Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Flash is Released on Boxing Day

At the end of my last blog, I mentioned a dove I had named Bianca (in photo above) She seemed a bit unwell and on the 12th Dec as it started to get dark in the late afternoon I caught her as she crouched in 'poorly mode' on the gravel path and put her in the hospital box in our conservatory for the night. I was glad I'd managed to catch her at it was a wild, stormy, rainy night and she would've had a horrible time on the roof being buffeted in the wind. Unfortunately and unexpectedly as I didn't think she was that bad, she was dead when I went to collect her in the morning. I was saddened but I suppose it was just the end of her life, though I did worry that the conservatory was too cold . A pigeon I had caught a while before because it had breathing difficulties, and I didn't expect to last the night, survived, and is still going. That bird was gasping so much that I could hear the noise it made through two closed doors, which was pretty upsetting. But in the morning it wasn't so bad and I set it free and now it seems fine! I didn't ring it because I was sure it would die, but I recognise it as it has a funny fluffy bit of feathers on it's neck.
On Sat 17th another poorly white dove was netted and put in the hospital box in the conservatory - but it seemed so icy cold in there that I changed my mind and put the box in the spare bedroom - unheated by warmer! It survived the night and I ringed her with a blue ring naming her Bianca2. I could feel her bone through her chest, so she's a bit thin but I put the box on the garden table and opened it and out she came, joining the other doves for breakfast on the lawn, and later with a bit of an effort flying to the low roof.

Above is Bianca2 staying the night on the porch roof. I'm pleased to report that she's still around the garden every day, so maybe she will be ok. That's if she survives the sparrowhawk - yes Miss Hawky is around the garden, and the farm again. I took the photo below after she flew into the trees just beyond the yard in front of the house. She also made a dive at the doves feeding, while I was standing there!

Vim, hatched in my dovecote, sat for ages one day on Daddy Flash's hospital run. I wondered if he recognised Fkash, or remembered how he and Daz (his sibling) used to be in their 'play pen' in that section of the garden.

Vim, above and below, sat for hours one day on Flash's run.

On several consecutive mornings, a little white dove arrived on the roof when I had just got up and it was still dark. It sat on the roof for a moment of two, then popped into the dove cote. I soon worked out it was Shanti -one of the fairly tame 'peanut eaters' of the summer that I had managed to ring (purple ring) and who I mentioned in my last blog because he is cute, hobbling when he walks. So Shanti was trying to stake his claim in the cote - very definitely an early bird! But there was another dove that I hadn't mentioned in the last blog but that I knew was also very interested in the cote. This bird often sat in the most favoured section of the cote (the one used by Flash and Omo as a nestbox) and one day I decided to try to catch it in there, and ring it, so if it claimed the cote in the spring it would be easier to identify. I managed to do this at the end of Nov., sprayed the bird for parasites, and ringed it with a red ring.

So we have Shanti and Mr or Miss Red Ring (as yet un-named) both with a strong interest in the cote. I suspect come spring, or even before, we will have a battle for the cote again! And when Flash recovers, will he want his old place back again?

Flash continued to improve and every day I felt dreadful about keeping him confined. Birds should be free to fly, and I could tell he wanted to get out He'd often try to take off from the ground but the run is too low for him to do more than bob up and down. We had some cold weather, a morning of sleety snow and some nights of high winds. Much less here in Surrey than in other parts of the country but not good weather for a still not fully fit bird to be set free.

On Fri 16th Dec when I was letting Jose out of the hutch in the early morning. I heard cooing in the cote and saw a dove - or maybe two- in the window of the cote facing the hutch. Had it, or they, been there all night? And later that day I saw Madame Shanti - yes, she's a she, not a he! - mate with Monsieur Red Ring - most definitely a he! So there won't be a fight for the cote, they are a couple and can live there together! Unless Flash or someone else objects. And if they stay a couple, I will have to name Red Ring properly. I have now asked the friend I named Shanti for to provide a good complimentary name for RR! That night Shanti stayed the night, and soon RR was spending each and every night with her - they are so cute, tucked up together. Funnily enough, they spend the night in the window facing Jose's hutch and the choose the front window for day canoodling - as below.

It's only a few days to Christmas day and I am feeling that Flash is probably well enough to be released, but I have so many commitments and will be away from the garden so much til after Christmas that he will definitely have to wait until at least Boxing Day. Then I'll only release him if the weather will be reasonable for the first few days after that. The plan will be to release him in the morning of a good day, when the other doves and pigeons are in the garden.
Friday 23rd Dec - the elderly lady who cleans the offices in the building next door came round to ask me to collect a dove that she said had been in the same position for two days (why, oh why didn't she come before) - the offices are in an old mill, the dove in an awkward position but I managed to wriggle in, net and box it to bring home. I named it Iris after the lady but she died later that afternoon, poor thing. If you see a dove/pigeon in trouble and think you would like to help, then act sooner rather than later - they have little in the way of reserves and don't last long without food and water. These two sites give excellent advice for someone who is maybe not used to dealing with pigeons, but wants to help - or

But this seems to be the time of the year for the doves to die.... maybe they have used themselves up during the previous months, breeding and feeding young. When I got home in the evening, in the dark and rain, I could see a white dove on the ground behind Flash's run, so again I put it in the box for the night. It definitely wouldn't survive a night on the ground with all the foxes we have around - and there are mink too on the riverbank.

