Saturday, 1 October 2011

A New Poorly Pigeon

Sunday 25th Sept '11 - Home from holiday and while my husband was paying the taxi driver I was going through the gate and relieved to see two little heads in the window of the dovecote! Thank goodness nothing happened to my little squabs while I was away - Flash and Omo are good parents, and you can see how big they've grown and how white they've become since the last blog. In this photo they are approx 16/17 days old - one always hatches a day after the other.
The next thing I noticed was a dark pigeon that seemed rather poorly. It was very shy, not letting me get too close, and as the afternoon went on I realised it couldn't fly or had no energy, and I caught it easily, creeping up behind it, and put it in the hospital box with food and water for the night.

Jose was immediately released from the cage attached to the hutch so she had total freedom, and the only sad thing about coming back was there was still no sign of Fairy. I hadn't seen him/her for at least two days before we went on hols, and still she wasn't back in the garden.

I hoped the dark pigeon hadn't got the dreaded paramyxovirus but in the end decided he was probably just old and slow, dubbing him 'The Elderly Gentleman' (I don't know if he is male or female of course). So I ringed him and we call him EG for short.

Mon. 26th Sept - EG's box was set on the ground in the morning and he wandered out and spent the day contently in the garden, just pottering about.

White dove squabs 17/18 days old

You can see from the above how dreadful the mess in the nest is now .... and the smell too! I took one baby out of the cote when Flash and Omo were not around. 'As fat as a woodchuck!' - I read this in a book once and had to look up what a woodchuck is (marmot/groundhog). Anyway, the expression seemed to fit the baby exactly - it felt very fat, round and heavy! I brought it out in a towel lined washing up bowl to have a look at in and was disgusted to find that there seemed to be flies living on it! I could hardly be surprised with the amount of poo now in the nest box! I got rid of the flies of course - I didn't know if they were normal flies, or what? They definitely were not fleas because I'm well acquainted with them! But I had seen fly type things occasionally on some of the white doves as they feed and I observe them closely - and these flies seem to move in and out of their feathers. Jose, I am glad to say is sparkling clean, and I haven't seen anything on Flash and Omo. I put the baby back in the cote, and discussed with my husband later about whether I should clean out the cote. He felt not. as it might upset Flash and Omo if the nest wasn't exactly how they left it and I was inclined to agree... at the time.

Flash and Omo were spending much of the their time in the garden, courting each other (and Flash courting Jose on the sly too!), popping in and out of the different rooms of the cote, and I could tell that they had a new nest on their minds. The photo below shows them in the cote together, Omo almost squashed under Flash! I think I forgot to say in the last blog that I managed to mark Omo, so that I can recognise here when she is not with Flash. Before I went away, I saw a white dove fly up to the nest with a straw in it's beak - and I thought it was rather odd, but Flash allowed it to enter so I knew it must be Omo, so while she was in there, I got the steps and drew a couple of lines of blue pen down her wing!

The next day Tuesday 27th and another beautifully sunny day. I wanted to spend it in the garden but had to go to M&S to collect some shoes I'd ordered. As I left the cottage, I realised my washing load was nearly finished and thought I'd wait and hang it out before I went. While waiting, I thought I'd peep at the babies. The hot day brought the stench from the cote to me as I climbed the steps and on impulse I decided I couldn't stand it any more having my sweet fluffy white babies living in this awful fly-infested unhealthy mess any longer. I brought them out of the cote and put them on the ground in the washing up bowl as before. You can see they still have fluffy yellow down, and bare bits where their feathers haven't fully grown in yet.

One scrambled out of the bowl, and onto the grass, and then under the hedge!

