. It is worrying that the hawk is bold enough to swoop down on the doves even when someone is in the garden - I am a bit concerned about my little dog too! He's only the size of a large rabbit.
I didn't know if one parent dove could rear the squabs on it's own and emailed two dove blokes that I know - one, Bob Friar (see previous blogs) and two, a man called Dave Frost who sells, or did sell, info about doves from ebay, and kindly gives his email address for advice. Both of them were good enough to email back, and I was relieved to hear that one parent dove will rear the squabs alone, and is often successful in doing so.

Bob also told me that Belle - the dove I took back to him (see previous blogs) - has now hatched a new batch of eggs herself and has babies that are approx a week old. I was happy to hear that news.
Currently, all seems well, and Hope is coping, but I am trying not to have any expectations of what will happen next. The only thing I can do for her is to make sure food is readily available.
At my sister's - my elderly mother lives with her - we were walking round her garden and I found a white egg on the grass underneath her big holly tree. I picked it up and it was cold but heavy and only slightly cracked on the top. She was horrified that I decided to open it up, but I am interested in birds and have never had the opportunity before. I cracked the shell away carefully - the poor little minute baby bird inside was seemingly perfect but dead of course. I think it was a wood pigeon - she has lots in the garden, and it had the same shape of beak as the baby doves have. I pondered on why this egg had been turfed out of the nest - poor little thing, it didn't even get a chance at life. It must be better to have some time alive, as a bird, to be free.... even if you do end up in the vicious claws of a predator.

You know the signs that you see on old doors sometimes - No Hawkers? Well, I wish I could get one for my garden - NO HAWKS!

Hope, today, stretching her wings in the dovecote.

The end
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Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Altercation in the Dovecote

Wed. 18th March 2009

Last Sunday morning I realised that something was wrong in the dovecote, but I couldn't work out what it was. Normally one or other of the parents - Hope and Glory - would be sitting quietly inside the dovecote on the nest. The only 'happening' would be when they swapped shifts, and one went in to let the other out. I'm always glancing at the dovecote when I'm out in the garden, or from the kitchen or sitting-room windows and am happy to see a glimpse of tail or a little face in the gloom, but this time it seemed like a whirling dervish was in the dovecote -whatever that is! I got the camera, despite my panic, and took some photos but I couldn't really see what was happening. There was lots of movements, bits of wing or tail sticking out of the cote doorway, two doves in the cote.... and one dove sitting on the nearby low roof observing.

I called my husband and he went beneath the dovecote and clapped his hands. I didn't want him to do anything really and part of the problem was as Hope and Glory are not ringed I didn't know which dove was the intruder.
It is nearly time for the eggs to hatch and I was thinking why oh why has this happened, just when I wanted everything to go right. I imagined two pairs of heavy 3-pronged feet trampling about in the nest, breaking the eggs..... as Hope or Glory defended the nest.

Suddenly after about fifteen minutes, it all settled down. One dove was on the nest and all was quiet. I still don't know what happened. It appeared to me that there were two females and one male (Glory). This seems strange as I could understand a rogue male turning up and deciding he wanted to take possession of the nestbox, but why would another female want to cause trouble?
Since then, more than three days ago, all has been quiet and the eggs, by my calculation should hatch any day soon. Dove eggs take approx. 17-18 days to incubate.
I decided that, if possible, I needed to mark Hope and Glory. Catching them and ringing them would have been very difficult and would've upset them so I didn't even think of it. The only way was to try to sprinkle them with food colouring like I did the 'cochineal doves' (see one of my previous blogs). I know roughly the times the doves do the changeover and as Glory emerged from the dovecote I kept my beady eye on him, despite the lawn being covered with white doves, and managed to sprinkle some pink food colouring on his tail. Next day I tried to do the same, with green colouring, on Hope, with less success. The pink colouring on Glory spread a little - maybe his tail was damp - but though I got a few tiny drops on Hope I havent managed to spot her in the crowd. One reason for this could be that during the last few days of incubation the female takes over full time and hatches the young. I hope this is what is happening!

So how are my 'secret' doves Nero and Smudge getting along? Well unfortunately, just when Smudge was growing up and entering into an adolescent stage and losing her squab look, she has disappeared. I fear she is dead - somehow I just got that feeling. One day I saw a male after her, pecking her neck, and I think she was too young for that sort of attention, and maybe things didn't go well for her, poor little thing. Here is the last picture I took of her.

Nero is fine, my beautiful black bold boy! I know he is a male as I have seen him displaying male behaviour. Long may he survive and keep visiting me. Here he is with his followers!

And guess what? Columba, my white ringed dove - offspring of my first beloved bonded pair, Pax and Persephone, was spotted on the island at the morning feeding time! I was so pleased to see him again and looking very healthy too. I remembered he came back last year about this time, and checked in my file. I had marked down 'Columba returned 17.3.08' - I blinked and looked twice. It was the very same date - a year later! Columba had again returned on the 17th March - amazing!

Two cute little incidents occured concerning other birds and the doves recently. I happened to look out and see a bluetit perch on the ledge of the nest box. It peeked in, saw Hope on the nest and flew off round to the back of the dovecote. It would be enchanting if a family of bluetits set up home in another section of the cote, but realistically I don't think it will happen. The other thing concerned my robin. I always feed the doves first, and then come back and put some special robin food down for Robs, as I call him - well one day, Mr. Impatient Robs flew over to the island, with the doves, and starting eating the smaller bits of their food with them! He flew into the house the other day, and I caught him by the window and cradled his delicate little body in my hands for a few seconds and touched his head gently before setting him free.
And nothing to do with doves, but when I drove my car up to its parking space just by our river there was the kingfisher right there in front of me - the sapphire of the river, back again this season - thank God.
The End.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Land of Hope and Glory

Sunday 1st March 2008
Since the weather has been milder my lover doves have stepped up their interest in each other and the dovecote. I now have every reason to believe that they might have a nest in it! I can't tell you how happy I am to have doves living in the dovecote again. It means a lot to me as I bought the dovecote and my first doves, Pax and Persephone & John and Irene with the money my mother (and late father) gave me for my wedding in April 2006. John and Irene were named after them, and John was the last surviving dove out of the four and either left, or died, around March 2008. Since then the dovecote has been empty, except for the occasional dove having a peek inside.

I didn't want to name the lover doves at first, but now one, presumably the female, has spent the last few nights in the cote and her mate is in constant attendance, and in and out, during the day, so I truly do think that they have come to stay.
So please let me introduce you to my delightful new neighbours, Hope and Glory.

Hope is the female of course, probably the one on the right.

Already they seem to have real characters. Here they are in the yard outside our garden posing as keepers of the lamp. From the long view they look like little statues!

Here is Glory collecting sticks for the nest from the lawn a few days ago.

Is this stick ok? he thinks
Glory proudly carries a suitable stick. It was very hard to get photos as he was so quick. As soon as he'd picked up a good stick......
He crouched down and flew up immediately with it. This looks likes he's holding the pampas grass but if you look carefully you can see the little stick in his beak.
So the nest is made, Hope is staying every night..... and maybe there are eggs! Please hope for Hope! and Glory, and me that everything will go well this time. I haven't forgotten the two last lot of squabs - the Ugly Dovelings and the other pair of tiny babies that died - and still feel sad about it.
The end