24th Dec - The latest poorly one, named Iris2, lived through the night and I opened the box on the garden table to allow her some freedom. She ignored the nice bowl of water at the correct luke-warm temperature and the tempting pot of specially graded grains with peanut sprinkle on top, and jumped to the ground. She made her way over to the dove bath (washing up bowl) and with an effort hopped up to sip. Then she just sat in the damp drooping flower bed and so, when I had to go out, I collected her up and put her in the safety of the box again with food and water. But Iris2, like the first Iris, was dead by late afternoon. Two dead doves in one day and Christmas Eve at that, how sad. A river burial in the morning, and another in the dark of the later afternoon. Back to nature, beautiful birds. Fly again in Heaven.

Christmas Day was a mild day and Flash was very eager to be free - flying onto the wire sides on the run and clinging on there - one more day Flash, one more day!

Boxing Day - the day of Flash's proposed release arrived, and another mild day with several forecast ahead. Below is Flash still in his run, with some doves clustered around Jose on her table.

And Flash, below, last picture before his release

I opened the top section of Flash's run and propped it back. He ran up and down the ramp a few times, then flew out with assurance. to the low roof near the dove cote. I had expected him to stay around for a few minutes and then take off to fly, enjoying his freedom. Instead he flew straight to the favoured front position of the cote, where he had raised his families in the summer. Obviously he is perfectly recovered as he had no trouble flying into the small window of lthe cote. Previously he wouldn't have been able to negotiate it as the paramyxovirus causes lack of co-ordination, amongst other symptoms.

It didn't take long before Mr. Red Ring realised that Flash was in the cote space he now considered to be his and he also flew determinedly in! The last thing I wanted was Flash to be involved in a fight, as I had no idea how strong he was. I got the steps which raised me to the doves level and could see a whirling fury of white wings, sharp beaks and claws.

I put my hand in and drew out whichever dove came to hand. It was RR and he flew to the low roof. Flash stayed in the cote and I took him a small dish of seeds and peanuts pieces to keep his strength up! I didn't actually mind who won the fight/and or the cote but I didnt want Flash to be killed on his first day out after all my careful nursing. Mind you he was obviously fighting fit!

After a while, RR entered Flash's space again, and after a minute or two, I intervened once more and removed RR - again just by chance or luck. Of course the little dish of seeds got spilt! Shanti, arrived and sat placidly on the side ledge of the cote while the two cock birds fought. I left them to it this time, and eventually RR emerged. By 10am they had all settled down with Flash at the front and the others at the back of the cote. At 10.30 am Flash cautiously peeked out, then flew down to the blue bath which is the nearest to the cote, and had a good long drink. He perched easily on the side andto me looks perfectly fit. He had been in captivity (for his own good) for 59 days and I hope has totally recovered The fighting shows he is certainly not weak and feeble.

While I was observing all this - and having my Boxing Day brunch of smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and Bucks Fizz with my husband! - I noticed another white dove mating with Jose. RR is also interested in her, and I wondered if and when Flash will resume his jealous guardianship of her.

At 11.30am Flash came out on the roof for a very brief while, then had another drink and back to the cote. I haven't seen him eat at all today, but have put more grains in the cote for him. He stayed there all day. By 3.30pm RR and Shanti were in their side section of the cote, Flash was in the front and I'd shut Jose in her hutch. 15 mins later Flash came out onto the hedge, then turned round and flew in again. Five mins later he came out again, had a drink from the bowl I'd thoughtfully placed on the table for him and flew back to the cote. By 4pm it was pretty gloomy in the garden and I was hoping Flash would stay in the cote. By half past it was dark and I knew he would stay. It would be very unusual for a dove to leave a safe roost once it was night. Flash has NEVER stayed the night in the cote before - not even when he was courting Omo or when they had squabs in the cote. I was delighted to have him stay, and surprised as I hadn't expected it. I thought he would leave the cote before dusk and fly to his previous roost. I was also pleased that Shanti and RR felt comfortable enough to stay in their current night-time part of the cote. Maybe they could all live happily together?

27th Dec - The other doves and pigeons came into the garden as usual, Shanti and RR came out of the cote, and Jose's door was opened, but Flash stayed in the cote. He hadn't eaten anything on the ground yesterday, only what I had put in the cote for him, so I took him some more and hoped he wasn't going to turn into a recluse! I was out all morning but from the look of him when I got back I doubted he had been out. In the afternoon he somehow perked up, emerged, flew to the roof, joined in with the flock and came down to eat with them. He flew away with the others before dark, and I just hope I will see him again tomorrow. But I did what I hoped and wanted to do - helped feisty Flash, my delightful Daddy dove, recover from paramyxo!

