Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Crippled Dove and why he had to go

My husband dubbed the dove with the crippled foot who had taken over the dovecote, Long John Silver. Silver for short. I wasn't too happy he had jumped in there almost immediately the babies had fledged, but as long as he left them alone I didn't mind too much and hoped he would find a mate.

Although Silver spent much time bowing up and down in male dove courting fashion (even when alone) none of the females seemed interested in him. He didn't spend nights in the dovecote, just part of each day. He would fly here in the morning and re-establish his claim, either sitting smugly in the nesting box or blocking one of the entrances. Later, he would join the others, and there seems to be a little flock of 5 to 15 doves within the larger flock who spend all day here, which is really lovely as I enjoy seeing them on the roof.

In the early evenings about 6 - 7 pm when the doves start thinking about going back to their night time roosts, Silver would go back to the nest box. And of course so would my 7 week old squabs, Victory and Purity, as they were born there. Silver wasn't allowing them in their orginal nest box but they both packed in together in one of the others and seemed content enough. I wasn't happy about Silver - the last thing I wanted was another crusty old bachelor dove in the cote, like John had been after Lily died.

Victory and Purity, in together, and nervous about what Silver would do next.

As the days went on Silver got more aggressive. He would settle himself in the nestbox and then keep popping out to see where the babies where. One evening, strangely, he blocked the entrance while the two young birds were inside. Other times he would force them out of whichever part of the dovecote they had attempted to settle in. But every night by 8pm at the latest he had flown off and away and they could sleep in peace.

Sunday 10th May, and I had had a stressful two weeks with my daughter in and out of hospital and wasn't in the mood for any dovie trouble. Silver kept harrassing the babies; routing them out of wherever they were hiding in the dovecote and forcing them to fly back to the roof. Then he'd settle himself, and they'd sneak in at the back, and after a while he'd do it again. Obviously he wasn't going to allow them to live there and it was past 8pm and he showed no sign of leaving. I couldn't stand it and went out and trapped him in the nestbox by blocking it with my hand. Then I removed him to a secure box (with food and water).

I rang my sister, a sensible retired farmer's wife, and she said that she felt it was unlikely Silver would find a mate this late in the season or indeed ever, especially with a crippled foot. Doves. like all animals, are aware when something is wrong with one of their number. She also confirmed what I was feeling - that the young birds, Victory and Purity, are my hope for having a few doves living in my dovecote permanently and that Silver wasn't going to help matters to say the least.

I made up my mind, and although I felt worse than when I'd got rid of the devil dove (see previous blogs) I still felt I was doing the right thing. Without going into details, my husband despatched the crippled dove the next day as quickly and humanely as possible. I really wish this hadn't been necessary.

I cleaned out the nestbox Silver had been using. This was easier than before as I had taken the hint (don't know where I read it) to line the inside of the box with a folded over sheet of newspaper with a bit of hay on top. The fouled newspaper came out relatively easily.... and straight into a plastic bag to be disposed of! Then I relined with more paper, and hay. When no doves are actually rearing babies I check the boxes and clean if necessary about once a month. When I got the cote the makers Kootensaw Dovecotes suggested that once a year would be adequate! Believe me, pigeon/dove poo sets like concrete and you wouldn't want to be cleaning out a year's worth. Also I want to keep the doves as healthy as possible and roosting every night in a pile of poo is not very hygienic!
11th May - I wondered whether Victory and Purity would settle in the dovecote or whether the harrassment from last night might have put them off. They were both in the cote by 8pm and did spend a bit of time popping from box to box, and peeking out craning their necks around, obviously wondering if they were about to be hounded out each time they settled. They didn't stay together, but in two different sections, but they did stay, thank goodness.

Victory (left, pink ring) and Purity (purple) on the island wall.

A quick update on the general flock - The only other ringed doves I am seeing are Nero, shown here with a big neck in courting mode. I love the purple colour of his neck feathers. And Sweetie, who I caught and ringed last summer. There are another pair of young doves, seemingly about the same age as Victory and Purity and I think they were the ones born in the barn. I went to the barn one evening and they were there, alone, and babies always go back to the place they were hatched, unless for some reason they are not able to, or are hounded away by other older doves, as Silver was trying to do to Victory and Purity.
The end.

1 comment:

Calico Kate said...

Oh such a difficult decision to make Faith. Guessing that this is what the post was about I almost didn't read it!!
Really pleased the V&P are back in their house though.