Thursday, 26 January 2012

Rescued Pigeon in Oil

26th January 2012 - This is Lesa dove, posing for her portrait on Jose's table, and below with Jose, her flightless friend. Lesa, is one of the first doves in the garden in the mornings, and she flies straight to be with Jose- and eat her food!
Sat 21st Jan. 12 - I came home about 3.30pm in the afternoon, and a few doves were still around. There was one white dove, desperately trying to pick up grain and obviously with paramyxo. I caught her, and put her in the hospital run for nursing care. I hope she'll be like Flash and totally recover. I've named her Lola and will ring her, before I release her, if she recovers.
I forgot to say in the previous blog about Flash, that the very next day after he died there was another sparrowhawk attack. I was coming out of my kitchen door into the garden and there on the lawn was the hawk covering a white dove! I dropped what I was holding and ran out, while the hawk flew off either with the dove in it's talons or chasing the dove, I can't remember it was too quick. I ran out of the garden gate into the yard, where the hawk had the dove down again on the gravel. I ran up, and both flew off, the dove escaping this time, but leaving ruby drops on gravel. I did wonder if it survived but didn't see any doves with injuries until about a week later when a white dove turned up in the garden with feathers missing from it's back - maybe it was that dove, maybe not, but I haven't seen the hawk around here again, thank goodness. I was glad I'd saved that dove, but still so sad I couldn't save Flash. I forgot to say I did cry for him, and kissed his poor little dead head. He still smelled sweet, like all the doves do - it's because they are grain eaters.
Mon 23rd January 2012 - Some of you will remember Hugo, the jackdaw my husband brought home from the farm last year. Well, today, he brought home another bird who had suffered the same fate, in the same place. I couldn’t recognise what kind of bird it was at first it was so covered in oil. My husband has now asked the guy who has the car repair workshop there to not leave pans of oil uncovered in the evenings and weekends, and he has agreed to be more careful. This bird could possibly have been there, in the oil, since Friday night.It's a pigeon - probably a fairly young one. It was smothered in oil, and also has bare sore patches on its back. I have given it several washes over the course of the afternoon, but feel I can't keep washing it! I will have to do it over the next few days - if it survives. It was brought to me at 12.30 lunchtime and its now past 4pm, so I'm hoping it will.

Pigeon after his first few washes, very weak and feeble

I am calling him Olly – can’t call him Oily, and I hope he won’t be oily for ever! He has been warmed up, and when I felt he was thoroughly warm I held him and dipped his beak in water, and he had a little drink.It’s important not to give rescue birds water or food until they are warmed up – apparently if they eat when cold it can kill them. I allowed Olly to walk around on the kitchen floor and he started pecking at a tiny piece of hard pasta he discovered so I offered food – normal dove food plus peanuts, whole and chopped – and he ate a little.

Poor oily bedraggled Olly

Olly day 2 – I got up early and thank heavens he was still alive, I’d had a bad night worrying about him. I held him and gave him a drink, then three ‘baths’ – one after the other – the used water is still very brown and oily. After his baths, I dried him off a little with a hairdryer on a low setting then put him back in the carrying box near the aga to dry off, with food and water.

I was in a dilemma as I was due to go to my daughter’s to look after the baby while she took my grandson swimming. I decided to take Olly with me as he had not taken a drink without me holding him and dipping his beak in water. I found a big shallow flat bottomed cardboard box and lined it with newspaper. He came with me in the car in the carrying box, with a covered hot water bottle (I use the hard round microwave discs that I had from my little dog – they are excellent) and after my daughter had left, I smuggled Olly into the house! If you know my daughter, as some of my blog readers do, then please don’t tell her I was looking after a scruffy oily pigeon at the same time as I was looking after her lovely pink clean baby! While the baby slept, Olly had 5 more washes, then he went in the big box. Part of it was draped with a towel, and he crept under it and slept for a while – then the baby woke up! I had my hands full with one or the other! Olly was taken out to the car again before my daughter and grandson came back, and she was none the wiser!

