Thursday, 21 February 2013

Hawk attack! Eggs abandoned!

Tuesday 19th February 2013

(WARNING - blog contains distressing pictures)

My last blog was a quiet one. Things change in a blink of the eye. Santa was reluctant to leave my arm when I opened the door to the garden this morning, and none of the doves or pigeons were on the ground, which was odd. Suddenly, the flock on the roof flew off in a panic and Santa jumped off my arm, and flew to join them. Was it my 'early morning eyes' or was that a hawk? Oh my god, Santa is flying straight into the path of a hawk!

The flock wheeled round in the sky for many minutes before they eventually settled on the roof, and it was much longer before they came down for a feed. I couldnt see Santa but hoped she was on the roof .... or at least safe.

I hadn't actually seen a hawk I convinced myself, so maybe it wasn't.... but when I came back from shopping I found a pigeon lying on her back in her own feathers and blood. And then I saw she was still alive! The eye I could see was open and watchful, and she was breathing heavily. Dropping my bags on the path, I carried her in for examination, and it wasn't looking good.

Pigeon, still alive after hawk attack

It also wasn't good timing as my husband was bringing the land agent's man in for a meeting/rent review in one hour's time! There had been blood on the gravel, and there was blood over the pigeon's eyes, face and beak. One large area of feathers had been plucked away and there was some grazing. Another area was a bloody wound...... I gently wiped her face with a clean piece of old pillow-case dipped in tepid water. She felt cold to the touch and was obviously in shock, so I settled her carefully in a padded box which I put on top of the aga for warmth while I had a look at this page of Pigeon Rescue for advice

Pigeon, in shock after hawk attack, on top of aga for warmth
I had not got a sterile saline solution and not knowing whether it was the best thing to do or not I cleaned the wound with a tepid weak salt water solution. Then, knowing I couldn't have bowls of water and bloodied rags around and not being able to do anything more for the present, I tidied up and moved the boxed pigeon right at the last moment to the quiet of the spare room. As soon as the meeting was over, I went to see if Patience, as I call her (ot him!) was still alive. Thankfully she was and I brought her back to the kitchen again, and mixed up a rehydrating solution (I have got sachets of that). I dipped her beak a few times, and wasn't sure if she actually sipped or not. All this time, she had been lying on her back, with her feet up, and her head to one side. I had arranged her so that she was on a slope, to raise her head slightly. Suddenly, she perked up, struggling, and turned herself over so that she was standing - hopefully this is a good sign. I decided to offer the rehydration solution every half an hour and keep her in the quiet under the table between times.


Feral pigeon offered rehydrating solution after hawk attack

The dark patch above her beak that you can see in the photos turned out to be a bit of leaf, stuck on with blood.... the vet removed it.

I don't usually take pigeons to the vet, as I am not in the postion to be able to afford treatment for feral birds, but I have taken a few, and they know me there as that's where I used to take my little dog, and the vet himself is a wonderful man. They were in theatre all afternoon and the first appointment they could give me was 4pm! So now the only thing I can do is wait.... and blog! My only other alternative would be to take Patience to - this is local but I felt they would probably just euthanize her as not a single pigeon I have taken there has been returned to me. I'm not saying it's not a marvellous place because it is, but I don't think they would've given her a chance.

About an hour after I discovered poor Patience, and just before the men turned up, I had another horrible shock! The dovecote was empty! Had Sky heard or seen the hawk attack and abandoned the eggs? Was he off them when I came home? When had he left them?  Oh no, this is really too awful - they were due to hatch on Friday! I felt them and they seemed to me to be cold....... Oh Sky, surely if you had just hunkered down and kept quiet in the nest, the hawk wouldn't have even seen you!  There was nothing I could do, but keep the one little hope that Sky or Summer would come back, and maybe, just maybe, the eggs would be ok. Sky and Summer have both left these eggs, and other eggs, for a very short time, while they have a quick drink, or feed, but I have no idea if it is possible for cold eggs to be warmed up, and the chicks inside still be ok. I am so sad about this......

The birds are always spooked after an attack, and it takes them a while to get back to normal. I couldn't see Santa anywhere....... I hoped she was safe, my poor tender little bird. I don't think my readers will think I was selfish in being thankful that the hawk's victim was not Santa. I don't think she would've survived an attack like that.

