Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A special dove - and Turtle-Doves

It was 18th October 2010 and my Pilates class wasn't on due to half term so I decided to go to Claremont National Trust garden to have a walk and see the flock of 30-50 white doves that live there. The dove above is a rather scruffy fantail at Claremont - the only one. The rest have ordinary tails.

Here are some more of them, with a few pigeons

They appear to roost in the trees - I don't think they go anywhere else at night.
I was probably the first person in the gate that day, and almost straight away I noticed a dove sitting alone on the grass, nearly under a hedge and near the lake. I thought it looked sweet and took a photo but didn't think much more of it. I wandered on and fed the large flock and wondered anew how they all manage to get enough to eat, competing as they do with ducks, geese, swans, seagulls.....

After I completed the shortish walk around the lake, it struck me that there had been something unusual about the first dove and I went back to see if it was still there. It was in the same position and I got close and took another photo and it allowed me to get closer and closer until I could pick it up without any trouble at all.

The poor little thing looks pretty in the photo but had a damaged wing and was very poorly. It occurred to me that if I went back to the entrance kiosk and said I've found one of your doves with a damaged wing, and can I take it home, I have a flock of white doves, I know what to do etc etc they might actually say no, health and safety, property of the NT, we have to ask someone, blah, blah, so I just whisked out the carrier bag I had in my pocket and popped it in there, secreting it out of the gate with no-one any the wiser! Safe in the car, I put it in a box that just happened to be there. One good thing about me being so messy is that I always have useful things in the car!

I named the dove Jose, after the men from the San Jose mine who had just been rescuedf. My poor little Jose was very quiet in the car. He (or she) appeared to be a young bird with the sharp beak of a juvenile and was very thin and dehydrated. At home, I filled a little pot with water and dipped his beak into it, but he didn't respond. For the first 48 hours I kept him confined in the 'hospital box' in the conservatory, with food and water of course. Every couple of hours I took him out and held his beak in the water pot - and when at last he took a sip while I was holding him, I felt uplifted and happy that we'd turned a corner and he might pull through. The next day though one of his eyes was sticky and half closed and I thought 'here we go, the beginning of the end' but I bathed it gently with a soft, non-fluffy cloth and plain water and the following day it was clear again. Jose started eating and drinking normally within a day and quickly gained strength, but unfortunately I doubt if he will every fly again. I had asked the Universe to send me a dove for my empty cote so I wasn't surprised when I found Jose, but he was not like Spirit a very friendly dove who had also had a damaged wing and lived with me for a month from Sept to Oct '08 (her story can also be found on this blog), Jose was much less amenable. Spirit spent her days on a branch near my kitchen door, mingling with the other doves on the patio and lawn, and walking out onto the path when she wanted to go to bed in the dovecote. Jose didn't like the branch, wherever I placed it, choosing to jump off and go and hide in the flower beds or the shed kitchen if I left the door open. Eventually he decided to like being on the big garden table with the hospital box as a shelter. He now goes in and out as he pleases, and has a big shallow dish of water to drink from and bathe in. Well he's supposed to bathe in it and has done so precisely once! He's beginning to look a bit grubby now.
I've had him for about 2 months now and he is more friendly. I don't have to chase him round the table when it's bed-time any more before I can pick him up. Bed time is currently around 3.30pm -3.45pm as the days are so short and gloomy. Of course he is vulnerable on the table if there are any hawks around, but I saved him from probably being eaten by a fox on the first night, or starving to death. I do wonder if it was the right thing to do - is it much of a life for a bird, not being able to fly? But it is a life, and he does have company as he can see the other doves, and some of them alight on the table - most probably to eat his food rather than say hello! I also worry that if he proves to be a she, in the mating season she will get hassle from young males who don't realise her disability.

Since I've had Jose I've looked after three other birds. The first was a dark pigeon - the one above. Here he is getting better - sorry I've got the pictures out of order! He arrived alone, lame and lacking much of the feathers from his back. I threw him peanuts as he had difficulty hopping between the feeders but as he could fly I wasn't too worried.

Jose again, looking perkier - we ringed him as soon as we knew he would live

Here's the poorly lame one, as he first arrived - possibly got away from a hawk or other predator

The second was a brown pigeon who was seemingly dazed and unable to fly. I put it in the dovecote - not Jose's quarters, in case it was diseased! - with food and water and it flew away after a couple of hours, so don't know what was wrong there. The third casualty was a cock pheasant, also dazed, wandering round in circles on our little country road. I got out of the car to see what I could do and it flopped into the ditch and lay trapped in a bramble. I got it out and it sat quietly on the back seat of the car til I got home. I put it in a box with food and water and next time I looked it had gone. I think it may have suffered a slight collision with a car but was basically ok.
The old saying of be careful what you wish for can be applied to me now as I have dependant bird and we are going away for a few days after Christmas. There is no-one I can ask to bring Jose out of the dovecote in the morning and put him to bed in the late afternoons - although someone is coming to feed the birds, of course. So I bid on and won and super hutch from ebay - a bargain at £28. The hutch is just right, all one level, as Jose wouldn't have been capable of going up and down a ladder. Occasionally he jumps off the table, thinking he can fly, and lands feet up, totally helpless. He will have to stay shut up in the hutch while we are away, but it is roomy and he will be safe - I hope.