Olly at my daughter's house - still oily

Back at home, I gave Olly 2 more washes – that’s 10 in all today (and approx 16 so far!) and more than enough for him, and me! It is stressful for him but he bears it well, scrambling about in the water trying to escape. He has a fighting spirit which is good! The last couple of washes the water seemed cleaner, but Olly still smells of oil and looks oily! I don’t really know what to do. Websites about the cleaning of oily birds recommend Dawn, but that is a product from the USA and I doubt if I’ll be able to get any. There is a big American community around here, and a couple of shops stock products from the USA so I will try them tomorrow. At the moment I am using Fairy Liquid. He tries to preen, and that is worrying as he will be ingesting oil.

Back home, near the aga

Still oily after 16 baths!

The worst sore place on Olly’s back doesn’t seem to be infected or getting any worse which is one good thing. Another good thing is that he has been eating this afternoon. He likes peanuts and can eat them if they are not too big. I tried peanuts in skins (brown) and peanuts without (white) and he seems to prefer the white ones. Peanuts are highly nutritious so I am pleased he likes them! He still won’t drink unless I hold him, and dip his beak in water – so I offer him a drink once every hour, and of course there is water in his box playpen. He’ll stay in there all evening, and go in the carrying box to keep him confined for the night.
It’s difficult to say exactly how old Olly is – between 30-40 days, I reckon. He can fly a bit – he flew from the draining board to the floor, but doesn’t fly around. This may be due to the effects of the oil. He doesn’t seem to have ingested the oil, or much oil, thankfully. His first poops were very green – possibly due to what he may have eaten before he fell in the oil or more likely due to starvation. I read a very interesting thread on a pigeon forum about pigeon poop, and Olly’s first poops were exactly like the bright green ‘artist’s paint’ described by one or two knowledgeable pigeon keepers. Olly probably was starving, as he may have spent the whole weekend in the oil pan – I can’t bear to think about it. Thank God he was rescued in time! His poops now are getting more normal looking – brown with a white dollop on top. Sorry if all this is TMI for you! But here’s a link to the thread if you’d like to know more I also found a thread on how to clean pigeons covered in oil on the same forum – You have to scroll down past the ads on these forum threads to read the posts. I hope they won't mind me putting the links here - I wouldn't have thought so, as anything that might help someone else save a bird's life is always worthwhile, I think.

Olly struggles to get out of the towel

Day 3, Olly is looking cleaner, fluffier and admires his reflection in the aga

Wed – Day 3 – I got up early again but Olly was fine, so I don’t think I will need to get up specially early for him again. I held him and he had a drink of water. About an hour after that, he drank on his own for the first time! I was quite elated! He ate a few peanuts too. Later in the morning I washed him again – that's 18 washes in total! – and the water was virtually clean, so I probably won’t be washing him again. His feathers still look a little oily and he smells of oil, but washing him stresses him, and if nothing is coming off, then it seems pointless. I couldn’t get hold of the Dawn detergent, unfortunately. If I had, I would’ve been tempted to try it to see if it removed any more oil.
I bought some Skin-eze cream for his sore places from the petshop – it says it is suitable for birds and is a known brand (Johnsons) so I will try it – if he will stay still long enough to be anointed.
Olly is timid and doesn’t come out of his box much, unless I take him out. I have to do this as he only seems to eat when I bring him out. Then he eats a peanut or two, and goes back in. I put the cream on his back and he tolerated me doing that.
This evening he was a little more adventurous and jumped to the top of the carrying box, and later to the seat of the chair, where he was hidden by the tablecloth. I put him back in the box at 8.15pm so he was confined for the night, which I felt would be safer. I didn’t want something happening in the night, and him walking or flying into the aga.
Day 4 – I had to be out all day and so did hubbie, so bit of a dilemma. I decided the best thing to do was to keep Jose shut in the hutch all day, and take away her wire cage, which gives her a safe ‘outdoor’ but when I am out, for Olly’s use. While I was sorting things out before I left, Olly flew into the sitting room, off the kitchen, and onto the curtain rail – so he CAN fly! I caught him and I left him in the kitchen, in the cage, on the floor, pushed up against the wall with the carrying box inside it (without the grille of course) and of course with plenty of choice of food, and two little dishes of water. I don’t know what he did all day, but there was a poop on the top of the carrying box so he must’ve jumped up there at some point. It was a boring day for him but I couldn’t leave him loose.
I’ve been reading up on ‘soft release’ of pigeons and how I get on with this will all be in the next blog. I intend to ring Olly tomorrow, and I’ve had an email saying the collapsible dog crate I bought him will be delivered (cost £28.99 total from ebay – Peteurope). He has, of course, totally dried out now, and is a very dark colour pigeon, but not yet fully feathered.
To be cont.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Sad news....

