Monday, 28 January 2013

Santa - the squab who doesn't want to grow up


It snowed all day!

Mr. Sunshine, and Miss Tina in the nestbox - they were the only doves in the garden. This is the back of the cote - Sky and Summer have the front.

Santa was cute - I had taken him onto the lawn to be with the other birds, but after a few minutes he must've thought it was too chilly, so turned and walked determinedly back to the door of the house, jumped up the step.....and straight into his box, where he sat down and wouldn't budge!

This is his current routine:

7-7.30am - I take the cover off his box (my old small dog carrying box) and open it up in the kitchen. I put little dishes of food and water nearby.
8.00 am - Santa usually out of his box by now, and 'peeping'. He often flaps his wings madly for a minute or two, exercising them I suppose. I don't give him much food as I am keen for him to feed himself now, but I usually give him 2 or 3 defrosted and warm (but def not hot!) peas. This is to help hydrate him, though he usually drinks well now.
8.30 -9am - Santa goes out on the lawn when the other doves and pigeons are there, but only when I can supervise him and not for longer than an hour as it's so cold. Sometimes I
10.00 - midday - Santa stays in the kitchen. He stands on his brick, or on another low box I put for him. He pecks around or preens himself. Sometimes he pecks at inappropriate things like his bedding so I do have to keep an eye on what he's up to.
Around Midday - Out again in the garden for a while, then back in the kitchen. If he's tired he puts himself into his night box. If not, he just stands on his brick. Doesn't he poop on the kitchen floor, I hear you ask - well, yes.....! But never mind!
2pm - Maybe another quick time outside. Today I took him to see my elderly neighbour who is confined to the house in a wheelchair. In this weather I need to make sure E is ok, and that his carers are getting through the snow ok. I took Santa in a basket covered with a white cloth, with just his head peeping out - Little White Riding Hood! E used to feed my doves sometimes when he was fit, and enjoys a visit from one of them now and again, and hearing all the dovie news.
3pm - I give Santa a small hand feed of 10 or so grains and peanuts, and put him on the floor again with food in his dishes and sprinkled on the floor to try and make sure he eats. He still can't pick up big grains, and often drops even small ones.
4pm ish - He usually puts himself to bed in his box in front of the aga, and then later I put his box inside the big carrier and leave it under the kitchen table.
8 or 9pm - Invariably he wakes up and flaps about causing a big fuss, like a child having a nightmare and has to be reassured and settled.
10-11pm - When we go to bed, I move his box out of the kitchen and into the sitting room, and onto the sofa. Away from draughts, mice in the kitchen (currently being dealt with!) and the possibility of our adopted cat coming in through the cat flap - not very likely, as she doesnt like us very much and has never used it! Then I cover his box with a cloth - of course the wire grille front is already on and locked.
So that's his current routine, and of course I have to clean out his boxes, and put fresh bedding down.

Cloud is slightly less trouble - this is her current routine:

8-9am Breakfast time depends on when I've finished Santa and the other birds. I collect her from her night box in the spare bedroom and, first of all, offer her a drink of luke-warm water in a shot glass. Sometimes she drinks, but mostly she doesnt. Then I hand feed her about 30-35 grains/peanuts and a few moist green peas. Then I offer the glass again - she might drink this time, and when she does she puts her whole head in the glass and slurps it up. Because of the PMV her head is wobbly and trying to get the angle right is difficult - we often spill water!

Day - I leave Cloud in the dog crate in the conservatory permanently at the moment as it so cold outside. She has a box to sit in or she can walk around. The door is open if I am going to be in, but shut if I am going out, as occasionally she flutter-tumbles to the floor, and wouldnt be able to get back to base again.

3pm ish -  Another feed, same as breakfast. Drink is offered, of course. And she has food and drink with her all the time, during the day, in case she feels she can manage it herself.

4-4.30pm  or when it gets dusk. I pick Cloud up, wrap her in a cloth, offer her another drink, then carry her to put her to bed in a box in the spare room. She's locked into it so she can't get out during the night. It's currently covered with a big rug to keep her snug! The spare room is a lot warmer than the conservatory, which is icy, and not really the best place for her even during the day, but the spare bedrooms are not very light, and at least in the conservatory she can see the garden!

