Friday, 10 February 2012

Olly's Release - and MORE sparrowhawk attacks

3rd Feb 12 – Carrying on from where my last blog left off...... There was a body – I found it under the hedge today. The hawk is around first thing, morning, noon and dusk. It made several attempts today – one on the woodpecker – but no kill that I saw or discovered. It went back to both of the dead pigeons – the one under the hedge and the other one. I’ve left the bodies, but even the postman has commented on all the feathers everywhere though I did clear up a bit. It’s dreadfully cold but there was plenty of sunshine and I drag Olly’s crate around the garden a bit, so he benefits from it. Snow is forecast.
Sunday 5th Feb – Snow arrived, and we were blessed with no hawk today! I have caught and ringed a big white dove a while back and have named him Fennie after another regular reader of my blog. I will try and name doves for you all but don’t be sad if something happens to your named dove – it’s a hard knock life in my garden at the moment. See Fennie dove's photo at the top of the blog. It's not easy to get good photos of individual birds at the moment, they are all so skittish because of the hawk.
Charlie, the pigeon saved from the hawk a week ago today is still visiting but seems to have a bad neck - see below. You often see pigeons with thick necks when they are in courting mode (bow/coo) but it shouldn't be like that permanently.

He can’t bend it down to pick up grains easily, but I fill up a higher dish and he can manage with that.
Olly spent the day yesterday in the hospital run and the night back in our conservatory. Today he was left all day and night in the hospital. I plan to release him tomorrow at lunchtime when the day has warmed up and the other doves and pigeons are around.
At bedtime (doves bedtime not mine) I gingerly opened the back of the hospital hutch to put a grille over the exit hole. I didn’t want Olly to rush out again and spend the night outside in the run part. He was crouched in a dark corner but his brown eye caught the light. I won’t forget that beady look in a hurry. This is what passed between us –
Olly – I was born free! It is my birth right!
Me – I know, but I have been looking after you, I wanted to make sure you were totally healed.
Olly – I’m fine now - Release me!
Me - I have been thinking about that, and already decided to let you go tomorrow lunchtime
Olly – (grudgingly) OK
Mon 6th Olly’s release. This morning I organised Olly’s food and water in the run, and then cautiously open the back of hutch and removed the grille blocking the entrance. Olly immediately ran down the ramp into the run. I then decided to move his bowl of feed so it was under the plastic sack on top of one part of the run to keep any rain or damp off it. I opened the hinged section, and reached down to move the bowl, and as I did so, Olly, from wherever he was in the run – watching and waiting – flew fast and accurately out of the gap and straight to the roof! Well, he had foiled my waiting til lunchtime plan and was free. I started towards the house to get my camera, but he looked around for a few seconds then made off again in the direction of the farm and the workshop where he hatched. And that was that!
I was out for the morning, but at lunchtime I spotted him on the edge of the roof - sitting apart from the other pigeons and doves. Not a good photo below, but all I could get.

Mid afternoon the doves came down to feed, and when they flew off, one pigeon was left alone. It seemed slow and was possibly old and I watched it for a while then got on with what I was doing in the house. Some time later I looked outside again, and there was the hawk, right in the middle of the lawn, on top of that pigeon. It was virtually covering it and I assumed the poor thing was already dead, so I went to get my camera.

Then the pigeon moved and I wondered if it was in its death throes, and remembering the piece I put the link to in my last blog (Oh no there’s a hawk on my feeder) I thought oh well it’s nearly dead and was probably old, so I better just let the hawk get on with it. But it was flapping about, and it just isn’t in my nature to get on with hoovering or something while a pigeon is ripped apart and eaten alive on my lawn. I went outside and the hawk flew off, taking the pigeon with it, to just behind the hospital

