Monday, 10 December 2012

A Very Gloomy Blog

Fri 30th November 2012

Faith and Beauty2 were put to bed together in 'bunk beds' in the spare room and in the morning, Faith was still with us and Beauty2 was not.

When I first started looking after the birds, I couldn't touch a dead one with my naked hands, but now it doesn't bother me. Well, the touching doesn't bother me, but the death is still a little sad, and much more so if I know the bird. But as my husband says, you don't know what's wrong with them. Beauty2 could've been very old or sick, and it was his/her time to go, so RIP little grey pigeon.

Sat. 1st December '12 - With bird deaths on my mind, I get worried about Faith. I used to say she was 'poorly' but  now I don't think she is. She no longer has diarrhoea and I consider her 'stable'. I rarely know how old the birds are - except the ones hatched in my cote - and I have no idea how old Faith is - she might be very old, and she gets treated like a little old lady with hotwater bottles and tlc! This morning she gave me a fright - I pulled aside the little towel I use as a curtain for the front of her night box and she wasn't there! I looked inside the other box which Beauty2 had used, in case I'd had a 'senior moment' and put her in the wrong box.... but no. Then I panicked and wondered if I'd left her overnight in the conservatory..... had she frozen to death in there...... I ran in, no Faith, so I ran back... and there she was on the floor of the spare room. I think she must've thought I was being too long in getting her up for the day so came out on her ownio!

My last blog prompted the nice lady, S, who keeps racing pigeons and who came to collect one of her birds from me to send me an email regarding Sky and Summer nesting again, and the birds with paramyxo. This is what she said, just as she sent it -


Have you not thought about putting the doves on pot eggs once they have laid 2 as the doves would sit for longer and they
would not hatch out over the winter when they could get cold and die this is what we do with the pigeons until we are ready to breed
between boxing day and valentines day.

This bit you wont like we have to kill any birds that have paramyxo as it is a killer it could spread or the bird will starve to death ,we inject
our birds once a year against it ,but not our stock birds as they are prisoner's and never go out. i know it sounds cruel but that's what we
have to do speak soon.
I have thought about fake eggs, and think I might get some so I am ready in case this happens again, but I am hoping these babies will be ok. I will be terribly upset if they die.
As far as paramyxo is concerned, I can see why S feels it is necessary to dispose of the ill birds - to protect the others from disease, but, here, the
Earlier on today, a beautiful speckled dove fed from my hand. This is not so very unusual as I still have Baby Royal and Bandy coming to my outstretched palm for peanuts, as I stand - and a few others will eat from my hand if I have it on the grass. So the speckled one ate and I thought no more about it until this evening.
My instinct again prompted me to go out 'poorly pigeon hunting' this evening. It was 9.45am, we had a roaring fire going and were very cosy, so I rebelled, but my feelings wouldnt be quashed! Reluctantly, I got my hat, pulled on my furry boots and set out round the back of the old mill, armed with torch and net. The frost was already making the roofs sparkly - it's quite refreshing to go out in the cold knowing you can come back in pdq! At first I couldn't see anything in the usual places I look, but I shone the torch all around including down into the old wheel of the mill and the water below - and then to my dismay I saw the speckled dove down there, sitting in the shallow water!
The area where the mill water used to run is partly grassed over, like a grassy moat. That in itself is easy enough to get down, though not great at night. Then I was able to clamber under various metal bits..... The speckly one looked up at me - there are security lights there so I could see it quite well - it was awake and seemed alert enough, but I couldnt imagine why, if it could move at all, that it would sit half in, half out of water on a freezing night? Maybe earlier on it had flown down for a drink and couldn't get up? How to get it up was now my problem. My husband doesnt like me messing about down there as the water in one section is quite deep, but luckily the bird wasn't in that part. I leant over and the net was just long enough to reach - I don't know what I would've done if it hadn't been! I carefully and slowly positioned the net over the bird, so it was trapped, and then even more carefully dragged the net up, holding it against the slope so it couldnt flutter out. I took the photo several days later, and you can't really tell how awkward it was for me but you can see what a dank, gloomy place it was to be stranded in, and worse at night.

