Friday, 10 June 2011

Interlopers and Sad Moments

May 2011

First interloper was the sparrowhawk and this happened a while ago but I forgot to mention it in the previous blog.I couldn't believe it but it actually flew into our bedroom! We call our home the cottage; it's a bungalo, and our bedroom window faces the river. I was in the garden early one morning, and the bedroom sash was pushed up high to air the room. I saw it land on the outside window sill, hesitate a second and fly into the room. I wouldn't have thought that was usual hawlike behaviour. I tried to call my husband but the name wouldn't come out because I was slightly flabbergasted and maybe a bit scared, but then I rushed inside and to the bedroom but it had already flown out again - luckily!

Another bird in the house was one of our coal tits. They have successfully reared a lovely brood of extremely noisy fat chicks and we're very fond of them. The babies sit and 'shimmer' flapping their wings and calling to be fed while the worn out little parents try to keep them all satisfied. This particular one flew in through the open kitchen door and into the living room where it flew madly round and round, occasionally banging into the windows and evading our attempts to catch it. Normally if the little birds fly in, which they do fairly frequently, they are easily caught up against the window. This one seemed panicked, landing on top of the bookcase and suddenly disappeared. We have bookcases on two walls that meet in the middle with a gap in between. They are screwed to the walls so we had to move many of the books - a chance to dust!! - and unscrew the bookcases to free the bird. My husband had been complaining he was bored and not much was happening - well all that unscrewing, moving of books and putting it all back together took about an hour and gave him something to do alright! I was glad the little thing hadn't damaged itself though.

Other interlopers include the cheeky jackdaws that check out the dovecote, and squirrels that sit on Jose's table and eat her food or even enter the hutch! We have a squirrel problem as you can see from the photo!

Interlopers who were very welcome, and in fact guests! were the robin and the starling who on one particular day both kept popping back to the house for mealworms - presumably feeding babies. They took turns to come in and collect the mealworms from a little dish on my kitchen door mat.In May there was a day or so of high winds. I know the North and Scotland suffered badly, but here in Surrey I didnt think it was too bad, but after the gale several doves arrived in the garden with injuries. All were totally white doves so it was difficult to sort out who was who, but at least three were limping with foot injuries and one had a wound on its chest. Unfortunately there was very little I could do for these birds as, if they can fly, they are certainly not going to let me catch them and the only thing I can do is throw the poorly ones peanuts so they get a more nutritious meal. And that's not easy to do as every single dove and pigeon adores peanuts and runs for them! Difficult to run if you're limping! I usually keep the peanuts for treats for my special doves like Chocolate Brownie, Peace, Jose and a few others, but every morning, first thing after putting out the grain, I do set on the step with two handfuls of peanuts and the boldest doves come to get them. There are about six of them with a few 'hoverers' who hope that a peanut or two will roll away for them to steal without having to be brave enough to actually eat from my hand!

One of the limpers has now recovered and I know this is so because I recognise it's feet; another is still on one leg only the other drawn up to its body and may be crippled for life. The one with the wound on its chest has a sad story. It had been on the lawn, sitting in the sun near Jose who was off her table and basking in the warmth up against the raised vegetable bed, and I tried to catch it but it still had the strength then to fly away. By early evening I realised it was on Jose's table with Jose. I had assumed it was Toffee Splodge - Jose's 'friend' - and hadnt taken much notice (more about TS later). I watch the doves frequently and so see much of their behaviour but I hadn't seen what happened next before, and don't wish to. It was obvious the wounded dove was very poorly and while I was observing and wondering if I could again try to catch it, a dove flew down onto the table and mated it forcibly. There was no attempt at preliminary courting behaviour - it was what I can only call rape, and unpleasant to watch even in birds. I straight away approached the table and shooed the male way, and Jose and the ill one both entered the hutch through the little entrance. I immeditaly put my hand over it so neither could escape, then slotted the door into place. I removed Jose from the hutch leaving her outside on the table and put food and water inside for the other one. My plan was to give her peace and quiet for the night and see what could be done in the morning. An hour later when I peeked in the poor little thing was in an un-natural position and I knew she was dead. At least I was grateful I had been able to let her spend her last hour on earth in peaceful, dim, cool, quiet surroundings and more importantly unmolested.

Wounded female, and below with Jose (also female)

Below, one of the limpers

I removed the body from the hutch straight away, laying her on the garden table so I could see how bad her wound had been. It was much worse than could be seen through her feathers, quite a large deep hole and infested with m*ggots. I have a slight phobia about these and hate to see or hear the word! I don't want anything to do with them - even writing this makes me a little sick, but it's part of the 'job' sometimes when dealing with birds. The poor little angel had been being eaten alive! It was quite revolting and I actually got the hose and swished the ones I could see out. If you think I am crazy, you may well be right! I picked a few flowers to cover her wound, and gave her a river funeral - back to nature, beautiful bird.