So I quickly scooped them up and put them in the hutch - they looked really small and sweet in there!
Cleaning out an old nest is something I have done before, and not pleasant, but usually I can do it at my leisure. I didnt want to upset Flash and Omo and I didnt know when they'd come back so I knew I'd have to work quickly. I put on a plastic apron (not my cooking one!!) and some disposable gloves and started pulling the whole nest out into an old carrier bag. Truly disgusting, and I couldn't believe how substantial it was! It was originally built in early June with more bits being added since then. I always line the cote sections with newspaper which was a tip someone gave me and it does make cleaning easier. Once the stuff was in the bag, I quickly cleaned up the last bits in the cote and then relined it with newspaper, and some hay, plus some clean bits of twig/leaf etc that I picked up in the yard, similar to the stuff they had built the nest with. Squabs need something to grip on.

The photo shows a sample of the mess - including (see just up from the bottom middle) a m*ggot that must have been about 1.5cm long. I have a great aversion to these things, can hardly say the word! and hate dealing with them. They were lots more, not just one - but tiny little wiggling things - just waiting for one of the babies to get a scratch from a sharp twig to start feeding on them! I wasn't in the least sorry that I'd cleaned it out, and of course it would give the babies more room as they grew. It was exceedingly cramped before with no room to move about hardly!

Then I checked the babies over, and between them they had 6 of these fly things on them - 4 I managed to catch and kill, but 2 got away. I popped them back in the cote, and then started worrying that Flash and Omo would be upset by what I'd done and not feed them. I do know that pigeons and doves go to the place where the babies are, to feed them, and not to the actual babies. So if, for example, I moved the babies to somewhere else in the cote, the doves wouldn't look for them and feed them, and if I put some other squabs in their nest, then they would probably feed those babies! That's what my book says anyway. Then after a quick wash and brush up for me - I went off to M&S to get my shoes!

When I arrived home in the late afternoon I watched the dovecote continually and Flash eventually fed the babies at 4.30pm, thank goodness! I also had a lovely surprise when Fairy arrived back to visit Jose - in the photo below, Fairy is the middle one.

Since then, I've had the babies out of the nest box every day for a short while, and there have been no more flies or visible parasites on them.

The weather has continued unseasonably warm, and Flash and Omo eventually settled on one of the back rooms of the cote for their nest - which has never been chosen by any doves before - maybe it is to do with the current light from the sun, I don't know. I do know it is the most awkward section of the cote for me to get at. Omo stayed last night, and this morning - Sat 1st Oct - there was one egg in the nest. I didn't really want them to have any more babies this season, and today they haven't seem to have fed the squabs as often as usual. On a typical day last week I decided to write down the feeds I saw and the schedule went like this - F=Flash and O=Omo of course): 7.50am F/8.10am O AND F/9.40am F (then 2 feeds while I was out and my husband was sitting in the garden having coffee with his friend)/12.30pm O/1.30pm O/3.55pm O/5.25pm F AND O - both of them definitely (that's 11 feeds at 9 feeding times, that we actually saw).

To be cont.


Westerwitch/Headmistress said...

So glad that the babies are doing well - wondering how the EG is though.

Fennie said...

So interesting these tales - it's like the Archers, almost, but with doves. And the way they come and go - almost like seeing who is on line at any one time.

CAMILLA said...

Good to hear the darling babies are doing well Faith, you are truly such a kind caring person.

So hope the Elderly Pidgy is alright though. We had one just the same here near the back garden in early August, darkish colour and not wanting to fly and he just looked terribly old, poor thing. I put some food out for him and know he could get to the water bath, but noticed he just was'nt interested in eating. The next day I happened to be drawing the drapes to my bedroom upstairs and saw him dead on the extension roof to our cottage, soo sad.

I suppose Pidgy's do get old and they just want to go somewhere and die peacefully.


Lesa said...

I loved reading your tales of the birds. I have only one pigeon now and she's ages old. She was hit by a hawk (we think) over 10 years ago and can't fly. We could never find the owner and have no idea how old she really is. She seems fairly content to just be, and with that we are happy too.

Thanks so much for sharing your stories with us.

Faith said...

Thank you for your comments everyone. Me and the doves appreciate them!

Lesa, to keep a flightless bird for 10 years is amazing I think!