Jose standing in front of his lovely new hutch
Before I finish, I must mention Turtle Doves, the gorgeous recycled wrist warmer and fingerless gloves rolled into one. I met Kate, who makes them, at her stall at the Bishop's Castle Michaelmas Fair - I was attracted by the name!- and just fell in love with them. I bought 2 pairs for me, in soft blue-grey and emerald green, and four pairs to give as presents, all of which have been enthusiastically received - especially the lucky girl who got the cashmere pair! The photo shows me in mine feeding a pigeon at St. Peter Port Harbour, in Guernsey. But do please go to her site to have a look, they are so colourful, pretty and useful
The end

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Doves This Summer - May to early Sept '10

So, so long since I've written about the doves, and now.... how to put the whole summer in a nutshell? It was the end of April, in my last blog, and I was only seeing 4-8 doves in the mornings, and 4-5 in the afternoons. Yet, by 5th Sept 2010 there were 40 doves and pigeons on the roof! And I love the coloured ones as much as the white ones! The numbers have crept up and up On the 9th June I noted in my log that I saw 13 white doves, including Peace and Harmony. Peace is my dove that came down the chimney the day my mother died, and then I ringed her, and Harmony was a ringed dove (not by me) that was often with her, but didn't seem to be her mate. I haven't now seen him for a while.
By the middle of July, due to the new young doves (squabs) coming with their parents, the number was up to about 25, and by the middle of August, 31. Not all young ones of course, many are just nomad doves 'joining in', I guess.
My most wonderful surprise flew into my garden on the 19th June. Victory, my own dove, hatched in my dovecote in Spring '09 had come back! She - and I know she's a she now - hadn't been seen since August '09! I was sorry when she'd gone, but by going off she missed the mass cull in Oct. '09, thank heavens. Victory came back two days before my darling little Yorkshire Terrier died, giving me some comfort in my loss. She didn't seem to be around much in July, and I suspected she had gone off with Grey Joseph, as I'd seen him courting her, but she came back in August with him in tow! I'm not sure if they are mates, though. Grey Joseph formely courted Peace, but nothing seemed to come of it, and has also been seen with a white female.

Grey Joseph courting Victory (3 pics above)

Victory - she is 18 months old now
Grey Joseph with a white female
My special and distinctive pair, Chocolate Brownie (m) and Dalmation Dove (f) are here every day, and very tame. They know if they hang around, after the others have gone, I will start dishing out the peanuts! They've been busy this summer, having babies! Here's some of the courtship ritual in photos.Hen-pecked CB! - sorry this pic got elongated somehow!

And here's their babies, what sweet little birds, and what a mix of mum and dad! Here they are with Peace. Sadly, after this photo I never saw the second one again.
I call the remaining baby, Chocolate DD
and here he is with his father

No sooner was Chocolate DD raised than CB and DD were mating again, and one day another young one appeared with them. Dark grey speckled, instead of brown speckled this time!
In between Mother and Father on the roof
Soon after, the baby's twin appeared and I gave my husband the naming of the them - so now we have light head Inca and dark head Inca. These two look incredibly similar to the speckled pair in the my Nov. '09 blog.... I assume those two didn't last the winter or flew away as I haven't seen them since. They may have been raised too late in the year. I found a dove/pigeon egg in the water bath at the end of August. Sometimes the eggshell attaches to the underneath of one of the parents, and gets washed off in the bath! Pigeons can breed at any time of the year, if food is plentiful, but squabs hatched at the end of August won't be fledging til mid Oct and that's not the best start in life!
Another easily recognised bird in the very dark Noir. When I first saw him on the roof my heart skipped a beat and I thought it was my beloved Nero come back, but it wasn't. Still Noir has stuck around and is my darkest pigeon. From zero pigeons, I now have maybe up to 10 regulars.
Noir, with white dove, making himself heard!
To be cont.....

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Spring 2010

27th April 2010
Things are not so bad as in my last blog, thank goodness. The number of doves I see in the garden varies and the most I have seen together, here, since my last post is 9. Mostly there are between 4 and 8 in the mornings, including my yellow and red ringed Peace, and Harmony, also ringed (but not by me) and 4 or 5 in the afternoons.