Her stuff needs more cleaning than Santa's as PMV poops are not very pleasant! Hubbie asked if I felt she was getting better, and the answer is still no. I'm hoping that another month or so may bring improvement.

22.1.13 - Oh no, guess who's in the dovecote together - Summer and Sky! Now is really not a good time to start those kind of shenanigans! An online friend, who also keeps, dove has told me that her mummy dove has laid eggs - due to hatch in February.....she wasn't sure what to do, and I couldnt advise. I always think they should all have a chance, but Feb is a bit early in the year. What do these doves think they are doing? I mean..... this is the garden first thing this morning.


 Yet despite the Narnia conditions, the doves are cosying up ....

 Sky looks tiny as he tries to push past Summer

Poor old Limpy, the pigeon with a dragging leg AND symptoms of paramyxovirus is still struggling on..... he can cope, just about, if there is food in a deeper dish....Here he shares with a female blackbird.

I wish I could do more for him, but as I think I've said before, if I try to catch birds in this situation  (with a view to giving them a hand-feed) often it frightens them off, and then they don't get anything to eat at all. In the photo below, the bird on the right is one of those sweet gentle light brown collared doves.


I did catch another pigeon today - like Limpy this one has been showing signs of PMV for a while. It's so distressing to watch. I caught it by throwing a lot of peanuts down in one place, all the pidgies clustered round and I just picked up the poorly one, so that was quite easy. While I had it, I hand-fed it a good lot of peanuts, ringed it with one of the new pale pink rings that the racing-pigeon lady kindly sent me at Christmas (in a goodie bag for pigeons!) and then set it free again. I couldn't really cope with another resident patient! I'll call her Florence and just hope she can keep on going, like Limpy. There does seem to me to be varying degrees of severity in the PMV symptoms that I see - Limpy and Florence are 'better' than Cloud. I really don't think that Cloud would've survived in these snowy days if she was free. Santa (who doesn't have PMV, thankfully) would definitely have died if he hadnt got me to care for him as he can't fly. Hubbie moans daily about having him inside - I think having a pet in the kitchen is homely and fun, whether it's a dog, cat or dove! - but he doesn't agree and think it's unhygienic. I think Santa is so clever - when we are outside, he sits on my shoulder or wanders about the lawn, but as soon as the others fly off, he knows where to come, and walks back into the house again. Today he gave himself another bath (his third) - remembering where the blue water bath was and doing it all himself. I brought him in though to dry off and get fluffy in front of the aga.
Wed. 23rd Jan. 13 - I took Santa with me today when I went to look after my 14 month old grand-daughter. She calls every bird 'duck', so Santa was also 'duck' and she was fascinated by him. Not sure if the feeling was mutual, but Santa took the new surroundings in his stride.

My grand-daughter
my youngest

Sorry about this box
and this one!
Blogger went mad!
Friday 25.1.13 -  Santa's attempts at flying have improved a little. He can't take off from the ground, but if I throw him up into the air he can fly for a short distance before coming down. Yesterday, he was in the hutch for a while (he didn't like it as he now considers the house is his home!) but I am trying to get him used to the fact that one day that's where he will live - anyway, when I opened the door he flew out and made it to half way across the lawn. I wonder if he gets stronger whether he will ever be able to fly?
I think Santa is female - here's Mr. Sunshine courting him ... her I mean! But I will call him 'him' for now as I'm used to it.


50 day old white dove squab
Santa was approx 50 days old yesterday. He still looks and acts like a younger squab, flapping his wings when he sees me, so I will feed him (though I am feeding him much less than I used to) and still retaining his 'baby' yellow down on his head. He should be called Peter Pan, as he doesnt want to grow up! Young doves/pigeons of his age are now usually fully independent of their parents but don't become sexually mature until about 6 months old.

