Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Jose, me and the hawk

Jose has been very well since my last blog in December (read all about how I got her in my previous blog). Her name is pronounced Hoe-Zay. My husband kindly made her her own table as we are hoping for lots of sunny days when we will need to use our big garden table for meals outside - so Jose had to be moved! He also cut a little doorway into the hutch so she can go in and out at will. She was rather nervous of it at first and wouldnt use it, but soon learned to dodge in and out when danger flew overhead!

Portrait of Jose

Jose's new day arrangements - she still goes into the dovecote at night

Yes! The sparrowhawk was very much in evidence earlier on in the year, particularly in March. At one point it seemed to be hanging round the garden all day, making me and the doves very apprehensive. The photo below shows the hawk on the garden chair and this was taken literally five minutes after I'd put Jose to bed in the dovecote!

Below, a photo taken through my living room window of the hawk sitting on the guttering

Another time I saw it on the fence separating our garden from the river. I threw the missile I happened to have in my hand at the time (an avocado stone!) but I'm a pretty poor shot and the stone hit the fence not the hawk! I wouldn't actually want to hurt the hawk and appreciate that in March it probably was feeding babies but I am very protective of the doves, especially Jose who can't fly. She is strong now though and canny! One day around this time the doves flew up in a mass panic from feeding, and I though I bet the hawk's here again, so I went outside. It all happened so quickly as I walked out through the kitchen and out from under the tiny porch
that shelters the door.... there was a rush of air, a flurry of wings and I instinctively dropped into a crouching position..... I felt the hawk's talons rake through my hair and then it was off! I didn't have time to be scared or even think about it, but it did make me a bit nervous about going out of the door for a few days. It's not many people can say they've had their hair combed by a sparrowhawk! On the early evening of the 29th March the chap who was painting our outside windows, popped his head through to say 'the hawk's carried off one of your doves'. I sprung up and ran out round the side of the house. The hawk had taken one of the pair of little collared doves that visited my garden and was eating at the back of the house, in full view. I didnt disturb it as if it didnt get its meal it would only be back and the poor little bird was dead already. In fact I managed to creep up quite close and got lots of photos, but the light was bad and they're not very clear (the 'red' you can see in the photo is not blood, just a paint pot in the foreground). I almost wished that the hawk had taken an anonymous white dove, rather than one of my sweet little brown doves. In the days afterwards the other one searched for its mate in the garden and it was a very sad sight to see but within a couple of weeks it had found another one.

Practically every day Jose jumps off the table onto the grass - maybe to just peck around or to be with the other doves, but after she's had a play, I go to get her and she sees me coming with the net to catch her and put her on her table again, so she runs to the shelter of the big garden table and its very difficult to get her out from there. As fast as I go to one side, she runs to the other. Sometimes her friend Toffee Splodge sits under the table with her, on on her own table. TS is very companionable to Jose and often spends long periods with her. She is probably another female as she doesnt try to court Jose. She has unusual colouring in that she is a totally white dove with just one large patch of brown (hence her name) on her lower neck and part back. Up close the brown is iridescent with green.

There have been a few heart-stopping occasions when we have 'lost' Jose, searching the garden and not finding her. Now I know that in an emergency she will probably hide in the coal bunker or at the side of it, and it's my job to get her out! The last time was very tricky and I had to lie on top of the bunker, getting filthy, and not for the first time in my life I was glad that my arms are long and thin. Even Jose seemed glad to be out, and was much kissed on the top of her head
by me! I would hate to come home and find Jose had been attacked by the hawk but also I won't keep her shut up all the time. She can't fly, but she must have what freedom I can give her. Luckily as I said she's quite canny and seems to be aware of danger.

After this was taken, she squeezed round the back and was even harder to get hold of!

