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.


arosebyanyothername said...

LOvely pictures, as usual, Faith and a good bit of story-telling. I guess you can't win all the battles with your doves predators and as you say. they have to eat too.
Keep up the good work.

Fennie said...

Faith, first I am honoured that you should call a dove after me. I have never been a beautiful white dove before. Though I had last evening been looking through the White Company 2012 catalogue.

I agree with Rosie - your pictures are great - but so is the story and it is so unusual - who else writes about birds? I reckon Faith that if you collected your blogs together and edited them and added a bit of background about yourself then you would have a publishing proposition. Something that would sell well. A reader would learn a lot of doves, pigeons, hawks and garden birds. How to care for them and treat them when they were sick.
You'd learn about breeding and dovecotes and people's attitudes to pigeons. You'd learn about ringing and the RSPB. Hope this isn't trying to lead your life for you (I am very bad at that) just to give you some encouragement in case you were minded to have a go. It would also be a chance for your characters Flash, Omo, Jose, Olly (and now Fennie!!!!) to achieve a certain immortality.

Norma Murray said...

All life is in your back yard, Faith. Such drama and such stunning pictures.

Jayne said...

Faith you put so much time and effort into feeding and helping your birds it is truly heart warming. You will never win with Mr fox and or the hawks but at least you are watching out for your garden birds, it must make a difference, keep up the good work.

Faith said...

Thanks everyone for your comments which I always like to read.

Fennie, you make a lovely dove! And you flatter me - you are a fantastic writer yourself, me I'm just a blogger!

hopeinparis said...

Hi Faith
Thank you for your regular posts on a wonderful blog! You could make a great documentary between your fabulous photos and wonderful reporting.
aka hopeinparis

Westerwitch/Headmistress said...

I love reading your Dave blog Faith - thank you.

Brendan Gertner said...

I think birds perched on roofs are great photography subjects. I envy you for raising beautiful doves. I wish I can raise them in my pad.

-Brendan Gertner

Anonymous said...

I've just started illustrating a series of bird ladies (and men to come) - will deffo have to add a dove and a pigeon, as an ode to your beautiful garden friends, and the care you give to them all.

I may even do a hawk :)

Liz said...

Hi Faith,
I had a dovecote in my front garden, started with 8 doves, but 2 weeks after release, I was down to only 4, Mr. Hawk:-(
I moved them into an aviary in my back garden so that they could breed over winter before releasing them in the spring. I now have four babies. Today I opened the little window so they could fly free. Five of them did, mostly my fantails and a common dove (white pigeon). It took them ages to work out how to get back through the small door and back into the aviary. I am so saddened to find that the first dove to fly free and was sitting on my room, is missing. I can't believe that I should lose one within hours of release:-( My husband did see it on the roof with a feral pigeon who with its racing pigeon partner, are raising a baby in my guttering. I haven't seen any of them since. I've spent the evening making sparrowhawk deterrents with hologram streamers & will hang them tomorrow, but I have so much roof..... at this rate my 18 birds left won't last very long. I love them so much, it's so sad!

Liz said...

Sitting on my roof I meant to say.
I do fear the worst as this is a homing pigeon that's missing & I wouldn't expect it to just go flying off and not return unless something sinister had happened.
The birds I'm most worried about are my fantails (I have six) and yet they were the first ones out - typical!