Sat 21st Jan.12 - Very bad news I’m afraid, but later on in the blog. I will continue where the last blog left off.... The photo above is Jose, my dove that can't fly.

Eric, the white dove in the hospital, has died – about 14 days after we first picked him up. He was in a very poor way at the end, as you can see from the photo below, twisting his neck in the manner typical of this horrible illness, and sometimes unable to raise his head.

I was bringing him into the house at night, as it was so cold and frosty, and during the day he was shut in the hutch part of the hospital with a covered hot water bottle. Every couple of hours I went out to offer him a drink, and one time he took a long gulp, and I wondered if he might be on the mend, but a short while later he was dead. Maybe it was for the best.

Since the cote came down, and was re-erected Shanti and Shelby have not returned to it at night. I suspect they roost on the old building nearby instead as they are always two of the first in the garden in the mornings. After a few days Shelby did fly to the top of the cote, but neither of them have been in any of the nestboxes.
11th Jan. ’12 - I had emailed Kootensaw Dovecotes as their website says that the cotes ‘last a lifetime’ and that the wood is treated. My post wood was rotten. I was very upset and annoyed about the whole thing, and my email probably reflected that. A very pleasant lady rang me up nearly a week after the cote came down, and apologised for the delay, saying they had been away. She said that she and her husband were upset by my email, and agreed that the wood looked rotten (I had sent photos). She said that the only thing they could think of was that the place where they get the posts from apparently, in 2006, had to change the way they treated the wood due to EU ruling (before it was later changed again) and she felt some of the wood may have suffered because of the change. She sounded sincere and concerned. As Shanti and Shelby (the doves in the cote at the time) hadn’t returned to the cote she offered to send me a pair of doves. I thanked her sincerely but declined as it would mean I would have to put up the homing net again and that would upset Flash. I also told her that I have a large feral flock here, and some use the cote sometimes. I was pleased she had phoned, taken the thing seriously, and am happy to leave it at that.

That morning when I went out to release Jose and check Eric, there were TWO doves in the cote (in Flash’s old nestbox and not the section Shanti and Shelby had been using) – whether they got here early this morning or spent the night here, I don’t know. I didn’t notice them last night. The first one out was Vim – one of Flash and Omo’s babies born in the summer, and then I had a long wait before the other emerged – and it was Flash! So maybe a bit of an incesty thing might have started there!
13th Jan Flash has spent night here for the last couple of nights, and this morning he is collecting sticks with a female – NOT Vim – and probably Omo. She has very pink feet like Omo anyway and if she stays she will be called Omo- even if she is actually Omo2! Another pair of doves are also collecting sticks for the opposite side of the cote. Now the cote is up slightly differently, it has two ‘eyes’ and a ‘mouth’ and both pairs are in the eyes. Whether Flash will tolerate the other pair remains to be seen. They are not Shanti and Shelby, the unlucky pair in the cote when it came down.
Jose too has a new lover – a pigeon! Flash also courts her, and so does Shelby. The pigeon doesn’t yet know that there is no hope of her flying away with him! She also has a female friend, Lesa – a white dove I ringed with a yellow ring, named after one of my blog readers! Lesa spends quite a lot of time just sitting with Jose or stealing her food so it was easy to catch and ring her. I'll try to capture a photo of her for the next blog.