I had to run my little grandson home, and when I returned to the garden after dark, there was a pigeon under Jose's hutch. I just can't leave a bird on the ground all night but it was easy to net it and put it in Flash's vacated hospital (which I haven't yet cleaned out) There might be germs in the run but I had to choose - possible germs v probably fox - and germs won!

To be cont.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Paramyxovirus - Flash's Progress

5th Dec.11 - My last blog finished in early November with Flash ill with the paramyxovirus. By the 8th Nov he seemed a bit more co-ordinated and I was happy with his progress. If you did read the last blog you will know that I was having difficulty getting in and out of his run due to it's design. My husband kindly put an opening section into the top of the cage, making my life much easier! Here he is above finishing the job, with Jose watching from inside her hutch (she was locked in while he worked) and Flash in a small box on top of her hutch - you can just about see him.

By 15th November I had had Flash in confinement for 17 days and its about 21 days since I first saw him in the garden with paramyxo symptoms.

I am seeing my spotted Dalmation Dove (DD) regularly - here she is in a photo taken March '10

But I haven't seen her mate Chocolate Brownie for quite a long while now. What a shame if something has happened to him - they were such a beautiful bonded pair and have been coming to my garden for a least a couple of years. Below, together, taken this June - 2011

I never give up hope, unless I see a dead body! The birds are such nomads, and it's always wonderful to welcome a wanderer back. Recently a beautifully marked pigeon turned up - see the purple and green at the back of his neck! He looked familiar - and yes it was my Joseph - I looked through the photos and found this one from Sept '10, so over a year since he was last in my garden!

Omo, Flash's mate from this summer, is still around - I recognised her on Jose's table on 18th Nove - there is still a trace of the blue felt tip pen that I marked her wing and tail with in the summer.
27th November was a warm sunny day. I bathed Jose, and then noticed Flash standing in the shallow dish I had put in his run - he wanted a bath too! I realised the dish was too shallow and put a better one in for him, with tepid water (I always warm Jose's bath water too!) but I felt his water couldnt be too cold as he is poorly. He sat in the dish for a long time, then bathed himself and really seemed to benefit from it.

Flash sits in his bath

Looking like a penguin!

Splish! Splash! Splosh!

I had originally only put a shallow dish for bathing in the run as I read it is possible for pigeons with paramyxo to drown themselves, due to the way their heads flop, but I do not feel that Flash is in this dire category - but see below how he held his head at an un-natural angle at one point during the bath.

Mostly he acts pretty normally, and I have been tempted to set him free but try to remember I am acting in his best interest. He might regress if he has the stress of flying to and from wherever he generally roosts, and trying to find food if he can't get back to the garden. Be patient Flash, you will be better soon! I pray each day he will make a full recovery - he was such a spirited bird. I also requested distant healing for him from Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary at Burrows Lea - anyone can ask for healing for a pet or person, and no charge is made, although donations are always welcome - I've been to Burrows Lea and it's a wonderful peaceful place - the following link takes you to the form for an online request for healing and you can get to the whole site from there - do have a look!

Sometimes the doves and pigeons go inside Jose's hutch looking for food. I caught two birds in there recently and ringed them. One was a grey pigeon, caught the day my baby granddaughter was born, and named after her - Lexi, with a pink ring and the other was a white dove, ringed with a blue ring. A lady had contacted me asking for dove feathers for a very special personal reason and I was happy to oblige - I named this dove after her, Bianca. Both these birds I am seeing regularly. I also see Shanti (purple ring) and named a while ago for my friend - he's very cute, hobbles when he walks and often pops in and out of the dove cote. Poor little Daz hasnt been seen since 1st Nove, but his twin Vim, and big brother Fairy are seen every day, thank goodness.

I won't blog again before the New Year so from the doves and me - a peaceful blessed Christmas to you and your family.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Daz and Vim fledge - but it's not all good news...

My last blog finished with Daz & Vim (above) about to fledge and Omo & Flash with another set of eggs about to hatch. So, so much has happened since then, and it's less than a month! Well to continue where I left off, it was into the second week of October '11 and I was still taking the babies out of the cote for a little 'play' every afternoon, In the picture below, they remind me so much of those other much loved baby doves, Victory and Purity - my two little dickey birds!

In the 'play pen', Daz is practising flapping his wings. They can fly short distances now.

I held them on my hands and let them fly. Below, Vim misses the entrance hole and lands on the cote - but not a bad try!

While the babies were learning to fly, I looked after a poorly dove for a few days. I didn't name it as I could see it wasn't going to make it. Here it is in typical ill bird manner, and the next morning my neighbour came in from the yard, with a little white bundle, saying 'I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news.....'

On Tuesday 11th Oct '11 the babies fledged aged about 32 days. That morning Flash arrived about 8am (Omo had, of course, spent the night on the eggs), and Vim came out of the cote and onto the hedge, then popped straight back into the cote again!- I think Vim is the oldest, he acts as if he is! For one hour Flash went back and forth encouraging the babies out. His efforts were rewarded when Vim at last came out again, and Daz followed. At first they just did little trips from the hedge to the cote, and then to Jose's table, where they squeaked, begging for food. I didn't see Flash feed them, but eventually I think he did feed Daz, actually inside Jose's hutch. I could see the tail movements that indicate feeding. At last, that morning both babies settled in two different compartments of the cote.
First time out themselves (without me helping!) - the hedge needs trimming! It's like walking in a jungle!

