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


Lesa said...

Thanks so much for filling us in on your news. I enjoy reading about your bird adventures and seeing the progress of the babies especially.

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