 When I was able to reach the bird, I kept it in the net til I was able to untangle it safely and pop it inside my fleece. I was relieved that it wasn't too wet and felt warm to the touch. My husband finds my 'instincts' spooky but is used to me, so wasn't surprised to see me come back with a bird. I put it in the bunk bed above Faith for the night, and hope it will be ok. Hubbie pretends he doesnt care but asked 'Do you think it will be warm enough?' - we decided a comfortably padded box in our spare bedroom has gotta be warmer than the mill water on a frosty December night! BUT by 11pm when we were in bed, glasses on, reading our books, we both suddenly came to the conclusion that the speckled one would be better off in the kitchen so it could benefit from the warmth of the aga - so I got up and moved it.

Sunday 2nd Dec - I woke up thinking 'Let my bird be alive!'.... and it was. My Minty had survived sitting in the freezing water, the haul up the side in the net, and the long night! I dipped her beak in a pot of warmed water, and after a few tries, she had a good long drink. I wasn't sure what would be best to do with her, so while I thought I put her in the hutch outside with food and water, but she just kept flapping and banging herself against the wire to get out so I thought I'd give it a go and opened the door. Minty flew to the frosty garden table and perched on a water dish.

Having mainly ignored the nice pot of warmed water I'd given her in the hutch, she now tried to get a drink from the totally frozen water in the dish. But she stayed there while I went to get water to pour on top of the ice.

 A few other doves arrived - Cloud and Happy together, October, who had come from the cote, and some others. You can see how frosty the garden is, and it stayed like that all day, except for the spot round the hutch which is the only place that gets the sun's rays.

When the birds flew away, Minty was gone and for a second I thought she'd flown off with them, til I saw her down under the cote.

 Obviously at the moment, she is not as well as she thinks she is! So I scooped her up, decided that the crate in the conservatory would be the best place, and she settled on a warm hot-water-bottle and stayed there all day. Faith is on top, as you can see, but later I moved her to the hutch while it stayed sunny.

I wasn't sure if Minty was eating because although she had pecked at some peanuts first thing, she didnt actually eat them so I thought it best to hand-feed her for today at least, and assess the situation again tomorrow. I fed her three times - morning, noon and afternoon- she rejected most of the peanuts from her beak, but I was able to get the smoother peas down her without any trouble. She seems to have watery diarrhoea...... But Faith had diarrhoea and got over it. Minty spent a second night in the kitchen.

Monday 3rd Dec. - This morning Minty walked out of her box in the kitchen and inspected the pantry. I can't have a dove with diarrhoea wandering about in the kitchen so I took her outside. Today was damp and mild, Minty had a little walk on the garden table but when she tried to fly she plummeted to the ground again and tried to squeeze herself under the hedge so I had to rescue her and she spent most of the day in the hutch. I saw her drinking by herself, so that's one good thing, I won't have to try to get her to drink, but I still didn't see her eat, so I hand-fed her again morning, noon and mid-afternoon. In a previous blog I said I'd read that pigeons can survive on 13g of feed a day. I measured that out in grain, peanuts and dried peas - and gave her a combo of 14 of those each feed. A bird that can't fly and can't feed itself doesnt have much going for it but I'm giving Minty a chance. She is an amazingly beautiful bird with soft plumage and a nice nature. I ringed her with a green ring in the hopes that she might recover and need to be recognised - I do have a few other speckly ones visiting.

I had to bath Faith again today. This is a reluctant chore because although she is 'good', I know she doesnt like it, and I hate getting her chilly. Her breastbone seems almost totally exposed, and she has a little sore place which looks like a bed sore, if a dove could have such a thing. I anointed both places with my special cream. After the bath she stayed in the kitchen to completely dry off before bedtime.