The next morning, Wed 12th Oct, the babies were out on the hedge at 7.50am before Flash had arrived in the garden, and from there they went to Jose again. Daz went inside her hutch, and she was aggressive towards him, but jumped down from the table and left the squabs up there before I had to intervene. Flash arrived at 8.1oam and found no babies in the nestbox! He sat there, blocking the entrance for a long while. I took the babies from inside the hutch - where they had put themselves - and placed them on the hedge, and they started following Flash about, and squeaking but I didn't see him feed them. Eventually I caught Jose and put her back on her table - it is hers, after all! and she started to tolerate the babies, like she had done Fairy.

Above - Daz, preening, and Jose

Below - Vim, Flash with his back to us, and Jose

You will probably remember the revolting louse flies from the last blog? I treated the babies with Johnson's Anti Mite before they started flying properly, and they were now clear of all visible parasites. Here's an enlarged photo of the lice - I don't know the proper name. To the naked eye they just look like tiny little pencil lines. I decided any doves/pigeons I catch now, for whatever reason, will be treated with this product, just to be on the safe side. Even if they die (the bird, not the lice!) then at least if the parasites have been treated they can't infect another bird.

Now the babies had properly fledged, other doves started being interested in the cote. But any time an intruder stopped for a look, Flash 'flashed' over and routed them out! He also sat for long periods inside the nest box guarding it, when he wasn't on duty on the eggs. Flash is in his cote, and all's right with the world, and woe betide anyone else who tries to muscle in!

Later that day, the babies put themselves to bed, together, in the nest box about 4.30pm - so cute!

Thurs 13th Oct, I was out all day (don't worry, my husband feeds the doves when I'm not there!) and by the time I came home at 5pm all the doves had left the garden, including Flash. The babies were in the hutch, so I put them back in the cote, and looked round for Jose, who came casually walking out of my back kitchen! - and of course she went back in her hutch and was shut in for the night.

The next morning, there were lots of doves flying round the cote, and Flash again sat in the nestbox for ages, doing his best to defend his castle. You can see four doves here, all wanting to take possession - and Flash in here in the front nestbox, and Omo of course is round the back, where you can't see her, on the nest.

I didn't see Flash in the late afternoon that day which was a bit unusual and by 4.45pm the light was going anyway.
The next day, Sat. 15th, and Flash didn't appear in the garden in the morning, and I was very worried. Where was my feisty Flash? but Thank God Daz and Vim had fledged, and could feed themselves!

In the afternoon, some of the other doves, and pigeons had a communal bath and it's always a pleasure to see them, and a good photo opportunity. In the summer there was a vast flock of over 80 birds sometimes, and I despair of feeding them all - it is so expensive. I have to ration it a bit, and try to make sure all grain is eaten before I put any more down. Currently, from my supplier, the grain is £17.99 a 25g sack (delivered to my door by a lovely young man who is interested in the doves) and they get through that in a week.

They also get any stale bread, and I sometimes buy loaves for them if it is reduced, and crumbs from under the toaster and the biscuit tin. Funnily enough, they treat bread as a treat and fight over it!

At 2.30pm, I saw Omo come out of the nest, eat and then go back to the eggs. With no Flash around to do his time on the eggs, I wondered what would happen. My book said that, if the male is lost, females still continue to incubate the eggs for the full time, and these eggs are due to hatch in three days. If it's the other way around - the female lost - then males, apparently leave the nest within a few days. I can't believe Flash has gone - something must've happened to him - he was a good father, and I don't think he would just desert Omo. At 5pm Omo came out again, and had a long drink, and ate some food. No other doves were around, except one I'd ringed - one of the one's who used to eat peanuts from my hand in the summer - Shanti. Omo sat with him on the roof for a minute or two, then, to my relief, flew back to the cote. She seemed to forget, and went to the old nest - the babies were in bed, and squeaked loudly - before she 'rememered' and went back to the eggs.