Saturday 26th Jan. 13 - Hubbie moaned so much about all Santa's little arrangements in the kitchen, that I have no choice but to move him out (Santa, not hubbie - but honestly the way I felt it could easily have been the other way round, ha ha!). I had already decided last night that the kitchen wasn't the best place for him in the evenings as whenever we go in there, or put the light on, he wakes up and starts 'peeping' thinking it is morning - but I was quite happy for him to be in there during the day for as long as he liked - but hubbie isn't so I had to think what else to do. In fact today, being pleasantly sunny. Santa spent time in the hutch while I was out. He doesnt understand why he shouldnt be free, as he is totally innocent and unaware that he can't fly properly, so he doesn't like the hutch, but usually settles down after a while. I have fixed up a corner of the conservatory table for his box and bits - as far away from Cloud's as possible. I don't want him to catch PMV from her, and not sure how it is transmitted anyway. He won't usually be in there - only if the day is too wet or cold for him to be in the hutch. At night, currently while it is still chilly, I will put his box in the spare room - the other spare room, not the room where Cloud goes at night. So Santa has had to grow up a bit more today and it probably hurt me more than it hurt him! Also today, when he was out on the lawn with the other doves and pigeons, something startled the birds and they all flew up together in a flurry - and Santa flew up too! He has never taken off from the ground before - so I am hoping that eventually he WILL be able to fly. You never know, it's not impossible. He didn't fly to the roof of course, just across the lawn and then fluttered down.

Sunday 27th Jan - What a change! We woke up to a green lawn - all the snow had melted. The sun came out and the dovies minds turned to love. The billing and cooing was so loud we could hear it inside the house! I put Santa on the hutch table, but he just jumped down and came to find me in the kitchen! It's so cute to see his little head peeping round the door, but once in, all he wants to do is hide under the kitchen table which is not giving him any fresh air or teaching him about being a bird. I shut him in the hutch for a while, and he just observed the garden while I gave Cloud a bath in the kitchen. This was her first bath since she's been ill though I have washed her feet once before. She accepted it well, and then I put her on top of the aga for a while to dry off, like I used to do with Faith. But Cloud is sleek and plump, not the poor drowned little thing that Faith was, so she was soon dry and back in the conservatory.

Then as it was so pleasant and sunny, I thought I'd give Santa flying lessions in the few minutes I had before hubbie and I were due to go out. Santa scrambles out of the hutch, along my arm, to my shoulder, and then to my back - where he knows I can't reach him. But eventually I had him in my hands and tossed him up into the air, where he flies for a few seconds and comes fluttering down. I picked him up again 'Look at Santa!' I said to hubbie as I prepared to throw him again. But whoops, either I was too near the low roof, or Santa's flying suddenly improved because there he was.... on the roof for the first time in his life! Probably 20 days after another dove of his age would've got there!

There he is - at the bottom, on the low slate roof.
Wow! He can't believe it!


 From the low roof, he easily walked his way right up the ridge....


And here he is .... centre stage! For the very first time, seeing life from beyond the garden! For him, it was climbing Mount Everest!

It was obvious he was enjoying himself, and little doves have to grow up sometime, so we went out as planned, and when we came back an hour or two later, he was still up there, it was still sunny and the other birds in the flock were still there too. I tried not to worry about my little baby, way up there on the top of the roof, but as the afternoon wore on and the other birds came down to eat, I hoped he would too - but he didn't! Gradually it got later, and the birds started to leave.... Santa came down to the low roof again, and on the step ladder I could almost....almost reach him, but not quite! I threw a few of his favourite peanut nibs to encourage him to come within catching distance, but though he ate a few (and some opportunist pigeons ate the rest) I still couldn't get him.


Eventually, it was past four and there was only Santa and the last four lingering pigeons.... it was getting gloomy, I was getting worried, and still he didn't come down!

To be contd



Saturday, 19 January 2013

Santa grows up but can't seem to fly!

10.1.13 -  I felt a bit mean as I didn't give Santa breakfast today but I need to wean him off me feeding him, and see how he fares for himself. He came out onto the lawn, looking such a baby still!
And although I had seen him pecking before I wasn't sure he was actually eating, so was pleased to see him peck up and eat a little white grain from the grass - clever boy! So, can you pick him out in the photo?




