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 http://www.everlastingdoves.co.uk/ (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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Arosebyanyothername said...

I felt very sad reading this blog, Faith. I can quite understand how you feel. Nature can be cruel and some things do seem to be meaningless. I hope that the rest of your little flock come to no harm and that Hope manages to rear her young successfully. Big hugs to you in your sadness. RosieXXX

Pipany said...

Oh such a shame Faith. I hope Hope (!) will manage to raise the squabs on her own and that the hawk will leave them all alone x


Keeping abreast of the story, Faith, and glad to hear Hope may be able to rear the little ones. Your description of your burial ritual is very moving. It shows how devoted you are to you lovely doves. Cheer up.

Calico Kate said...

How sad Faith, but what a lovely send of you gave him. They are very lucky doves to be able to spend even a little time with you.
Do hope that Hope will be able to raise the squablings on her own. She has a lovely house to live in and very kind neighbours!

HannahLou said...

Hello Faith. I was wondering if you could contact me as im really in need of some dovecote related advice and cant get hold of the breeder we used. hannahlou72@hotmail.com is my email, please get in touch as you seem to have alot of knowledge from keeping them for so long. Thanks in advance, hope to speak to you soon xx