I went nearer to where they were tussling under the hedge,, and the hawk flew off. I got the net and crawled under the hedge to bring out the pigeon. Amazingly it didn’t seem physically injured, though shocked, not too warm to the touch and quite still. I put it in the carrying box and put that inside the hospital. When I locked Jose up for the night, the pigeon had perked up slightly and I put it loose in the hospital hutch, with food and water, and the grille up to keep it in. I wonder if it will survive the night after it’s dreadful experience. I felt rather shaken myself. I do appreciate that the hawk must eat and in a way I feel bad taking its food away. I wish it would just kill the bird it catches immediately with a swipe of its beak or talons, and then I wouldn’t mind so much. I cut up some raw kidney and put it on the fence, but I doubt if the hawk will take it.
That happened about 3 and at 4pm Olly turned up on the lawn. There was some food left, probably just wheat which the doves like least, but I didn’t dare to go out to take peanuts and corn in case it frightened him off and he didn’t get a meal at all. As far as I’m aware it was the first time he been down today. I had my hand on the door ready to fly out if the hawk came back. Olly look small, bedraggled and a bit of a cast out, but he’s survived his first day out and that’s all that matters.

I never get round to mentioning the other birds in the garden - I love them all! Here's a cute wagtail that seems to have moved in - he's all on his ownio with no mate. He goes nodding around the garden from early to late.

The blue tits and great tits often go into Jose's hutch in the search for peanuts, and sometimes can't find their way out. Jose gets cross and tries to peck them!

Tues – I was out most of the day and when I got back I found the lawn clear of even the wheat and hungry birds on the roof. Hubbie hadn’t got back at lunchtime to feed them. They flew down like wolves with wings and gobbled up everything I threw down. Olly was with them, fully integrated with the flock now, and came running up for the peanuts he had got used to when he was with me. Compared to the others he looks scruffy, a bit oily and with bald patches showing through his feathers, but he seems to know the rules now – keep your head down and stick with the others!
Bobbie, the rescued pigeon seemed quiet and I decided not to release him til tomorrow (this proved a sad mistake!) – read on....
Wed – When I first went into the garden in the early morning, I could see Jose, in her hutch, was very agitated and as soon as I raised her little door, she shot out like a bat out of hell, which was unusual and unlike her. Then I went to get Bobbie – my plan was to put him in the carrying box and check him over before releasing him when the flock was in the garden. I cautiously opened the back of the hospital hutch, ready to pick him up, but there was more light than I expected to see in there, and then I saw that the wooden side panel had been pushed in...... No Bobbie.... and he wasn’t in the run.... then I remembered what my husband had said when I first got up – that there had been a big fox in the garden when he got up for the loo in the night. Poor Bobbie, I felt dreadful, I’d really let him down – rescued from the hawk, to be eaten by the fox! I can only assume and hope that death by fox is quicker than death by hawk. Back in the house I said Did you know? No, said my husband, I just saw the yard light on about 2am and the fox in the garden. No wonder Jose was so upset, she must have heard it all, and maybe the fox made an attempt on her hutch too! I know Bobbie was definitely taken as there were feathers in the yard.
All day, on and off, Jose jumped down from her table and hid under the big garden table, obviously uncomfortable with her home. Whenever I caught her, and put her back on, within half an hour or so she had jumped off again – also unusual for her. In the end I just let her be though I am not totally happy with her under the table in case the hawk spots her. I decided that from now on, at the time I would usually shut her up in the hutch, I will bring her in to spend the night in the crate I bought for Olly in the conservatory, as I suspect the fox will keep coming back. Maybe in the spring when the weather is warmer, and more rabbity food around for Mr. Fox then she can stay in the hutch again – but before then I will have to get hubbie to make it as secure and safe as possible. At least today, we were spared a visit from the hawk!

Foxy calling cards in the snow

And another beautiful visitor - Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Today is Friday 10th Feb and Olly was released on Monday. He's doing well, is very quick when with the others on the lawn, dodging around for the peanuts, and seems happy with his freedom.

Here he is with some of the others - you can see his bald patch in this photo below. He is very dark and recognisable, especially with his rings. So scruffy, I love him to bits!

Touch wood, the hawk hasn't been around so much. I know it will still be hunting, but hope it has decided that my garden is not an auspicious place!

Below, the garden first thing this morning, snow covered.