I have had a few little dramas and excitements recently to tell you about. The first was lovely! I note from my scribbly dove 'log' that it was the 23rd March - I was feeding the few white doves one morning and suddenly two coloured ones flew down from another part of the roof. I was so surprised and delighted to see some coloured doves (well, pigeons!) again and then I realised it was Dalmation Dove and Chocolate Brownie! Wow! I hadn't seen them since the beginning of January, had really missed them and thought they had been shot, caught by the hawk or perished in the snow. I ran in and got my camera and managed to get this shot of Dalmation Dove. They came again on the 25th, but I haven't seen them since. How I wish I could track the doves - where on earth do they go? Where was this pair through all the bad weather - where were they getting their food from? Doves and pigeons are very resourceful though which is one reason I like them. They remind me of people! So the two visits from DD and CB uplifted my spirits - still alive and still together!
Then a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon I came home to my quiet and sunny garden to find a vast quantity of white feathers scattered up close to the house in the flower bed. There was no body, but some gore, and I had to assume that the sparrowhawk cornered a dove up close to the house and it didn't get away. Not only did I have the sadness of losing one of the very small flock left to me, I also had to clear up all the feathers by hand! The other doves did arrive back on the roof later on, but were very scared, and wouldn't come down.
This attack has put me completely off starting again with my own flock. I just couldn't bear to be in the situation that my friend Yan was in - with the sparrowhawk watching and picking off one dove after the other - it's just too upsetting. I do waver though - I remember that Glory was killed by the hawk, but Hope reared the two babies, Victory and Purity, successfully and they all lived - but then maybe they were protected by the huge feral flock that was around then. I don't know what to do..... maybe when the hawk breeding season is over..... or maybe not...

A week after this attack, it was very late afternoon or early evening, and I had assumed feeding time was over for the doves. I happened to glance out of the little window in my kitchen door and for a startled second thought there was a large dead grey bird in the garden, near the path. I then realised it was the sparrowhawk and was probably not dead at all, but covering a late straggler dove that it had caught. I decided that if it had caught and killed it, I may as well let it eat it, as I assumed if I frightened it away, it would only go hunting again, thus 'wasting' that kill. I got my camera and took a rather shaky couple of photos. My husband suggested that the dove might not be dead - I couldn't even see the dove at this stage, but we both went out of the door and there was a quick scrabbling and fluttering on the path before both the dove and the hawk flew away!

Maybe I had spotted the hawk on the ground the very moment after it had caught the dove, or perhaps they were both stunned..... I don't know. I was thankful the dove had got away, but then some minutes later I saw it - or another - back on the roof again. Doves are not always the brightest birds - although some can seem quite canny - but I suppose this one was hungry, or had squabs to feed, so had come back to the feeding ground. It landed on the lawn and I stood right by it, thinking my presence would deter the hawk. But no, the hawk had also returned to it's feeding ground and I assume was watching from the wooded area beyond the river. Hawks fly so fast, like a speeding bullet, that you hardly know what is happening before it's happened - you can hardly make out that they are, in fact, a bird, they're so quick. Mr. Hungry Hawk flew past me, straight at the dove and luckily she realised and got a head start. I don't know what happened, whether she got away or not - there was a white bird ahead and a grey one after, and then they were both gone.
The grey sparrowhawks, like this one, are the males. The females are larger, heavier and brown. My book says that the males specialise in taking smaller birds like chaffinches, so maybe that's why this male hadn't killed the dove it got on the path; it was a little too large for it. Although the book says that birds as large as wood-pigeons can be targeted by sparrowhawks.
The next event was another lovely surprise. My husband reported that he had seen doves on the island and I haven't been feeding them there since.... oh I don't know how long ago.... months! Before the snow anyway so I was a bit surprised. Why would they go there? I had to assume that they would go there if they remembered being fed there - and who would remember as they were mostly all dead? The next day - one of those glorious sunny spring days we have been having here in Surrey recently - there were quite a few white doves on the lawn and I could see one was ringed with a white ring on one leg and a yellow on the other. I rushed to my 'log' to see which dove I had ringed in the past with white/yellow but nothing was written down. Then I had a little brainwave and remembered Bob Friar's dove that I named Belle - see previous blogs for the full story, but briefly ... way back in Autumn '08, a ringed dove joined my very large flock and as I could see a phone no. on her ring, I caught her and her owner came to collect her. Then again, she turned up in Feb. 'o9 and this time I took her back myself and visited Bob's pigeon loft. I knew that Bob had added an extra ring, a purple one, so I wasn't sure that this dove on my lawn was, in fact, Belle but having caught her on camera, and enlarged the photo, I could also see the purple ring. It really was Belle, and how lovely to have her fly all the way from Ash back to my garden - a distance of some twenty-five miles. I have calculated that Belle must be about two years old now, and could live up to about fifteen years or so, if she is lucky. She and the others with her flew to the island, and I took some food over, and got a few more photos. The island is my special place and I love to share it with the doves.