Sunday 16th Oct - The first light frost of the season, and for a second I imagined someone had laid a white cloth on the garden table! - and still no Flash. I haven't seen him since Friday morning. We had a horrible morning - other doves seemed intent on taking over the cote and Omo was very upset. She kept popping her head out of her nest box, and getting off the eggs and going back to them. A Flash lookalike, with black feathers in his tail, kept fluttering round and I flapped a scarf at him, but nothing I could do would stop him, and the others. If it wasn't him, it was another. By 10.45am it seemed that Omo had abandoned the nest. I lightly touched the eggs and they were cold. Something I read on the internet said that eggs can get cold and the chicks still be reared - I doubted it!! But a couple of hours later, Omo was back on the eggs again - is there still hope? I found it all very distressing, and decided I must just get on with my own stuff, and leave the doves to it. The squabs, Daz and Vim, go off roaming but I suspect not too far. They are often on Jose's table or in and out of the hutch or cote. At 3.3opm I heard such dreadful squeaking that I had to go and investigate. I nearly always watch before I interfere and I saw what looked like an adult in the nest box of the dovecote, dragging one of the babies by it's neck, so I got up onto the steps and the dove came out and flew off - and it was Omo! I could tell by her blue felt tip marks on her side and tail (I'd marked her some while ago). Immediately, the baby, it was Vim, also came out and flew off, none the worst, but I sensed another bird in the nest box - (this is the old nesting place where Daz and Vim were reared, not the ones with current eggs in) - and when I looked in, I couldn't believe it! There was a blue ringed dove - Flash!! It was 48 hours since he'd last been seen in the garden! I can't imagine what can have happened to him or where he had been! Peanuts all round to celebrate my hero's return! Omo went back to the nest - I don't know if it will be too late.

Daz and Vim in Jose's hutch, dazzlingly white!

I am still seeing Fairy, Flash and Omo's first singleton squab, who is now about three and a half months old. I've always suspected he is a he, and this was confirmed when I saw him courting on the roof, displaying typical male behaviour. Below, he's not looking his best, the photo is fuzzy and he is moulting on his head! According to my book, effective sexual maturity is not reached until well after six months of age. Fairy is big and quick and comes running when peanuts are thrown - well he was brought up on them!

Flash had returned, thankfully, but he seemed different - deflated and subdued. Maybe he'd had a nasty experience. He did eat but then he went to the hutch - Jose wasn't there, she was on the ground, but the babies followed him there and started squeaking and amazingly I saw him feed them both one after the other! - this of course was 48 hours or more after he'd last fed them, so it's lucky they weren't relying on him for food. The photo below is out of sequence, sorry - but shows Flash on the left, Daz on the brick stretching his wings, and Jose drinking. This was a typical scene in the first week or so after the babies fledged.

After Flash had fed his babies, he settled down on the branch inside the hutch. He has never done that before, and stayed there for a long time, quietly. Later, he came out, but sat under the hutch on the support for the table. He's never done that before either - he's definitely changed.

As the sun went down behind the roof and the other doves started to leave the garden, Flash put himself back in the hutch again. The babies hovered around on the table and nearby. Jose was still on the ground and I could see her getting flustered - time for bed! I didn't want to upset Flash in case he planned to spend the night and I didn't know what to do. By the time he had flown away - out of the hutch and the garden, Jose was nowhere to be seen. It was gloomy and about 4.30pm, and I searched on and off for about an hour but couldn't find her. Omo was on the nest and I was still hoping there was a chance for the eggs, and Daz and Vim were in the cote. Eventually Jose came out of wherever she was and I caught her and put her in the hutch. A stressful and exhausting day for us all!

Monday 17th Oct - Flash was not there for the morning feed and Omo and the babies had already left the cote when I went out into the garden. I had to go out, and the weather wasn't good so I made Jose a cage box on top of the hutch, leaving the hutch open for Daz and Vim to get protection. The other doves are often not allowing them into the cote now during the day. When I came back at lunchtime, there were two doves in the box where the eggs were, and I doubted if one was Omo, one dove in the side, and one dove in the old nest box - who? Again, I had to go out, but when I came back at 4.30pm ish the garden still had good light and plenty of doves around. Jose was where I left her, of course, Daz and Vim together in the cote in the compartment facing the hutch,a dove in the old nest box, one in the back and two in the box (with the eggs) - 6 doves in the cote at the same time, more than I've ever had together, and they looked pretty, but I was sad about the eggs.

By ten past five, all doves except Jose, Daz and Vim had left the cote and the garden, except for two doves on the roof. When they came lower I could see it was Flash and Omo, and they did go back to the cote, but not to the eggs. At ten to six, Omo was in the old nest box (where Daz and Vim were reared) and Flash in one of the side ones. The eggs are certainly abandoned now, there can be no hope. Is Flash going to spend the night? He never has before. By 6.07pm the garden was very gloomy and I was inside, but heard a loud clap of wings and when I checked, Flash was gone. Five minutes later it was very dark indeed.

Tuesday 18th Oct'11 - Today should have been hatching day, a good day, but instead it was a gloomy one. I got up early and while Daz & Vim, and Omo were still in the cote, I put the steps up and removed the stone cold eggs.

Flash was there for the morning feed, and there was lots of activity round the cote, but he didn't send the other doves away. He seems to have lost all interest in defending the cote. I had so many unanswered questions - why did Flash go away? Had he been trapped somewhere or was it his own choice? Why did Omo abandon the eggs? Was it because Flash wasn't around or because the other doves were in and out of the cote upsetting her? or did she know the eggs were duds like the other egg with Fairy, and the two laid in between Fairy and Vim & Daz? I could answer that question at least, by opening the eggs. If you don't wish to see, then scroll down the next two photos quickly. The eggs were not duds, I cracked them both and there were what looked to me like perfect little squabs inside.