Yet another casualy of heavy rain (possibly) was the hatchling robin - just emerging from the egg - or maybe the egg was broken before the baby could hatch. Found under the hedge as you see in the photo. Another sad story was the little fledgling starling I found in the garden. I knew two starlings had nested in the building next door - they do every year. Other than that we just don't see any starlings in the garden. I even found both the discarded egg shells and brought them in for my kitchen window sill. I like having little egg shells on my sill, reminding me of new life. The first time I saw the fledgling it was bumbling about on the lawn and I didn't recognise it as a starling but thought 'you're too young to be out alone!' It found the edge of the garden and scrambled its way round the fence and walls, and I followed it watching. There seemed no sign of the parent so I made a playpen in the herb bed and hope its calls would attract the parent. I also tried to feed it with soaked and unsoaked meal worms held to its beak with long tweezers, and it was quite receptive to this, and started eating, much to my relief.

'Toddler' starling as I first saw him

He jumps up to the shed and rests there a minute - so cute and feisty!
By evening I had identified him as a starling - obvious really! - and decided to bring him in for the night as there were no sign of the parents. I made up my dog's old carrying box that I use as a dove hospital, with a hay nest at the end. In the morning it was still alive and sensibly settled in its nest. It was me that wasn't the sensible one and I feel I let the baby thing down very badly. I found it only two days before I was going on holiday - my husband was also away and there was no-one I felt I could ask to look after it. The next day I was still hopeful the parent would come and did in fact see a starling in the tall tree overlooking the garden. I dithered about, worrying about in constantly, and chopping and changing my mind as to its care. Sometimes I left it in the play pen and sometimes just in the herb bed, as I though the pen might put the parents off. Eventually I decided I would take it to the local wildlife aid to be looked after there, and stupidly before going, I popped to the village for ten minutes, leaving it unattended and not in the pen. When I came back, my baby was dead - it had suffered what looked like an aggressive peck to the head. I was devastated and cursed myself for being so stupid, ignorant and careless. I knew it was too young to be left alone, yet still I took the chance. I don't know why but I always get in a state before I go on holiday, maybe that was the reason. The first two nights away I couldn't sleep because I was thinking about it and grieving for it. It was adorable as you can see from the photo. I am pretty sure that the jaw was the culprit as it returned to the same sport. I determined that if ever the Universe sent me another baby bird to look after, I would take no chances! Little did I think that I would be given the challenge again so soon - see my next blog!
A baby with a happier ending was the little fledgling thrush I saw in the yard outside my neighbour's house. I was driving, but as a few more hopes would've taken int into the path of any other car coming through, I found it impossible to just drive on! I stopped the car and was looking at it when my neighbour came it and we discussed what to do. Almost straight away I could see the parent bird and R said he thought there was a nest in the hedge. He couldnt find it, but could see another two similar babies in the hedge, so we gently put the found one up next to them, and R said he would keep his cat in for the day. We didnt see them again, so we assumed that those babies made it. That one was adorable too - wish I'd taken a photo of it. We seem to see fewer thrushes nowadays round here, so I am very much hoping that little brood survived.

A brief moment of special bird happiness was when my husband and I saw a pair of kingfishers fly up from the river, dart around the garden and back to the river. We see them so rarely,that's the one and only time so far this year, but it's wonderful to know they are there - the sapphire of the river!

Toffee Splodge hasn't been seen for two or three weeks now. Photos show her mating on the lawn - maybe her new love took her away, as it's the male bird that chooses the nest site. She's a gentle and distinctive bird so I hope to see her again soon.

Typical courting behavior - billing (kissing!)

Below, cloacal kiss (mating!) - my doves don't usually mate on the lawn

My next blog has excellent news, so please come back and read it!
The end.


Westerwitch/Headmistress said...

That was both lovely and sad - thank you Faith.

Fennie said...

Yes, lovely and sad. But I thought maggots only ate dead flesh - and maybe there was some. Had the bird been shot, I wonder? Ditto the limpers. Beautiful pictures. I remember the starling story.

blackbird said...

Thank you, Faith for sharing the stories of the lucky birds that enter your domain. The photos are wonderful but so is the close attention that you give to them.

Nature can be so hard- I would say cruel but to be cruel, I think that there needs to be intent behind an action and nature just is. The birds and animals know that but it is a constant lesson for us.

I'm looking forward to your good news.


What a lovely blog, Faith. You are so wonderful with all the little creatures that come your way.We do feel for the sick and helpless,and nature both in life and the creature world can be so cruel. I can't help but think, the wounded dove died in peace instead of fear, due to your kindness.

Norma Murray said...

What a full life you lead with your birds Faith. A lovely and informative blog. Thankyou