Before I went to Harrogate I knew that the dove numbers had dropped dramatically and I told my husband that I felt the farmer had culled them - 'He wouldn't do that' said my husband 'I know him... go up to the farm and see' but I didn't, knowing in my heart of hearts that the deed was done, but not wanting to know for sure and be upset in Harrogate.
The 100 strong flock of 2008 - with Spirit who couldn't fly on the path,
Some of this summer's flock - I used to love to come home and find them all over the lawn, pecking, preening, bathing and sunbathing.
For me, this number was just right. I could afford to feed them all properly, and that of course has been part of the problem. I know I've contributed to their death..... if I hadn't fed them so much, they wouldn't have bred so fast and increased to become a nuisance to the farmer and the horsey people. A breeding pair of pigeons can, apparently, have up to six clutches a year - with the usual two eggs in a clutch, you can see how the numbers can add up!
Purity - One of the two sweet babies reared in my dovecote this year by Hope alone, after Glory was killed by a hawk, and helped by me. Green and purple ring. Named by Elizabeth D from Purplecoo and her God-dove.
This is one of my last pictures of him/her. She was only 7 months old and probably didn't get a chance to breed. I never even found out what sex Victory and Purity were.
Spartacus - Big, bold, beautiful white male who ate peanuts from my hand, and crept up to the back door and stole the robin's food by the step when I wasn't looking.
So, which doves escaped the massacre? and how are they doing? Well, the few that are left seem nervous and have to be more watchful than usual. They keep to the roof and fly away at the slightest thing. They turn up alone sometimes and sit there for ages...... it is so so sad.
There is a little hope for the future.........
Do you remember the dove that came down the chimney the day my mother died (24.7.09)? I called her Peace - see previous blog if you want to read about it. I suspected Peace didn't live with the main flock as she never seemed to arrive with them, or be there in the mornings. Sometimes she had a green-ringed (not by me!) male with her and sometimes I'd see her for several days without him. She has survived - thank God! - and he is with her most of the time. I call him Harmony. Peace and Harmony, and I am so glad she didn't die as she is linked to my mother. I don't in any way believe she is a reincarnation of my mother or anything like that, but it was odd that she came down the chimney that particular day. It's not a frequent occurrence - I've only had one other dove (Sooty) that survived coming down the chimney, and two that didn't.
Peace on the roof earlier this week.
Talking about Sooty - he hadn't been seen for a while before so it's possible he might come back some time as will other doves that haven't been around. Some doves do seem to be travellers and occasionally I see one that I haven't seen for months. Autumn was one that I mentioned in a my last blog - ringed with the same colours as Victory (pink and green) but on different legs - she just turned up one day in June after not being seen for 7 months! But I only saw her that once. I've also seen the white dove I believe is my Columba (white ring) in June and September. If it IS Columba then he must be 3 years old, as hatched in my dovecote in 2006.
Sooty, with a purple ring
Possibly Columba - but I'm not sure if those grey smudges were feathers or just dirt. Columba was pure white.
On 9th July I was absolutely amazed to see a pure white male with an orange ring courting on my lawn, and wondered if he was my Pax. Pax was my of my first four doves, the mate of Persephone and father of Columba and Lily. He flew away after poor Persephone had her head bitten off and I haven't seen him since. That must be three years ago or so now. I don't know for sure if this dove was Pax but he was pure white (tick), a male (tick), wearing an orange ring of the type I used then (tick) and in my garden (tick) so I like to think it was him. When I started keeping doves I didn't note the leg I ringed them on - now I do.
I haven't seen Victory - Purity's sibling and hatched in my dovecote in March - since mid August, so hope he/she escaped the carnage too and will come back some time. Nero and his mate Messalina flew away some time between the beginning and mid July so hopefully living happily elsewhere. I was sorry they left at the time, but I am now so thankful. Nero was one of the most beautiful pigeons you would ever see and no photo ever captured his luxurious plumage.
Last photo of Victory eating a pea, taken on 18th August.
Nero, with others, on the little porch above the kitchen door. The two brown ones have survived.
A pretty speckled dove I call Dalmation Dove - DD for short - also thankfully survived and has been seen every day, in company with a brown pigeon with a white tail- see photo above. Sometimes there is a paler brown pigeon too, and I think it's the older brown pigeon's squab. There are also a young dark grey pigeon and a larger pale grey pigeon with black bands. And a white courting couple that I have seen mating.This is DD on the lawn in the summer.
And again here, with the white tailed brown one.
The farmer said no doves had been back to the barn - hardly surprising, would you? They are sensitive and knowing; I'm sure would be able to understand at some level. But, he told me, some are roosting in one of his other buildings - where he keeps machinery. I pray he will let them stay...... but know he'd do the same if he had to. It's all in a day's work to the likes of him.
Some of the very few white doves and pigeons left feeding in my garden this week.
I wish some would come again to live in the dovecote. Hope and Glory, earlier this year, were interested from January. I've decided that if no doves set up home by next April, I will put up the homing net and try again. I am a bit wavery about this as it is heart-breaking to get to the love the doves and then have a fox or more likely the hawk get them. I have a new dovie friend, Yan, that I met over the internet and poor Yan had such high hopes of her little flock of four. Already she has lost two to the hawk, and her special dove Ffion was sadly damaged, but survived. I am so sorry, Yan. I know how upsetting it is and I do wonder sometimes, for myself, if it is worth it. Another dovie internet friend, Lee, had the same hawk problem and told me in the summer that a friend of his. living in the New Forest, had given up trying to keep white doves, due to the hawks, and now keeps them in an aviary. Lee doesnt want to do that himself, and I agree with him, the doves are and should be free spirits. There is no solution to this - Yan has tried all sorts of anti-hawk devices, and they don't really work. And yet, there is a dovecote not far from here, in a garden that I often pass, and there is always a dozen or so doves - in the cote and on the roof. Maybe I ought to knock on the door and ask how they manage to keep them all.
I'd just about finished this blog and was talking on the phone near the door, watching the garden, when I saw two white doves fly over, seemingly chased by something. It was probably a sparrowhawk though I didn't see it clearly, and then one dove flew madly off in another direction. I didn't see if the hawk got the dove - but you see it's a sorry state of affairs as my mother used to say, and I don't really know if I'm up to it any more. When there was a huge flock the individuals were protected when there was a hawk strike - now they'll be picked off one by one til there are none left.
The end (sorry you might have to scroll down quite a bit to make a comment, I just can't seem to get this right)