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 -
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