Yes, there he is, fourth bird down from the top, in the centre

When they all flew away he walked determinedly to underneath the cote on his ownio, but didn't attempt to fly up - and when I picked him up and held him in my out-stretched hand he flew off - and crashed landed back down on the lawn again!
He can make the very short flight from my hand to the cote if I am standing on the steps, but that's about all at the moment.


Hello stranger! A white dove with a pink ring turned up today - and I am pretty sure it was Rosie who hasn't been seen for ages. Months maybe. I am always pleased when an old face turns up because then I realise how resilient the birds are, how they truly can fend for themselves and that there is always hope! Rosie was a 'contemporary' of Fennie's - so you never know Fennie blog reader - your Fennie dove may still return! Here's the top





Mr. Sunshine continued collecting nesting materials on the hedge for what must now be a magnificent nest! And doesn't the cote look white after my cleaning efforts?


And then canoodles with his mate. I asked my three year old grandson to think of a name for her - and he came up with 'Rudolph' - No, I said that's a boy's name.... think of another. So he said 'Miss Tina' - so Miss Tina she shall be! 



Mr. Sunshine is ringed with two yellow rings, so he's on the left
Fri 11th Jan - I had to go out early today, so left Santa in the nestbox and hoped for the best. When Hubbie fed the birds at lunchtime he texted me to say Santa was still in there - and when I got home at 1.30pm he obviously hadn't been out. When all the doves and pigeons were around, I got him out and put him on the table, so I could supervise him learning about the world outside the cote. Sky and Summer flew to join him - the light was already not very good for taking photos, but here is Santa on the right, Summer in the middle and Sky on the feed tray - with random pidge!

 Santa exercised his wings, and flapped about.



Possibly trying to get his parents' attention


I didn't see either of them feed him - though now at this stage it would be solely Sky's responsibility to do so - and when they flew away he pecked nicely at the little grains I'd put down specially for him


Gradually, I need to feed him less and less so that he continues to feed himself. At the moment I am only feeding him about 3.30pm, before dark and before he goes into the cote for the night. Later, Sky flew to the empty nestbox and sat in there, trying to encourage Santa to fly up to him - Come on Son, you can do it! While Mummy Summer sits on the hedge...... but Santa doesn't even try.....


When they give up, I take over to give Santa flying lessons - still unsuccessful. He can only fly the shortest distance of about 12 inches!!!! Any longer and he plummets to the ground.

37 day old white dove squab - immature and can't fly well


Blogger have changed the way I can upload photos to my blog, making it less convenient and easy, so I am currently using jpegbay - see details below - I'm not sure if it will come out as a link. I must credit and thank them for this, and I use them for ebay listings too. They are TOTALLY free, with no catch whatsoever, very easy to use - and I (and you!) can have as many pics as necessay - even hundreds! - all FREE! - free eBay image hosting

Mr. Sunshine and Miss Tina mate on top of the dovecote
White doves mating on top of dovecote

And I saw a woodpecker on the telegraph pole behind the cote -see him? - how on earth do they cling on in that position?


I am pretty sure that the woodpeckers we get in our garden are Great Spotted Woodpeckers as they are about the size of a blackbird, and the Lesser Spotted ones are only the size of a house sparrow.
Saturday 12th Jan was much the same for Santa, except there were dire weather warnings with very cold temperatures and snow forecast so I brought him in to the house for the night. Hubbie thinks I'm babying him, but I'm not prepared to lose him to frostbite!

Cloud sat on the bar of her open cage - most uncomfortable. She seems happy enough, but her condition is not improving, despite nearly a month of my care.



Here, in the photo below, she shows one of the classic symptoms of paramyxo - the twisting neck. Sometimes the birds with PMV take on a position called 'star-gazing' where they twist their neck completely round and stare at the sky.



Sunday 13th - The forecasters were wrong and the day started without being too cold. Santa took a step forward towards becoming an adult - he gave himself a bath! And it was his own idea!