I removed the membrane and laid the babies out properly. It seemed very sad to me that they would never know any life outside of the egg. But if they had hatched and all had gone well, they would not have fledged until mid November - hardly the best season of the year.

Two of my blog readers had suggested names for these babies, so to give them some dignity in death, I named them, Dreft and Burti (a German soap powder) and wrapped them up with tiny flowers from the garden for the river burial that all my dead birds get - back to nature, you poor little things.

18th October was also the anniversary of the day I had found Jose had Claremont National Trust a year ago, and brought her home, as she was unable to fly and therefore dying of hunger and thirst. Happy Anniversary Jose! - I'm so glad you have had a year with me! Here's the link to that story

I've bought myself some new Turtle Dove gloves, as also mentioned in that blog, as I have managed to lose both those pairs. They are lovely, and so useful, made of recycled jumpers - I gave several pairs as Christmas presents last year and everyone seemed delighted with them - have a look here - I don't have shares in the business, I just adore the gloves!

Wed 19th Oct and only Daz stayed the night as Vim flew away with the rest of the doves. I hoped he managed to stay with them, and come back the next day. The next night, surprisingly, Omo stayed the night, but from then on no doves stayed at all. During the day there was still lots of comings and goings in the cote. Below you see Flash with his blue ring on the ledge on the old, most favoured, nest box, with Omo just underneath him, and other adult doves in other compartments. Flash didn't seem in the least bothered by them.

One day a little blue tit flew in to the kitchen - this often happens as the door is mostly open. I caught it, but it escaped from my hands and crash landed on the kitchen floor. It seemed stunned so I put it in the box and it sat there, legs splayed out, for a while, but thankfully recovered and flew off. The last thing I need is a poorly blue tit to look after!

The next few days were fairly uneventful. I kept a note of the days I saw Daz & Vim and Fairy. I didn't see either D or V for four long days between Sat 22nd to Wed 26th and was beginning to think they were lost, but I saw Daz that afternoon and on Thursday 27th, both of them. It makes me happy to see in the garden, and sad when I don't! Fairy I saw practically every day. Of course, they might have come to the garden when I wasn't around. Although this blog might seem like I watch them constantly, of course I don't!

On Wednesday 26th, Omo seemed to be fighting for the cote. Every time another dove went in her favourite compartment - the old nestbox - she was in there, trying to get them out - fighting like a male, really. The other dove, probably a male, was persistent, and I just tried to ignore them. Where was Flash? Well that day, unfortunately, I noticed Flash seemed to have symptoms of paramyxovirus. This is a very distressing illness and at that time I thought any bird catching it was bound to die, but I read up a little and found this excellent website - You can also see film of pigeons with paramyxo on youtube - just put in pigeon paramyxo and you will get something up. I haven't got a link, I can't bear to watch them with it. Symptoms include difficulty in picking up seed - they keep pecking and missing, twisting and craning the neck into un-natural positions, and crash landings. The website I found seemed to imply that one of the reasons most feral pigeons with paramyxo would die was due to being unable to get enough food. It makes sense that if a bird can't pick up available seed quickly, the others will, and gradually it would get weaker and die, or become prey to a predator. I hoped to be able to catch Flash so I could help him, but there was no chance of that - he could still fly well, so the only thing I could do was to try to make sure there were deep bowls of food available when he was around so that when he was stabbing randomly at the grain he was bound to get some into his beak. Of course, paramyxo is extremely contagious and at the time there was another white dove coming into the garden with it, but after a few days I didnt see it, and assumed it had died. For the next few days, I wondered if each day I saw Flash would be the last time. If you didn't know, you might think a bird with paramyxo was drunk when you watch them try to land on the roof, and fall down the other side. I still hoped at some point I'd be able to catch him, and on Saturday 29th at about 5pm, in gloom of the late afternoon when I was sitting here at my lap top, I caught sight of a spinning white thing whirling down into the garden near Jose's hutch. Flash had crash landed, dizzy and disorientated, and was on the ground! I rushed out with the net and managed to catch him after several attempts which were stressful for both of us. I isolated him in the hospital box with food and water, and he spent the night in our conservatory. The next day, after treating Flash with the anti-mite stuff, I rang the vets and asked if my lovely vet, G, would see Flash, and an appointment was made. I have great respect for G, he was wonderful when my little dog was so poorly. The only appointment I could get was 5pm which is not a great time for birds as obviously at this time of year it's dark and they want to be roosing, but Flash was very good and quiet inthe car on the way, and let G handle him without struggling. G said he was in good condition, not thin and with plenty of muscle. He said that there is nothing you can give a bird with paramyxo (you can vaccinate against it of course, but too late for that now!) and the only treatment is supportive nursing care. My visit cost £23.12 - but not grudged for my special boy, Flash. You may wonder why I put so many dates, times, costs etc into my blog - it's for my own reference, but I also think that sort of thing can be interesting at a later date. From what I had read I knew that if Flash was going to recover it might well take 6-12 weeks. I couldn't keep him in a small box for all that time! As a temporary measure I fixed up the cage on the garden table, and he stayed in that all day, with me taking him into the conservatory at night.