Flash looking for sticks

Flash with leafy stick

The 13th of January was a good day for Flash, despite being Friday the 13th. It was a frosty bright day and he collected sticks and took some to the cote. I also saw him mate with both Omo and Jose, and he generally enjoyed himself. Happy with the newly erected cote, his females and himself. The next day he was dead.

My lovely daddy dove who recovered so well from paramyxovirus was caught and killed by the sparrowhawk on Sat 14th Jan. ’12. Saturdays are quiet around here, we live in a rural spot by the river, and although there are neighbours and an old building converted to offices nearby, no-one much is around at the weekends - a perfect opportunity for the sparrowhawk. I had gone out, and as soon as I came through my little garden gate and saw the white feathers surrounding the gory body, I knew it was Flash, even before I saw his blue ring. I was quite numb as I gathered him up. Don’t worry, there are no gory photos – he deserves more dignity than that.

Flash's feathers

I arranged his damaged body on a little wicker tray that I use as a bier for special doves, and covered him up to the neck.

Then I brought him the only flowers that the garden offered, yellow winter flowering jasmine (I think it is) a frosted white rose, and one little yellow crocus

I couldn’t bear to dispose of his body then, and kept him for 24 hours before he had the river funeral that all the dead doves have. I spotted a little frosted pink rose bud in the garden, and added it to his flowers. It followed his body down the river. Rest in peace, my bright and beautiful bird. I will remember you always.

I have kept a few of his feathers, including the tail feather with the black flash – which was why I named him so. I will miss him terribly but he died as he lived, a vibrant part of nature. I’m not sorry I had nursed him through his illness – after his release, he had 20 days of glorious freedom.

Below is one of the last photos I took of him - I'll remember him that way

Since Flash and Eric have died, the garden is a little quieter. No doves have been near the cote, except the day after Flash died, Omo went into the nestbox. I hope she finds another mate soon, but I don’t really recognise her as she is pure white. Today, a week since Flash died, a white dove sat on the ledge of his nest box for a while. Maybe Omo again, I don’t know. The too long stick he brought is still sticking out of it, and I haven’t had the heart to remove it. I hope next blog is more cheerful. The dovecote is 'to let' once more.....

To be cont...

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Dovecote Disaster!

5th January 2012 - The UK has been experiencing high winds and gales, and this morning when I went into the garden the dove cote had come down! It had fallen, missing Jose’s table, and crashing into the pampas grass. I rushed over, and could see that the section where the doves were last night was underneath, so I rushed back in, yelling for my husband to come and help. He heaved it up and I could see white wings inside, and for a second my heart stopped but then a head popped up and I reached in, pulled out the dove, putting it on Jose’s table. It immediately flew away and thankfully had survived the disaster. I was so distraught that I certainly didn’t think of taking photos then, and didn’t notice whether the dove was Shanti (the female) or Shelby (male- named properly now, but called Red Ring in my last blog). The other one was nowhere to be seen. I burst into tears to my husband’s amazement – he doesn’t understand my emotions for the doves. The cote was a wedding present from my parents – both now deceased – and is very special to me, but more so for the doves that live and breed in it. I can only be thankful there was no eggs or squabs in the cote. Neither Jose nor Eric (new dove in the hospital and more about him later) had been hurt, so I was very grateful about that too. (You might remember there was a pigeon in the hospital right at the end of the last blog – unfortunately that one died).