A while later, possibly as long as an hour, but I don't know as we were having the meeting, I saw Sky come back and enter the nestbox. He settled down on the eggs, but again, I don't know if he would know if he'd left them too long......I pray those poor little chicks inside the eggs will survive.

Later - I took Patience to the vet as planned and had to say that she was just a feral pigeon and I was hoping he would do what he could for her today, but I wouldn't be making return visits. He is a very understanding vet and he didn't even suggest that he should just put her down. The damage seemed to me to be worse that when I had looked earlier but he didn't think it was beyond healing.  Patience struggled a bit, and when he weighed her (so he knew how much antiobiotic to give her) she walked off the scales, so she has some spirit and zest for life left. The vet gave her some oral antiobiotics and the rest for me to administer for up to 10 days, twice a day, and some gel to put on her wound. He applied the first lot to show me how. This deluxe treatment cost me over £49 and I was glad hubbie didn't ask how much when I got home. Should I really spend more on one ordinary pigeon than it costs to feed the whole flock for more than a week? I don't know.... but I did. The universe will repay me somehow!

At home, there were still a few white doves and pigeons left on the roof. I couldn't tell if Santa was among them as now she is getting bigger and less easily picked out among others. Hubbie, very kindly indeed, had left the back door open for her to come in, and he said she HAD been down with the others when he threw some grain down. Thank goodness! - it would've been a bad day today indeed if I'd lost my Santa baby too.

During the afternoon, at some point, Sky and Summer must've changed over. Summer obviously doesn't feel anything is wrong, and it would be easy for me to think that too as it looks so normal, but my fear now is that she is sitting on eggs that are never going to hatch. Well, said Hubbie, for all you know they were duds in the first place......I'd rather they were duds than those poor little things died in the eggs.

I offered Patience more of the rehydrating mix and this time she had quite a few sips.... more than that, a little drink, so I felt pleased and more positive about her chances of survival.

Soon, Santa came in and I was able to give her some peanuts, and when I snapped the door shut on her box knowing she was safe for one more night then I was relieved.  But will Patience survive the night? The pigeon rescue site recommend leaving the pigeon til the next day before trying to get it to eat. My vet suggested seeing if she can eat on her own before hand-feeding her.

My relief at having Santa in only lasted til I started to worry about tomorrow. I have to be do I keep her in for most of the day, or do I let her be free? Obviously one day in doesn't hurt her, but I do feel very strongly that these birds were born free and I shouldn't really be keeping a healthy bird in. I know that hawk strikes and other things can happen even if I am around...... Jose was caught by the dog when I was in the house; Glory was killed by the hawk when I'd gone back to bed for 40 winks..... I can't be watching the garden all the time, even when I am at home. Though some of my fantasies involve having someone sit in the garden all day keeping guard of my precious birds!!!!

Wed.20th Feb. 13 -  I went in to the spare room to Patience first thing - it was still semi-dark and I like the birds to have natural light so I didn't put the lights on. I could smell her.....not a sweet smell like Santa, but not unpleasant.....but in the gloom I couldn't tell if she was alive or dead. When my eyes adjusted, I was pleased to see she was alive. So Patience had survived the attack AND survived the night - amazing! I fetched her a drink in the little glass, and though I don't like handling her as I fear hurting her, I gently wrapped her in a cloth and she drank thirstily. I imagine she would be thirsty after losing blood and bodily fluids. The morning was very murky and misty, so it was an easy decision to keep Santa in. So Cloud was in her crate, shut in, and Santa was in her box but free to fly around in the conservatory - and Patience was staying in her box in the spare room, as I feel the conservatory is too cold, and I wanted her to have peace and quiet. I decided to follow the pigeon rescue advice of hand feeding defrosted warm peas, and not waiting to see if she ate on her own. I thought she was in need of a bit of a boost rather than wait and see! The hand-feeding went well, and hubbie helped me do the meds. So Patience was left alone, with food and water, for the morning.

Pigeon survives the night -  the morning after a hawk attack
I came back specially at lunchtime to see Patience, and gave her another drink and another small feed of defrosted peas.
Now, I must tell you this.... and I assure you it's true, and I know my RL friend, blog-reader Hari, won't be surprised as it is the sort of thing we believe in, but when I came home at lunchtime the post was waiting for me on the mat, and there were two envelopes with a Glasgow address on the back - and I know what that means! Ernie has remembered me! 2 x £25, so £50 from the Premium Bonds and pretty well the exact amount I spent yesterday on Patience's vet bill! Thank you Universe, I wasn't expecting to be repaid so very quickly!