To be cont.
NOTE - I know none of my regular readers would take and use my photos, but I noticed one of my photos on another website. My photos are my own - No one has permission to use them.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Olly's Progress - and the sparrowhawk

Day 5 – Fr 27.1.12 – A friend held Olly while I ringed him- a green ring on his right foot and yellow on the left – bright colours as his plumage is so dark. His rings look smart, and make him look more grown-up, and his feathers feel very silky to the touch, though still a bit oily under his wings. It was bright but cold, but I put him, in the carrying box, on the garden table for 20 mins this morning, and half an hour this afternoon. He got excited when he saw the other pigeons and doves, and tried to get out, upsetting his water, so I am pleased he wants to be with them, but he was shivering after those times so I brought him in again. When my husband’s not around, he is loose in the kitchen – and I have to mop up with sprays and paper towels!

He can fly - but doesn't unless I try to catch him! As you can see he flew up to the drying rack over the aga (ignore the cobwebs - I don't have time for boring housework!) Eventually I had to net him which was distressing for both of us.

The crate came this afternoon at quarter to four – delivery was any time between 7.30am to 5.30pm – do you know ANYONE who gets their goods at 7.30am or even any time in the morning? I never do! But the crate is great, just what I need – and i’m looking forward to testing it tomorrow. I have to be out late morning to early afternoon though and definitely won’t be leaving him alone in the garden, even locked in the crate. It’s too cold for a start.Olly – day 6 – A bemused little dark pigeon went out into the garden, in the crate, this morning. He was in his carrying box inside the crate, but ventured out when the other pigeons came down to eat the grain I’d put near the crate. The whole thing went back into the conservatory when I went out, and he had another 40 mins mid afternoon when I came home again.

Olly's crate in the garden, with the hospital and Jose's hutch and table in the back-ground. I moved the doves feeding pans to be near Olly so he could see them.

Olly has a good look round

I didn’t like leaving him in the conservatory for the night – I was worried it would be too cold, but I know I have to accustom him to the cold – he can’t live in my kitchen forever! So he was inside his box, but not locked into it, with a covered microwave ‘bottle’ and a cloth draped over the crate when it got dark. I hope he will be ok.....

The sore place on his back has healed quite well, but it’s quite a big hole – I can put the tip of my little finger in it. Poor Olly, I wonder what happened.
Olly day 7 – Sunday 29th Jan. – Olly seemed fine after his night in our cold conservatory, and went out in the crate in the morning to spend the whole day in the garden, learning about the flock and the surroundings. I brought him in at 3pm, and cleaned out his box and crate. He isn’t tame, which is good, but I have to handle him sometimes to move him about, and his body felt warm, even after all day in the garden, and that means he can thermo-regulate so I feel more confident about him in that way. I also re-anointed the place on his back, but I think it is totally healed so I won’t need to do it again. I don’t think he is ready to be released yet. I think I will know when it’s the right time.
Lola, the white dove that I caught last Sat aft with paramyxo symptoms has spent a week and a day in the hospital, and the last two days has been desperate to get out. I watched her closely today while she ate today, and she could pick up and eat grains easily. I got in to the hospital with her, caught her, ringed her with a green ring, checked her over – she felt warm, plump and strong – and so let her go. She flew immediately and swiftly to the top of the roof, and stayed there for 5 minutes til some pigeons turned up and they all flew away together. I hope I have done the right thing.I did the RSPB Big Birdwatch today – it’s always in January, and I’ve done it for the last few years.. I watched from 7.45am to 8.45am - it's only for one hour.The first bird I saw was the grey wagtail - which is in fact very yellow!Then I saw great tits and blue tits, a robin, the doves and pigeons, of course and 2 carrion crows.Then suddenly the sparrowhawk was there, down on the ground, tussling with a pigeon, right on the patio in front of my kitchen door. I ran out, and they both flew up to the little porch above the door, and the hawk had hold of the pidgie again. Then they were on the low shed roof, a whirl of brown and grey, and then suddenly the hawk was gone and the pigeon was on the ground. I picked it up, it's heart beating madly poor thing, and put it in a box in the shed to see if it would recover.

After an hour or so, I checked the pigeon, ringed it, sprayed it for mites and left it alone again with food and water. It wasn't damaged by the hawk as far I could see.