This was before 8am in the morning, and the doves that visit the garden come in about 8am at this time of the year for feeding. I quickly noticed that both Shanti and Shelby were there, and seemed ok after their shock. Extra peanuts for them of course! Flash hadn’t yet arrived, and as I feel he is still a convalescent I was concerned for him too, after such a windy night – I don’t know where he goes to roost, it could be miles away.
My husband examined the damage and said that the post the cote was on was untreated wood, and had gone rotten. He reckoned that if the wood had been treated properly, before painting, it would not have rotted and therefore would not have broken in the wind. The post was supplied with the cote and I shall be contacting the company that supplied the cote as I am not at all happy, as you can imagine. I will let you know what they say.
Hubby then went off to buy a new post, and rang some lads who work on the farm to come and dig out the remains of the old post, and put the new one in. I am fortunate to have a helpful and capable husband + friends, and by 10am the cote was up again. While it was down I scrubbed down the paintwork and cleaned the inside, spraying for parasites and laying more newspaper in each section (this makes cleaning so much easier at a later stage). I don’t mind the new post – plain wood but TREATED of course – as it blends into the hedge better than the old white one. Unfortunately, it was set not quite at the right angle and the positions of the cote sections have changed slightly – by one ‘turn’ as it were. I don’t know if Shanti and Shelby will come back to it tonight, or whether they have been put off it for life. It’s such a shame, they were such a cosy little pair, cuddling up at night together in the same bit.
I took some photos and here’s the garden with the new post up (above) and showing the rotten wood below.

While I was cleaning the cote, Flash turned up on the hedge near me. He is a curious and intelligent bird.

Flash surveys the damage,above and below

He watched for a while then purposefully walked off round the hedge and picked up a stick. I think this was his way of telling me to rebuild his nest, or perhaps his way of helping!

Twenty minutes after the cote was back up, Flash was on the hedge again, looking up at it – he then flew up to one of the back sections, stayed in there for a minute, then came out and investigated one of the side sections, before coming out of that one too.

Flash wonders if this is ok

He settles in the back section for a short while

Flash flies up to his old favourite nest box......

and peers in

He stayed in the doorway looking in for a while and then came out and went off to court Jose on her table. Another white dove, neither Shanti or Shelby, came to sit on the top of the cote, and he flew to see it off, so he obviously still considers the cote his and worth defending.
Shanti and Shelby haven’t been near the cote today, as far as I am aware – though Shelby has been on Jose’s table. I can only wait and see whether they come back to it tonight or not. The poor things, I have no idea what time the cote crashed down, whether one flew out as it did so, or managed to wriggle out through the opening and through the pampas grass when it was down, and how long the other was trapped in there – it may have been hours. I wouldn’t blame them if they never want to use it again.
A quick note about Eric – My husband picked a white dove out of the flower bed on Tues. 3rd Jan and put it in the hospital with food and water while I was out. In the afternoon, I brought him in, sprayed him for parasites and ringed him with a green ring. Husband was allowed to choose his name – I wouldn’t have chosen Eric! He might be Erica of course, I don’t know yet. He didn’t seem to be able to fly, and as the wind was so bad I put him back in the hospital, with carefully chosen small grains, peanut sprinkles and vitamins . The vitamins I use are called Natural Vitamineral , a pinkish powder that I put in small pots. It contains minerals and vits A, D and E, amongst others. I bought it online but it comes from Natural Granen from Antwerp and they supply my preferred grain mix. That night Eric sat at the top of the ramp but didn’t go into the hutch. When Flash was in there, he sat in the door way of the hutch, peeking out, like the doves in the cote do, and eating and drinking from the pots inside the hutch. From the clean state of the newspaper in the hutch, I can tell he (Eric) hasn’t even walked in there. He is obviously not used to being confined. I will of course give him another chance to fly away, but not til the high winds have died down. I hope by then he will have recovered from whatever happened to make him end up in the flower bed. I did see the hawk that day, and it is possible she had caught and covered him and was disturbed by my husband – having said that there were no talon wounds on him. Sometimes a day or two’s rest with good food is enough to help a dove or pigeon to recover.

Eric in the hospital run

To be continued