Tuesday 4th Dec 12 - Minty seemed ok first thing this morning and I hand-fed her breakfast at 8am, but when I next checked her about 9.30am her head seemed a bit floppy, so I brought her into the  kitchen. Within a short time, I could see she wasn't going to make it, as she'd fallen over so I laid her down with her head slightly raised and covered her up.

She just lay there taking a breath now and then, and died about midday. What a shame, poor little thing, she was an exceptionally beautiful bird.

I do worry when I hand-feed the birds that maybe I do something wrong and that contributes to or causes their death, but I know that I've hand-fed several who have gone on to recover and be perfectly ok. Out of the two recent birds who appeared to have paramyxo symtoms - Mixie and Trixie (both of whom I gave feeds to) - Mixie is no longer seen and may have perished but Trixie seems to be managing really well on her own. So it's not all doom and gloom here AND the eggs are due to hatch this week. Tomorrow or Thursday maybe!

Wednesday 5th Dec - First snow!


Very, very cold...... and no egg news yet!
This evening, I had to go into the spare bedroom where Faith is put in her box to spend the night. I usually avoid going in so I don't disturb her, but I had to find something, and I got another of my 'spooky' feelings. I never look inside the box - the end of which doesnt have the wire grille on, but is draped at night with an old tea-towel, but something made me peep inside. I couldnt see Faith in the box - which is a pet carrying box and of the smaller type, so no place to hide. I could hardly believe it - where could she have gone? The light was off as I was just using the passage-way light to see by, so as not to disturb her, but now I turned it on. The room is choc-a-bloc as we have stored a lot of stuff in there and for a minute or two I couldnt see her, but there she was crouched on the hard floor in the corner of the room! Poor little poppet! I picked her up, and put her back to bed, and we've decided now that she better sleep in the kitchen where it's warm. She felt a bit cold, so I hope she will be ok - I put her to bed at 4pm and found her at 8pm so she could've been on the cold uncarpeted floor for 4 hours - which makes me feel very guilty. I could of course use the grille and lock her in - not quite sure why I don't. By the way these spooky feelings of mine alert me to the doves, but don't help me pick the lottery numbers!
Thurs. 6th Dec - Faith was fine in the first thing, but later on she retreated to the back of her box and just lay there. 'I think Faith's dying' I said to my husband sadly. I propped up her head with a cloth to make a pillow and give her a good airway, but later on, she decided not to die, and came out of her box to help me decorate the Christmas tree!

Friday 7th Dec - No egg news in the morning, but when I came home from shopping at 2pm there was an egg shell on the lawn - it definitely hadn't been there earlier, because I'm very observant about that sort of thing. Here's me, in my turtle-doves again! - with the egg!


Later, when I knew it was Summer on the nest (not Sky, who is more easily upset) and she was turned round with her tail towards the nestbox entrance, I crept quietly up the stepladder and could just see a tiny yellow fluffy thing underneath her! Wonderful! The egg was chucked out today, but the baby or babies could've hatched yesterday, or even Wednesday.

When the doves had all flown away, I found a white dove in the flower bed - obviously another one that can't fly. I popped it in the hutch for the night, and sheeted it all up with the plastic sheets, against the fox and the frost. It looked ok, but they all seem to look fine, then they die. Except for Faith, who looks slightly dirty, bedraggled, hunched and old, but still carries on, day after day. Bless her!

Sat 8th Dec '12 - Today I was having my three sisters to mine for the special Christmas event we have every year, and it was my turn to host it, so I was very busy. But first thing, I unsheeted the hutch and found the new dove still alive, so I named her Peppermint (she couldn't be Minty2 as Minty was so very beautifully special) and opened the hutch up to see what she would do. She flew from the hutch to the table, and then to the ground to get a drink from the water bath.

But afterwards it was obvious that she couldn't take off from the ground, and was getting unwanted attention from male doves, so I put her back in the hutch with food and water. Although I was busy preparing a special lunch, I hand fed her as I didn't see her eat, and wanted to give her a chance.

