Monday 6th April 09
Please read Parts, 1,2 and 3 in the blogs below this one
Hope had stayed away the night of Sat. 4th April and I had again kept the babies in the kitchen overnight and put them back in the nest before she arrived back in the morning. She did come back and fed them several times in the early morning, and again about 11.20 am that I saw.
I didn't see her feed them after this time, and in case she truly did abandon them I went up to the WildLife Aid animal hospital at Leatherhead to get some advice http://www.wildlifeaid.org.uk/ This wonderful place always need donations of money or food for the animals so do help if you can. When I arrived they had two adorable little five-week old fox cubs, and I was able to stroke one. I'd never seen one in the flesh before and was enchanted by them - they seemed like a cross between a puppy and a kitten - doggie shaped, but kitten soft fur and tail. The woman I spoke to was very helpful, but said that the squabs, if truly abandoned, would have to be fed by tube and I wouldnt be able to do it myself, but could hopefully have them back when they could feed themselves. I left reassured that whatever happened they could be reared, and promised to bring back a donation of puppy food for the baby foxes, and nuts for the baby squirrels.
That afternoon about 4pm I happened to be in the garden and as a few doves alighted on the roof, I saw a flutter of pink and green feathers amonst the white ones. The intruder dove was back - all the way from where it was released in London on Friday morning!
I know pigeons - and the doves are just white pigeons - have the homing instinct, but somehow, after the fright of being caught and confined, I hadn't expected it to come back. I can't really describe how I felt; immediately nervous and panicky about what it would do. I realised it was a male as it started displaying courting behaviour to the females on the roof.
A group of doves flew over to the island to feed and he went with them, the colours on his tail marking it out in the sky with the others. I wondered if anyone between here and London had seen it and remarked. Then they all flew back and when he positioned himself right at the end of the bit of roof nearest the dove cote I knew by instinct that he hadn't forgotten and had evil on his mind.
I stood without moving next to the end of the shed, my hands on the stepladder and my heart literally in my mouth. I watched the marked dove watching the dovecote, and I knew Hope wasn't in there. He flew down to the cote and perched on the step of one of the other entrance holes, still looking around - probably for Hope and assessing whether he could get away with it. My hands gripped the stepladder but I didn't move. After only a few seconds, it flew to the nestbox and entered. Carrying the stepladder I literally flew, lightly in bare feet, across the lawn, set it up and ran up the steps, I don't know how, my hand going up, fingers outstretched, to block the hole, so it couldn't fly out and away, to come back when I wasn't there. I could hear the frantic squeaking of the squabs, reached in and grabbed it extremely firmly and ran back into the house, and closed the kitchen door. My heart was thumping so much I could hardly speak, but I faintly managed to say my husband's name and he came out to me. I didn't want to do what happened next, but I felt it was the only way to protect the babies. We had given the marauder a chance by taking it to London, and it had just flown back and seemingly straight to the dovecote to attack the squabs - so it had to go. My husband used to work on a farm, and he has reared pheasants and other birds. He despatched it quickly and I didn't watch. You may think this was wrong, killing a healthy dove, but I had to protect those babies.
I felt weak and shaky for about two hours afterwards and had a gripping pain in my lower abdomen - not from the killing of the marauder but from what might have happened to the vulnerable little squabs.
I didn't see Hope again til 6pm and she didn't feed the babies. I was worried that she maybe had witnessed some of what happened, and wouldn't go back to them this time. I kept looking out as the sun was gone, evening approached and eventually, thank goodness she came back, very late, at 7.30pm and fed them, and stayed with them for the night.
So that's the story up to date at the moment. I would love it all to go peacefully and smoothly now, but I don't count on it. The babies are 18 and 17 days old today and need another 10 days in the nest before they will be able to come out and start learning to fend for themselves.