I take an interest in and feed all the birds that visit my garden. I'm taming my robin and so far he will come into the kitchen as far as the mat, when I sprinkle it with mealworms! I would adore to have him feed from my hand.

My neighbour had a surprise when she drew her curtains back ther other morning - there was a peahen on her lawn! It was still there when I arrived to get her shopping list, so I went home to get some dove food and my camera. She did pick at the food, but wandered out of the garden and into the copse near the stream. Most odd - we have no idea where she came from! And later on she appeared on our roof. Never a dull moment with the birds around here!

The end -
to post a comment you may have to scroll down a massive gap. I just can't seem to close it whatever I do - if anyone can help, please tell me how!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Three, just THREE left!

7 Feb 2010

I have not written about the doves since the end of November. I wish I had as now the little time I had with the 'After Doves' is over.

Probably the farmer as been busy with his gun again. I can think of no other explanation for the fact that now I have just three white doves, and no coloured ones, visiting.

The little After flock, visiting me from November to January, numbered sometimes as many as fourteen white doves, but on a day to day basis was usually about eight white and some others I particularly recognised including the beautiful speckled Dalmation dove. I enjoyed and fed them all through the hard snowy weather. I cleared a large circular patch of grass, and swept it every day to keep the snow off. Doves are cautious creatures and don't like anything different; they didn't like landing on the snow or even the grassy patch I made, but of course they had to - to eat!

My usual lap top has died and is off at the menders so I haven't even got a pictures of that poor little flock to show you, and I can't work this laptop properly, so can't drop the pics into the text!

One visiting pigeon I called Lady Jane Grey, after my internet friend Jane Grey - see my side panel to see her YouTube series of photos of her lovely woodpigeon, Hope. Lady Jane Grey seemed to escape this second dove slaughter and is shown here with a surviving white, but now she is nowhere to be seen - perhaps flown off to find more pigeons to flock with? I hope so.

Peace also was seen after the others had vanished. This is my last photo of her - I hope she didn't go back to the farm, but I fear she did. It really is so upsetting and there is nothing I can do. I hate it when I can't do anything positive.

Now, no doves greet me in the mornings. My roof tops that were once lined with doves are empty, and if it wasn't for my cheeky, hungry robin I would feel bird-friendless. There were four white doves visiting, but one got poorly and spent more time on the ground. I soon saw he had some damage to his beak; it was permanently slightly open and crossed - see the photos above. For the first few days, he managed to eat if I gave him a deep pot of grain, by shovelling it in. He couldn't pick up individual grains from the ground. He lost strength and couldn't fly after a while, so I kept him in my hospital box at night and set him free for the day. When he couldn't eat at all, I couldn't bear it and took him to the vets to be put to sleep as I didn't want him to suffer by starving to death. I left him at the vets in the box to be seen by my lovely vet as soon as he had time, but they rang me to say he'd died before that could happen. Poor little thing. I didn't even name him.

So now they are just three white doves visiting my garden. I think they come from some way away as they don't arrive til 11.30 am at the earliest and mostly after noon. Two are a pair as I've seen them mating and how I wish they'd set up home in my dovecote like Hope and Glory did. That was only last year but seems much longer ago. A life time ago. I so loved having my babies, Victory and Purity... even getting up early to put them back in the nest when Hope was leaving them all night. It was a very special time.

I try to be around when the three arrive so I can feed them. I can't just leave food down as there are hordes of hungry woodpigeons and jackdaws, plus at least two pheasants and squirrels. During the hour of my RSPB Birdwatch I listed 17 woodpigeons together, and I have seen as many as 25 together at one time in my garden. I think the doves are well fed, they don't seem starving and probably only come for the peanuts I throw, which are a treat!

Now, am I mad but I'm thinking of starting again with a new set of doves? Before that can happen, I will have to repaint the cote - it's now nearly four years since I bought it and rather grubby with a tinge of green. My husband thinks maybe we should re-site it, so that is under consideration too. I need to find someone who can sell me some doves, and a homing net. Many dove sellers only want to sell to those who have bought their dovecote. I got mine from Kootensaw, but feel their doves are pretty expensive, considering they breed so easily and rapidly. A breeding pair can have 8-10 pairs of squabs a year, apparently. Not that mine ever did!
The garden truly seems empty and lifeless to me without the doves but I dread getting new ones just to be sparrowhawk fodder. Another internet friend, Yan, lost three of her beautiful doves to the hawk and ended up giving the last one away to someone who keeps his birds in an aviary rather than see it swooped on and carried off.
So, what do you think? Start again? or not..... I think you know what I will do!
The End