Item Photos

Before the bath, he had been on the big table - he tumbled-jumped down, as he can't really fly, and walked around til he spied the bath.... then he took it from there. I was so surprised, and proud of him!

Afterwards he looked ...... adorable!


Get a towel, son!

It was cold though, and Santa started shivering and shaking, so I brought him in to sit in his box in front of the aga, to dry off, while we had lunch. When he was completely dry he felt as soft as if he'd been washed in Fairy Snow!

Afterwards, he went back into the garden when Sky and Summer were around, and I saw Sky give him several feeds, and he even begged and got one from Summer. But though this was a good day for Santa with some new experiences and plenty of inter-action with his parents and the other birds, I am beginning to think that he will never fly. He doesn't attempt to take off into the air, and any 'flying' he does is initiated by me, and is more long jumping! He's about 39 days old, and most of my previous squabs have fledged at 28-33 days old, and were capable of flying short distances from the first or within one or at most two days. Again, bad weather was forecast and I brought him into the house for the night.
Monday 14th Jan '13 - Woke up to a light snowfall

Doves and pidgies on the snowy roof

As soon as the birds arrived, I put Santa out on the garden table and his parents found him
Sky is with Santa, but Summer flew up to reclaim the nestbox!

Left - Sky feeds Santa. Right - Family portrait - left to right, Summer, Santa, Sky

Today, being Monday, I wasn't able to stay home all day watching out for Santa. I could've put him back in the cote, but I had no guarantee he wouldn't fly-tumble out or possibly be chucked out by Summer. And the mystery bird of a blog or two back has been seen again a few times, as recently as yesterday. I'm still not sure what it is - but it's some sort of bird of prey. I never get a clear photo before it flies off. What do you think?
I can't leave little Santa to be an easy target.





So, I made arrangements in Jose's old hutch, and Santa settled very quickly into his new quarters. This will now be his day home, and the wire cage will be fixed on when I have to go out to keep him in. Sky, if he wanted to, would be able to feed Santa through the wire, but daddy Sky seems to feed him in a very haphazard way - sometimes he gives him several feeds, and some none or one. And how much is in a feed anyway? - one grain or several? I have no idea. I am still giving him one hand-feed a day of at least 30 grains, and he does feed himself too but only tiny little grains.
Tue. 15.1.13 - Santa seemed to be eating a little more today. Like all squabs he sometimes pecks up inedible things like stones and sticks, but soon drops them. I give him as much time as possible on the ground with the other birds, and he wanders around the garden without fear when they are around. But as soon as they fly off, he walks, extremely quickly, back to the ground underneath the hutch, and looks up, waiting for me to replace him. He has already learnt that the hutch is home! I did experiment by putting him back into the nestbox in the cote when the other birds had gone, but Summer soon came back and I heard dreadful squeaking..... I couldnt see what was going on, but I am pretty sure Summer was pecking Santa not feeding him! It's not worth the hassle - Santa is just another dove as far as Summer is concerned and this is her nestbox! Sky did give Santa a feed or two today, but as Santa can't fly around with him, in the normal manner of young squabs following their parents, then he gets ignored most of the time. I suppose there is still a chance that he might fly but I'm not counting on it. If he can't, then he will take over Jose's hutch and be my special pet. That's lovely, of course, and I adore him, but it was never my intention to have him so tame. When I pick him up and hold him at my waist, he scrambles up my fleece, perches on my shoulder and then works his way up to my woolly hat!

Santa in his new home - Jose's name still on the door.....

41 days old and can't fly, poor little thing
Obviously there was something seriously wrong with tiny Snow, Santa's sibling, or he would have developed properly, and maybe Santa, though not obviously ill, has something wrong with his wings ..... maybe?

Santa baby!


I can't resist kissing the top of his still downy fuzzy head!

Wed. 16th Jan 13 - I knew I'd be out for at least two and half hours this lunchtime, so although Santa had time with the flock first thing, I felt it best to keep him in the kitchen while I was out, rather than the hutch, as it is bitterly cold, and I read an article on how badly the cold affects young doves.... scared me! I want to keep my little Santa baby warm and well! Later, when I could supervise I let him out again.