To the unknowing eye, Flash appears like any other healthy bird, but when you see him eat or crane his neck you can see there is something wrong with him. The picture below shows him twisting his neck - sorry, it's a fuzzy photo but you get the idea. I started thinking I must get another hutch... and a run. New hutches are very expensive so I dismissed buying new, and focussed on ebay, gumtree and freecycle. What you focus on, you get! I found the perfect thing on my local gumtree and went to view it. The very nice man had made it himself and it was just what I wanted - thank you Universe! - but no way could I get it into my car, and my husband, with the pick-up, was away. But M agreed to deliver it, and all for £35, what a bargain! I was out on the day he delivered but when I got home, there it was on the lawn, and very easy for me to get into position as it has wheels at one end. A super hutch, off the ground, a ramp for Flash to walk up and down, and a big run - absolutely spot on! I moved it into position and could hardly wait for the morning to put Flash in it. I felt dreadful keeping him in such a small thing, even though he is ill.

On Tue 1st Nov - into November already I can't believe it! - I noticed a pigeon on the lawn that was 'odd' - I wondered if it was actually blind as it seemed to be staying close to the others but didn't seem able to see or pick up the food. I netted it easily, and put it in a box with some food and it started to eat. I kept it for the night, and in the morning, ringed and sprayed it against lice etc and set the open box down on the lawn. It had beautiful green iridescent feathers round it's neck like so many pigeons do, so I named it Emerald. Since then she has spent every night on the roof - even through the nights of pelting rain we've had recently - and seems ok, but slow, coming down with the others to feed. Another EG, I think. She's definitely a female as I have seen males trying to court her. Last night another pidgie stayed with her, so perhaps she has a mate, or a friend.

Friday 4th Nov - I am up bright and early to put Flash in his new hutch and run. He spent some time standing in one position viewing it, but seemed to accept it, and didn't try to fly or flap against the wire, like some birds do in captivity if they are used to freedom. I hate confining him, and feel guilty about it, but it will probably be his only chance of recovery and survival. Once he is fully better, I shall release him - unless we have snow, or are due to have snow. I may well have to keep him for the winter.

Flash explored the whole arrangement and soon went up and down the ramp into the hutch part. I put water in a big bowl, and his deep food bowl in a separate place, with a sack and some plastic to prevent it getting wet if it rained. There was also a brick to sit on, and upstairs in the hutch I lined it with newspaper so I could change it easily every day. Hygiene is always important, but even more so with a bird with paramyxo. It is not contagious to humans, but obviously I wash my hands after dealing with him, or any birds for that matter. That late afternoon I assumed Flash would go up the ramp and put himself to bed. But no! despite having been up and down the ramp and in the hutch before, he just sat on the brick and the sky darkened. I couldn't leave him there, but getting into the run was not easy, with no-one to help me. Where there's a will, there's a way and I am quite strong willed, so I heaved the run up from the end and wiggled underneath. Flash stayed motionless on the brick while I was doing this, and I picked him up easily (that was the only easy bit about the whole thing!) and put him into the hutch. Then I had to wiggle out again, getting damp and filthy on the grass. I wasn't totally happy that I couldn't shut him in so he was enclosed entirely, like Jose, as if a predator got into the run it would be able to reach him in the hutch. My plan had been that he would walk up the ramp into the hutch in the later afternoon, and I would open up the back, pick him up and put him in the box for the night in the conservatory. Now I didn't dare open the hutch in case it startled him and he ran down into the run again! So I draped some old sheets over the top and sides of the run and hoped for the best. There were fireworks that night, so I was glad that at least he was in the hutch.
Sat 5th Nov- I had to coax Flash out of the hutch part and into the run in the morning, but otherwise he seems fairly well. He has had a least one episode that I saw that looked like a fit - where he flapped his wings continously while moving backwards - and he sometimes seems to cough up seeds, but these are a part of his illness. That night he, thankfully, put himself to bed and I didn't have to wiggle in again. But again I didnt dare to open up and get him out for the night. Getting his food and water bowls out to clean etc are a problem, but my neighbour helped by lifting the run up for me and soon my hubbie will be home.

Today is Sun 6th Nov and we are up to date. The last time I saw Fairy and Vim was yesterday, but I haven't now seen Daz since the 1st. I saw Omo billing and cooing with another male today. She has forgotten her in sickness and in health vows!
To be contd

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Squabs are Named & What Happened to EG?

Sunday 2nd Oct '11 - The babies are approx 24 days old (the first one hatched on 9th Sept) and they are now very visible at the window of the cote, and very vocal indeed. I don't know if I mentioned before but it is possible to hear them squeaking when they know they are going to be fed from inside the house.

24 day old squab

I love them at this stage with their fluffy yellow baby down still there - so cute! But unfortunately today when I got them out of the cote I could see they had lice on them. Well, I presume they are lice - they look like someone has drawn little short vertical pencil lines about 5mm long. I've seen them on other doves before and they can usually be got rid of - I made a mental note to get some stuff from the pet shop.