After my brief visit at lunchtime, I had to go out again, but came back before 3pm and it was sunny, so I let Santa out to get some fresh air. Patience was given another hand-feed of defrosted peas and this time I added some of the smaller-sized peas picked out of the usual grain. Hubbie was out and I wanted to give her her meds on time so I managed to do it myself, but 'juggling' a wounded but feisty pigeon and filling a little syringe etc is not very easy, and in the morning I'll get him to hold her again for me.

I feel Patience's next milestone will be if she gets through day and night 3. Other ill birds I've had often seem to get through the first two days/nights and then die on day or night 3. Fingers crossed for Patience - I wish you could see her ' bloody but unbowed' - she's wonderful!

Thurs 21st Feb 13 - Patience was still alive - actually I didn't expect her not to be. At night I cover the box with a blanket - with just a little gap for air - but now I uncovered her and moved her to the side of the room near the window so she has daylight. She drank thirstily again, hubbie helped by holding her while I did her anti-bios with the syringe and then I hand-fed her with defrosted warm peas, a few hard peas and just a peanut or two.

Patience - second morning after hawk attack

Before I put her back in her box I have to do the gel on her wound. I wanted to take a photo beforehand but this is not easy as she doesn't want to lie down in the vulnerable position she was in with the hawk - but I managed it. Then I put the gel on, and left her alone, with food and water, to rest in peace and quiet.


I know Patience is digesting her food as she has pooped in her box - I put some on clean paper to examine and show. I don't think they are quite as moist as they should be, but not bad.
On the other hand, Cloud - who has paramyxovirus - has horrible messy unformed green poops - I thought I took a photo but I can't find it.and Santa who I assume is a reasonably healthy young bird has very neat little poops, almost likes she arranges them on the edge of the paper!

Later - My three 'home birds' - Cloud, Santa and Patience - are taking up a lot of my time! I just gave Patience her afternoon water, antiobios, feed and gel, plus a bit of cleaning up and that alone took 15 mins. I don't grudge any of it but it's hard to get everything done in a day. Really two home birds is as much as I can do - three max!. I found a brick in the garden and cleaned it up for Patience so that she can have a proper perch - pigeons like a brick in their box. I read somewhere 'if you save a pigeon's life, it will pray for you' - well Patience I hope you will pray for me if you live, I am certainly praying for you! Cloud should pray for me, but I'm sure doesn't, she isn't terribly grateful!
Santa usually comes in about 4.30pm. Here she is up on the roof with the last of the birds - there are two pigeons on the left, then a gap, and the next one is Santa.

You may not be able to see from the above but the last pigeon on the right has a stick in it's beak - it's half past four, not the right time of day for nest building!

And now they have all gone except that little speck which is Santa! - come in darling it's so cold!

As far as I am aware Sky and Summer have not left the nest unnecessarily since the hawk strike, and it's hatching day tomorrow! And day 3 for Patience. Que sera sera....
To be cont...


Val said...

Oh my goodness! 'Am following along and hoping for the best. 'Glad you got him/her all snuggled up and safe.

Faith said...

Thanks Val. It was a nasty experience but I am hoping she'll pull through.

Fennie said...

Never a dull moment. Glad everything is going well at the moment. Fingers crossed the eggs will hatch. Wish Fennie would come back though.

hopeinparis said...

Really hope Patience has pulled through the 3rd day and will survive, Faith. Btw, Patience was the name of my Hope's mother. In any case, I am sending healing energy! xx Jane

Faith said...

22.2.13 - Patience doing well. She is very very nervous, understandably, but eating and drinking well - and slowly healing, I think. Thanks for all the good vibes.

Linda Roberts said...

I am eager to follow and find out how Patience does. Will be thinking about this brave wee lass tonight and will say a prayer to god for her recovery. Thank you so much for the vet care and kindnesses you have shown this feral. I love ferals. Pigeons are also doves: columba livia ("rock dove). I have 2 feral pmvs at the moment that I will keep. One requires hand feeding, the other not.

Faith said...

Hi Linda, thanks for reading my blog, and for your prayers for Patience. I'll be updating on her progress soon.