Faith was put in her box on the floor of the conservatory. This is where I'd laid the table, and my sisters were warned she was there in case she decided to toddle out and they tripped over her. But today was Faith's last day. She was alive when we started lunch, but passed away some time during our festivities. I was saddened and so too was my eldest sister who also loves birds - she kindly stroked my poor little dead Faith. Looking back on my blog, I read that Faith was actually Faith3 (Faiths 1 and 2 must have died very quickly as I don't really remember them, and I thought my Faith was Faith2!) and came down to the ground on July 19th, having spent about a day up on the roof without sustenance, and then had no strength to fly up again. She lived 142 days after that, sitting on the support sticks for the runner beans during the sunny summer days, as the photo below shows. I will give her a special funeral tomorrow with as many flowers as the garden can provide in December. Rest in peace little sweetheart - fly again in heaven.


I felt another pang of loss this evening as October - for the first time since hatching - oh must be about 10 to 12 weeks ago  now - didn't spend the night in the dovecote. I hope wherever she goes to roost is safe and warm, and she comes back tomorrow morning with the rest of the flock.

Sunday 9th Dec - Peppermint was hand fed again and put out in the hutch. She came out into the wire box area and looked around and had a drink, but very soon she too had succombed to whatever was wrong with her, and died quickly. Faith, old and dirty scruffy, but a real little trooper and very special, and Peppermint, young, snow white, beautiful but obviously not meant to live. A double funeral and a sad little occasion for me.

Since October 2010 I have always had a dove needing looking after and attention, as that was when Jose came into my life. When she died, I still had Faith to look after, and now I've got no-one. Her bed, her crate and all my little arrangements for her comfort and security will have to be dismantled and put away.

And then I realised that neither parent dove was in the cote! I hurried up the steps and had a peep - two very small yellow downy babies! But I shouldn't have been able to see them! It was Sky's time to be on the nest, and he wasn't there. I went to get my camera and took a quick photo.

White dove babies - about 3/4 days old

Five minutes went by, and then five more. I was beginning to worry and checked my 'Feral Pigeons' book to find out what I knew already - pigeons are brooded continuously for the first 6 to 7 days. I started to panic but what could I do? Hubbie, when asked, thought I better leave it to nature.... but nature can be so cruel! Then he went off out, leaving me alone to fret. I threw down grain, even though it was about 10.15am and not the normal feeding time, to see if the parents were there. Summer was among the birds that came down, but I suppose she assumed Sky was on the nest as it was his time, and he appeared not to be in the garden. I was really panicking now as it was half an hour since I'd noticed his absence so how long had the babies been alone, uncovered and getting cold? I didn't know what to do..... I went up the steps again, looked at them and touched them gently. They didn't feel warm, and I had no idea how warm they should feel anyway. They looked dead, and I assumed they were as why else would Sky leave them? He never has to forage for food as I always make sure he and Summer get well fed so he really had no excuse whatsovever not to be there. Then one baby moved slightly and I made a rapid decision - I'd bring them in to the warm. I ran back to the house, pulled off some kitchen roll, folded it over treble or more and came back to the nest. I put my hand in meaning to bring one baby out at a time, but both came together - so small, so fragile. I put them both in the paper, folded it over the top of the them and ran back to the house. I put the paper on top of the aga - not directly but on top of three aga pads, one on top of the other, I gently examined the babies. One seemed to be alive, one dead. The alive one opened his beak, and I wondered how long it had been since they were fed. At the very most, these babies couldn't be more than five days old, and it was much more likely that they were only three or four. I knew I had very little chance of rearing them - I felt quite sick I can tell you. All this time, I had continually been checking out of the window to see if either parent had come back to the nest. 40 minutes had gone by now since I had noticed they had been left. After a while, I moved the aga tops, with the paper + babies, from the aga in case it was too hot.... to the kitchen table. Then the 'dead' baby moved! Oh my god these poor little tiny things were both alive, needing their mummy and daddy! Oh Sky, how could you do this?! I didn't know whether to try to feed them or not - I still have the Kaytee powder mix which I bought for Jasha and which is an acceptable substitute for cropmilk, and a little syringe but I knew it wouldn't be easy to do and getting it wrong might kill them..... but if they weren't fed they would die anyway....lord what a horrible situation to be in. 50 minutes had now gone by....... I was practically wringing my hands with worry! The babies moved weakly and opened their tiny little beaks. They were about the size of a 50p piece - I wish I'd taken a photo now, but at the time I was too distraught. I prayed for them to be ok, and then I saw a white dove looking in the nestbox - Sky! I wrapped the babies in the paper and flew over the lawn to put them back in the nest. Within a minute or two, he came back looked in again and then went in to settle with them - thank God, thank God! It was a full 55 minutes since I had first noticed he was missing and maybe they would've been alright for that time without him, and maybe I saved their lives by bringing them into the warm. As well as the threat of them catching cold, there is also the very real risk of a jay seeing the nest was unsupervised and taking them! There are at least two jays round about as I see them both together in the garden.