The next day I could only get one baby out of the cote, and no lice were apparent on that one that time - but they do seem to come and go and I presume hide under feathers nearer the skin. The other squab clung on to the nestbox for dear life and squeaked like mad so I just left it in there. I didn't want to upset Flash in the other nestbox sitting on the eggs. I usually take the babies out in the afternoons, and then it is Flash 'on duty' sitting on the eggs while Omo has a break.

All that day other doves were interested in the cote, fluttering round it, landing on the sills and looking in the windows, and Flash had his work cut out chasing them off, in between feeding the squabs. Luckily these interlopers didn't think to come back when Flash was on the other nest and the babies were alone, although I suppose Omo would've defended them. She is not feeding them at all now, though does visit them every day, standing on the sill of the nestbox. They squeak at her and flap their wings, but only Flash feeds them now, and this is normal behaviour.

Wed 5th Oct - Babies 26/27 days old (these dates are always approx as I am never quite sure when they hatch) and as usual I got them out of the cote in the afternoon. They can flap and flutter but not really fly properly. Here they are in the garden with Jose in the background.

I checked them over as usual and found one of those horrible fly things again on one of them. It was under the wing and luckily I managed to catch and kill it (I also saved it for research!)
Today was ringing and naming day - I had already chosen names for the two eggs that were laid before them (that came to nothing) and so we have Daz, ringed with green right, yellow left and Vim, green right and pink left.



Vim and Daz - still young enough to stay where I put them - more or less!

EG, the Elderly Gentleman pigeon from my last blog continued to live in the garden by day, and was put to bed in the box by me every night. I was quite fond of him as he caused me less trouble than Jose, being quieter and easier to catch!


I felt his crop every night and though a slow eater he was obviously getting enough as he had a full crop, and of course he always had the chance to eat his fill in my garden, and was put to bed with a pot of food to himself!

EG with a few mates!

On the babies' ringing day, EG seemed a little more perky. It was still pleasant enough weather for my husband and I to have lunch in the garden, and we noticed EG making little, not very successful, flying attempts. The next day I was out all day, leaving hubbie to feed the doves, and when I came home he said he hadnt seen EG since the morning. I searched all the usual hiding places, several times, and even went out with a torch when it got dark but there was no sign of him. He'd vanished into thin air! I can only hope that that is exactly what he did do - that he got enough strength to fly away. The garden was securely fenced (for when I had my little dog) and it is unlikely he could've got out through a gap, so unless he was taken by a cat or mink - which is possible I suppose, he must've flown off. I do hope so, but I haven't seen him since.

The next day I was inside but heard a lot of squeaking and as I knew the squabs had just been fed, I went out to investigate. Vim was on the lawn under the dovecote - unhurt - but looking very vulnerable and young.l In circumstances like this - where pigeons live in towns - it is extremely likely that that would be the end of the squab. I'm not sure if the parent bird/s would feed it once it was 'out of place' but even if they did, unless it could find an excellent hiding place for the night, it would be doomed to be caught and eaten by the first predator that came along as there is no way it could get back to the safety of the nest. Of course, I just scooped Vim up and put him back with Daz.

Sunday 8th Oct - I had bought some Anti-Mite spray - Johnsons - to be exact so I could deal with the lice and 'flies' on the squabs. I did think about bathing them, but I've never bathed squabs before and as the weather had changed to rather chilly I thought I'd better not. I didn't know how long their feathers would take to dry and I can't have them out of the cote for long. As they are now older and can flutter about, I made them a little play pen and put them in that to keep them in one place while I cleaned out the nest box again. It wasn't a perfect clean, but good enough and I sprayed inside with the product and relined with clean newspaper and a handful of clean hay. I played with the babies for a little while - they are quite tame in as much as they don't mind me holding them at the moment - and checked them for parasites. Thankfully I could see none, but I still followed the directions and sprayed them, thinking this might be the only chance I get to relieve them of any infestations before they fledge properly. I don't know where they got the flies from - Omo and Flash don't seem to have them, but maybe they do.

Daz and Vim in the play pen

I thought about spraying Jose too, but I have never seen any parasite on her at all, not even the lice, I decided it wouldn't be kind and was probably unnecessary.

I researched the disgusting flies and found out that they are probably the pigeon louse fly, Hippoboscid - they suck blood from the less feathered parts of the bird - and in nestlings those parts are easy to find! Photos below show the dead example I kept - approx 1 cm long so not small! Truly vile, but at least I know now what I am dealing with!

Pigeon louse fly - Hippoboscid

Flash fed the babies as usual today, but soon he will be encouraging them out. I think they can perfectly well feed themselves already, as I put little seeds onto the sill of the cote and they are always gone! They often come out and teeter precariously on the sill - which is probably why Daz fell off the other day - below is Flash on the hedge possibly trying to make them come out.

But eventually he flew up to feed them - they are young yet! It may well be a few more days before they fledge.

Flash goes in to feed his babies, and below you see one of the interlopers land on top of the cote. Flash will send it packing as soon as he's finished feeding!

To be cont (you may have to scroll down a bit for the comments)