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)

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.