Jose has several male admirers, mostly white and unidentifiable, but one has a black streak in his tail and I call him Flash. Flash, despite his best endeavours has not captured Jose's heart as she already has a lover in the form of a big white dove. The first time I saw them billing and cooing (kissing) on her table was 22nd March '11 and they mated three times that day that I saw! I have to say I was rather concerned as how would a flightless bird cope with having eggs, then squabs to look after? - even though I would love her to have them. My dove bible is Feral Pigeons by Richard F. Johnston and Marian Janiga - I gather from this that mating is not sufficient for pigeons to produce eggs, they have to build a nest together first, and as Jose can't fly off with her mate, and the male is the nest site chooser, it is not unlikely and probably just as well that she won't be having babies.Bit of a shame - I'd have loved to help her look after them! Since March I have only seen her mate occasionally but by 8th May she was at it again, and today 10th May she mated with Flash for the first time (well first time that I've seen) AND also with the big white male!

My lovely pair, mentioned in previous blogs, Chocolate Brownie (male) and Dalmation Dove (female) are still visiting every day. I'm thinking they are rearing young as I was only seeing one at a time a while ago, but now they are coming together again, and I look forward to seeing their speckled babies in the garden as I did last year.

Peace, the dove that came down the chimney the day my mother died (see previous blogs) and that's two years ago this coming July, is also around occasionally. Not every day but I note from my Log that I saw her in January for the first time since the first snow, and then again on 21st March and several times since then.

One day this spring I came home to find a white dove wandering near the door. For a few seconds I thought it was Jose but as I shut her in her house if I'm out all day I knew it couldnt be. He allowed me to pick him up so I knew he was probably poorly and that night I put him in the dovecote which was a silly thing to do really as he could have had something wrong with him and infected Jose - I didnt put them in the same section of course. So for one night only I had two doves in my cote, but by morning he was dead which was sad. He may have just been old of course. It seems from what I've read that feral pigeons only live 3-6 years (if they're lucky!) I can't assume that all my visiting white doves are feral - some may come for a free meal and then go home to their own cosy dovecote or loft. The oldest ever pigeon was called Kaiser and lived for 32 and a half years, according to what I've discovered on the internet. You can google him for more info!
My own feral flock as increased to about 40 regular birds, with many 'new faces' and ringed racers passing through at the moment.

The end


Yan21 said...

Lovely Faith-what a lucky dove Jose is! Hope he continues to live life to the full

Steph said...

I just saw a very distrubing sight in my backyard and have been researching trying to understand what happened. There is not much info regarding pecking order for doves online, so I thought maybe you could answer me with your experience in raising them... A young dove was in my backyard, very cute and seemed to be learning to fly. When I noticed it outside I went to get bird food to put in the feeders in my yard and when I came back to my window an adult dove was pecking it. I opened my door and the adult flew away. I went outside to the baby and poured a little food out in front of it. The baby sat there with its eyes closed. I went back inside to leave it alone but watch from my house and I noticed it flew over to the adult dove. Then the adult dove kept pecking it. I ran outside and had to shoo it off of the baby. It was really hurt, so I went to knock on the window to get my husband to come out and help me decide what to do for it, when I turned my back the dove was back pecking more! I shooed it off again but it was too late. The poor baby bird twitched around and died as the dove watched from the tree above. Why would this happen??? I am so upset by this. My husband tried to comfort me saying maybe the baby was sick and it was the mother trying to help it. I have never seen a dove do this before. Do you have any guess as to why?

Thanks for your help.

Faith said...

Hi Steph, I have just seen your comment. It is very upsetting when we see things like this, and in fact the blog I am just about to write mentions something like this that happened to me recently (not doves) - so please come back and read my next blog. With what you saw (and what I know from my observations of doves) I can only assume that the adult was probably not the parent and for some reason it was not going to be tolerant of a young one in it's area - they do compete for food. Were they white doves? or what kind?

Steph said...

Thanks for responding to my question. I don't know much about doves, but I believe that the adult dove was a Mourning Dove. I do see the Doves fight in my yard for food, they seem to be territorial. I usually get Mourning Doves and Ringneck Doves. I wish i could have saved the poor baby bird but he didn't seem to be very tough at all.
I do enjoy your blogs and love to see the babies feisty and happy.
Thanks again.

Vectra said...

Hello there.I was just passing through and read what happened.As you said you dont know much about doves.. could it be possible that the bird doing the attacking was a raptor.? Its seems strange that any dove/pigeon could kill any other fit bird so quickly.
Just a suggestion.I may well be wrong.