I keep a very rough garden notebook and jot down info about the doves, so I know that on the 8th of July I was seeing a flock of just under 50 doves (and the coloured pigeons that visit are included in that number) yet by the time I came back from a few days away I noted on 24th Julyu that there were only about 25. They were definitely fed while I was away so that's not the reason. One particular morning I went out to feed them and there were only TWO waiting on the roof - instead of the large flock I am used to. That day those two were Nero and Messalina (see previous blog) and that was probably the last time I have seen them. Neither are visiting at any time of the day for food and I went up to Pig Farm and they do not appear to have a nest there. I do hope I see my exquisite Nero, my beautiful black boy again. You wouldn't think you could miss a bird, but I do - very much. And I am also missing my March squab, Victory. I haven't seen her (I think she's a her) for several weeks. Purity, Elizabeth's God-dove, is still arriving for food every day, thank goodness and also Sweetie, who I caught and ringed last year. I suspect she may have a nest but I don't know where.
There are several nests up at Pig Farm, and the little squabs I saw last time I went up are now much bigger and more vocal. The top picture shows a couple of squabs probably about 4 weeks old. They move about freely on the shelf area that is obviously behind the red metal rafter. The second photo shows them cuddled up together, and a large squab or more probably a parent dove in a nest in the next 'house' along. Doves like to live together.
The day my mother died, 24th July, my sister rang me in the morning and I went down to Sussex to help. I arrived back in the early evening having been out all day. We have a three bedroomed cottage and now the girls are gone, two bedrooms are empty, though I use them for clothes and other things. There are chimneys in all the bedrooms, and we have had doves down them before. Recently I removed two bodies from one (closed) chimney and this upset me very much, so I have removed the metal plates that close the chimneys to at least give a dove-down- -the-chimney a fighting chance! Anyway, that evening I did go into one of the bedrooms and noticed a little soot and grit in the fireplace, but I was tired and didn't think much of it. The next morning my husband and I were having breakfast in the sitting room and he remarked 'There's a dove in our bedroom' - as the door was closed I wondered how he knew, but there are slight cracks in the wood panels of the door and when I got up to look, yes there was a dove in our bedroom! Firstly I assumed it had flown in through the open window, but doves are not like the little robins and blue-tits that frequently fly into the house and I remembered the soot in the hearth from yesterday. She had obviously hidden overnight, and then walked through and ended up in our room. We caught and ringed the dove (yellow and red rings) and set her free - poor thing, she seemed dazed for a while and then made straight for the water bath to have a drink. Hopefully, she wasn't too dehydrated - doves only drink a couple of times a day. Then I checked the spare room out again and in the gap between the bed and the wall there was a pile of droppings on the carpet. She had come down the chimney on the day Mummy died and been there overnight. We named her Peace, as Mummy's name, Irene, means Peace (from the Greek) - see http://www.behindthename.com/ for the etymology and history of first names - an interesting site.
I know Peace is a female as I have seen a ringed male (not one of mine) courting her - and she is still visiting (though he is not!) unlike Sooty who came down the same chimney 19th Sept. 08 (see last year's blogs, prob. Sept.Oct for her story and pics).
However, I don't despair about any the missing doves - they often reappear unexpectedly. On the 9th July I was surprised to see a white dove with an orange ring on it's left foot and did wonder if it was my beloved Pax - one of my first four doves and my first breeding male. I haven't seen him again since, but I do hope it was him, coming to say hello.
The only explanations that I can think of for the lack of doves is many are nesting so I don't see them all together, there is plenty of food in the fields as it is summer and/or the flock split as it was too big. I don't blame the sparrowhawks for such a large decrease.
I have uploaded two montages of photos with music to YouTube - thanks to Jane Grey for help there. If you haven't seen her beautiful Hope in Paris sequence of pictures (baby woodpigeon) then click on her name on my list of followers and you will see the link below - well worth a visit. My own selections of photos are titled 'A Pure White Dove' and 'White Doves Bathing'. When I work out how to put a link from YouTube to my blog I will do so! The end.