Oh, Mummy and Daddy have arrived!


Peeking out at Daddy in the hope of a feed!

More doves turn up to keep Santa company

But when everyone flies away.....

Little Santa can't fly off with them.....
I bought some peanut granules or 'nibs' today in the hope that Santa would like them - and he did! He can't eat a whole peanut, or even half a peanut (unless I feed it to him) but peanuts are very nutritious for him, so I'm glad he enjoyed them. He is also now drinking very well on his own - without me holding him and dipping his beak - and this is a relief and saves time! Today proved to be the day Santa had his last feed from Sky - aged 42 days.
Thursday 17th Jan 13 - Frosty in the morning. I took Santa out into the garden and surprisingly the only bird to come down was his big sister, Autumn, who joined him at the water bowl. Autumn is also Sky and Summer's squab hatched in the late summer, and the only surviving/visitor off-spring.

Santa (blue rings) with big sis, Autumn

Santa seemed to want to have another bath - in the small bowl above - flicking water onto his face and having a 'lick and a promise' so I put him in the blue water bath, and he happily splashed away. Sky and Summer came to have a look .... they do seem to recognise him as theirs....but are not fussed about looking after him particularly!


Left to right - Santa, Sky, Summer

   I picked up a poorly wood-pigeon near the road, and brought it home to look after ....I can't pass a bird in distress. Here's Martha .... but she's didn't last long, and was dead within a few hours. Although wood-pigeons are not my favourite birds, they do have beautiful subtle colours in their plumage.

Santa stays in the kitchen in the mid-afternoons. He learns to eat better - and quicker! every day. His bedtime, decided by himself, is usually about 4pm. The trouble is he often wakes up again about 9pm and starts 'peeping' and has to be re-settled. He is very vocal, 'peeps' a lot when I'm around or when he's eating in the kitchen, but though he spent time with Sky and Summer today, he didn't ask for, or get, a feed from them.

Friday 18th Jan '13 - Heavy snow!


Dovecote in the snow
 The pigeons turned up at the usual time in the morning - and I fed them of course, though it was never my plan to feed large numbers of feral pigeons! Mr. Strong was with them, but  only one or two other white doves. The doves did arrive eventually about 1pm, but I didnt see Sky and Summer all day, though they might've been there, so it's lucky Santa is not relying on them to feed and look after him! Of course a squab of his age - now 44 days - shouldnt be needing feeding anyway. They normally fledge by 32 days and then maybe are given supplementary feeds by their parents (mainly the male) for about 6 days more. The pigeons/doves hate any change - and snow is a big change! It took me a while to tempt them down to feed, but I'm not too worries about them as they are all well fed and would survive a two or three days without much food anyway, I reckon.... I hope!!!
The snow fell all day - the pidgies stayed on the roof, and shook themselves occasionally to remove the settling snow from their backs



I took Santa out in the afternoon to have a look round. He stayed on my arm, as I couldn't see it would be good for him to sink into five inches of snow on the lawn!


The snow makes Santa look a bit grubby! His front is still dirty from being in the nest box and feeding from his parents. A few more baths and he will be sparkling!
Saturday 19.1.13 -  I could see that the garden birds had been up before me!


And our adopted cat had plodded along the path to get her supper....


The pigeons and doves arrived en masse today - some of them missed out yesterday so they were all hungry


The cote had been ignored in yesterday's blowy blizzard, but today Mr. Sunshine and Miss Tina came back to stake their claim, and look beautiful!

Mr Sunshine (right) and Miss Tina
Doves on snowy dovecote


And Summer also came back to check that her nestbox wasn't filled with snow!


Santa was allowed to spend some time on the lawn where I'd cleared the snow to make a feeding ground, and on his table - which will always be Jose's table really.... And he made a friend! A little white dove, about the same size but obviously more mature, came and kept him company for a bit

Santa and his buddy

And later on, when Santa had been walking on the snow, he came back to the open kitchen door to be let in.......Clever boy! (or girl!)

To be cont.......