After another hour, I moved it, in a carrying box with no grille, to the top of Jose's hutch and left it there, still with food and water, of course. It was free to fly away but stayed there all day, seeming to sleep for much of the time. I don’t know if it is traumatised or maybe old.
Late in the afternoon, when a few pigeons were still around and before dark, he seemed to realise the time, came to the edge of the box and flew away. I haven’t seen him since...not surprising, I wouldn’t come back here after an experience like that, would you?

Charlie - rescued from the hawk

Mon 30th Jan'12 – Olly has been with me a week. His days are much the same – he spends all day outside in the crate and I bring him in about 3pm at the moment, into the conservatory. Today I brought him into the kitchen to see if he would fly, but he just stayed on the floor, as usual.
I went up to see the guy who found Olly in his workshop (in an old barn) today. The pigeons had nested on the beam, and the guy – I’ll call him Alan – hadn't wanted them there, but didn’t feel it would be fair to disturb a nest. The eggs hatched in December some time, and the parent birds could get in and out through the open work shop doors during the working day, and through various big cracks and openings at other times. The open drums that Alan stores the used oil in were (and still are) directly underneath the nest. I reckon that Olly took his first unsteady flight or just plummeted straight into the oil. The oil drums are behind other things and it was only by chance Alan saw, and rescued Olly. I do hope he covers the oil drums now, but I don’t count on it. You can’t expect a motor mechanic to feel the same about bird safety as I do!
This lunchtime, as my husband was leaving the garden, we found the results of another sparrowhawk attack by the gate – inches from where Flash died. The victim this time was another lovely big white male dove (unringed). He was still warm, and it had obviously happened while we were sitting in the kitchen having lunch. What can I say? It wasn’t the same as Flash, who I was particularly fond of , but I feel so sorry for these birds. If I wasn’t feeding them, they wouldn’t be here and the hawk wouldn’t come..... but they need to eat.... and so does the hawk... it’s vicious circle, never a truer word was said! Later that afternoon, the hawk came again, and chased the doves, but they got away. I felt it was being a bad day, shut Jose up straight away and much earlier than usual. How can I let Olly free in these circumstances? I can’t. He is too young, too timid and would be gobbled up straight away.
Tue 31st – There was a frost this morning. Charlie (sparrowhawk pigeon) came today. Seems slow, but protected by the flock, he is still going!
1st Feb- Even colder today, the wind is icy. The sparrowhawk was actually on it’s kill in my flower bed when I came home from shopping. Shame I came home at the moment, as obviously opening the gate scared it away and it hadn’t eaten very much of the bird. A pigeon, with wings like Charlie’s and in fact at first I thought it was Charlie until I saw there was no ring. Charlie turned up again later, with the flock. I left the poor pigeon where it was to see if the hawk came back and it did about three hours later! Once the dove/pigeon is dead it just becomes part of the food chain, so better that the hawk eats its fill. I hate all this killing, but there will always be hawks, and there will always be pigeons, and I have to accept it. Anything I used to scare away the hawk would also scare the doves and pigeons. I found this which I thought put the situation well - It's a piece called Oh No There's a Hawk at my Feeder
I have decided that I will transfer Olly from the crate, which comes in at night, to the hospital so he gets used to living totally outside. But the weather conditions through Feb are indicating to be very cold so I’m not sure when I will do this. He is desperate to get out but I don’t feel he is strong enough yet. I had another look today at the sore on his back, and it’s scabbed over but not totally healed.
Out of interest I counted the doves and pigeons at one point on the roof – 29 white doves, and 64 mixed pigeons, one or two brown, and the main grey, dark grey and nearly black. It’s a large flock, and that wasn’t probably all of them, but if the hawk kills a pigeon a day, or every two days, they won’t last long.
2nd Feb – Extremely cold and I had to be out all day, so Olly stayed in his crate in the conservatory, and Jose had the cage up on the hutch. I am getting almost nervous of coming back to my own garden in case the hawk has left her gory calling card. There were grey pigeon feathers by the gate, but no body. If I stopped feeding the doves and pigeons now, with the weather so coldand natural food scarce, it would be cruel so that's not an option. I suppose I shouldn't have saved Charlie - I should just've let the hawk have him - but I know that every time my heart will rule my head, and if I see the hawk, and can save the pigeon, I will do so - right or wrong. To be cont.