It was now after 11am and Sky stayed in with the babies until the doves did a changeover at about 1pm. I was relieved when Summer was on duty as I felt she was less likely to leave them. At the afternoon feeding time, I made sure the undeserving Sky had plenty of grain and peanuts, and I gently put the usual little pot up for Summer filled with small grains, the blue peas she likes best and peanuts, and was pleased to see her eat from it. I didn't really relax until darkness fell and I knew Summer would be staying all night. Then, when it occurred to me, I started to worry that he would leave them again when it was his turn tomorrow.

Monday 10th Dec '12 - The very first bird I saw on the roof this morning was..... the sparrowhawk! Oh no! Could this blog get much worse...... Be gone with you! flapped my hands and it flew away.

The day was uneventful - I was out for a couple of hours in the morning, but all seemed well for the rest of the time. Spring (Autumn's sibling) and Pearl (Jose's baby, now grown up) are both missing though.

I'll bring this blog to a close now, and hope the next one will be more uplifting!

To be cont.


Fennie said...

Perhaps gloomy, Faith, but absolutely spell binding. I do hope you bring these blogs together and publish them. With your pictures you'd have a really lovely book and I'm sure your friends on PC and elsewhere would give you any help you needed. What could be more fascinating than your tale of the moribund babies?

Still no sign of Fennie? It is getting harder to believe that Fennie dove is still OK. I'm just wondering whether the bird is down in Africa or the Middle East, keeping warm. Doves do migrate occasionally, don't they? Please keep a good look out for an exhausted bird in the spring.

mountainear said...

I must agree with Fennie- I so want (make that NEED) to know what happens to the babies.

Lesa said...

Of course I'll be keeping the babies in my thoughts. And you and your sometimes very brave efforts for the good of birds.

Your tale of the babies reminded me so much of the birth of our Bertie, he and his sibling on a cold day in February. I remember tucking both babies inside my shirt and getting to the warm house as soon as I could race across the yard.

Take care and I hope you're having a truly lovely holiday season.

Westerwitch/Headmistress said...

Wow that is some rollercoaster you ride looking after your Doves and as Fennie said a spell binding blog. Fingers crossed for the babies.

So sorry too for the birds that died - but they died warm and cared for thanks to you.

Faith said...

Thanks Fennie, Mountainear, Lesa and Westerwitch for your very kind comments which are much appreciated. Fennie I am thinking of trying to 'slurp' my blog into a book, but technie stuff is not my strong point. What can I say about Fennie dove - the birds come and go, and he has went!!!

I will update with news of the babies asap but as I write 11.12.12 they must be ok. I havent seen them but mum or dad is always on the nest, thankfully.

Fennie said...

Ah but he'll be back, Faith. Have faith!

Re the book - why not have a word with Mootia (Hannah Velten) who writes animal books. She would know best what to do and might help.