Friday, 1 March 2013

A BIG surprise! and Patience's progress

Fri 22nd February 2013
(Warning - some pictures in this blog you may find upsetting)

If you read my last blog you will know that I found a pigeon on my path on Tuesday very much wounded but still alive after a hawk attack.

Patience, as I call her, is very nervous, understandably, but slowly recovering. Since finding her and taking her to the vet, I have been keeping her in a dog carrying box in my spare room. Photos of her are on the last blog, and more to come later in this blog.

There was another attempted hawk strike this morning, and I was right there! It was about 8am, I was feeding the flock, when suddenly, out of nowhere as always, there was the hawk scuffling near the path with a pigeon (which got away)  and the birds all scattered, and as they went there was a low white streak, and I realised Summer had left the nest! My heart sank..... these poor eggs. Today was supposed to be hatching day, but the eggs were left on Tuesday and got cold, but I still hoped they would be ok, but now..... I popped my gloves over them to keep them warm, and in fact (yes I know I am bonkers!) I put some other pairs of gloves on the aga, and as the first pair cooled I swapped them over, and did this several times. Eventually it was 40 mins since Summer had left, and I was babysitting for my daughter so I removed the gloves and left the garden - hope all gone. Except for that tiny glimmer of hope for a miracle! I think these eggs are doomed though and I feel dreadful about it.

When I came home a few hours later, a parent was on the nest and when the doves came to feed, Summer was with them, so I knew it was Sky. I have resigned myself to the eggs not hatching, and I expect Sky and Summer to realise it in a day or two and abandon the eggs totally. I wish it was otherwise but I can't see how it can be.

This morning I had made the decision NOT to put Santa out while I wasn't going to be there to keep an eye out, and when that hawk swooped I knew I'd made the right one! But Santa was sitting looking forlornly out of the conservatory window when I got home, so I allowed her out. I can't keep her in all day, every day - she must take her chance but I hope she's spared to grow up through this spring and summer. I have only just noticed - probably because I have been concentrating on Patience and Santa - that Autumn is missing. Another sadness. I hope she hasn't been a hawk victim too. I hate this time of year - I am afraid to come back to my own garden for what I might find. I can't really relax in the afternoons til Santa comes in and keep checking the roof! The last few days, hubbie has not be here at around 4 - 4.30pm - luckily, as I have a bit of difficult getting her in. I leave the kitchen door open, and then when I peep and see Santa is hovering in the doorway, I go quickly out of the conservatory door, through the garden, and come back to the kitchen thus blocking her exit, and so I can shut the door behind me. If I try to close the door when she's just come in - it usually results in her getting nervous and retreating to the garden, and then we have to start all over again. Today she came through to the sitting room, and I took a quick snap of her on the armchair before capturing her and taking her off for peanuts and bedtime!

Sat 23.2.13 - Rarely have I had such a stressful dovie day, but let's start at the beginning. I wanted to go out to do a big shop so decided to keep Santa in - it was bitterly cold anyway, with little snowflakes being blown about in the wind. Obviously, I fed the flock, dealt with Cloud, Santa, and Patience. I took some photos of Patience - it's four days since the attack.

Here she is wrapped up in a tea-towel, while I give her her meds and feed her - the spotty things are my knees in pyjamas! I wrap her up in several cloths/towels, so she is a nice 'bundley' shape and then I can hold her between my knees, leaving both hands free to use the syringe for the anti-bios etc

Afterwards, she escaped to the far end of the bed...
Pigeon recovering from hawk attack
She is very scruffy of course after her horrific experience, but standing well, eating and healing.
I left Santa in the conservatory.....I hate her being in the same room as Cloud but have no other option - she doesn't like the hutch. I shut Cloud in so Santa can't enter her crate, as she did once. Poor Santa didn't get outside at all today - read on to see why....but she does have the freedom of the conservatory.
When I came home from shopping, I thought all was well, until I spotted the hawk between the hutch and the run, standing on top of a pigeon. I couldn't tell at first if the pigeon was alive or dead.
But when the hawk moved it to the raised bed, I could see it was dead. I hope it died quickly, but it's a horrible way to go....
Surprisingly, while the hawk was still in the garden, there were a row of birds on the roof!
I went inside to see Cloud, Santa and Patience and hoped to be able to see from the conservatory if either parent dove was in the cote, but I couldn't tell. I didn't want to frighten the hawk from it's meal as then it would only kill another bird, and the pidg was dead so it might as well eat...... I think the grey sparrowhawks are the males, and the females more brown, but I am not entirely sure which this one was, and I don't care. I made a miserable mug of tea and waited, and when it eventually left I popped out to look in the cote. No-one inside, which wasn't a surprise. I felt the eggs and they were cold BUT then as my eyes accustomed to peering into the dark of the nest, I realised that - oh my god - one had started to crack! Could the baby really still be alive? I carried the cracked egg out and put it in a rough nest of tea-towels and gloves, whatever I could grab, on top of the aga.... and watched. As the fissure widened, I could see a tiny little translucent moving beak! This baby WAS alive!
Pigeon egg hatching on top of the aga

Truly I could hardly believe it.....the miracle I had hoped for was happening! I went and got the other egg, and put it next to the hatching one in the warm. And then I went and popped one of my plastic eggs in the nest so if either parent came back they would see an egg and hopefully stay. My book 'Feral Pigeons' says 'Young hatch without active help of parents, but the presence of parents is required for regulation of temperature'.  That is why I interfered - to keep the hatching baby and the other egg warm until a parent came back.
20 minutes later one of the parents entered the nestbox. I zoomed over with the two eggs wrapped in the folded over cloths and aga pad, and put them under her (or him) - but it was probably Summer. She didn't seem to mind - Summer is far more amenable and tame than Sky is. I felt much relieved and now hoped that everything would be ok. I took her a little pot of grains and peanuts so she had food to hand and didn't need to leave the cote. A while later, it started to snow a little more heavily, and several birds came down for a feed - Sky amongst them. He did a change-over with Summer and was now in charge. I wasn't exactly delighted as he isn't as conscientious as Summer, and when something made the already nervous and jumpy birds fly off, he left the nest and flew off with them. The eggs were alone once more! I waited five minutes but the birds didn't come back, so again I had a look inside the cote.
Dove squab hatching

The baby was wriggling and was further out of the shell than it had been before. (In the photo, the white and brown thing you can see at the front is actually a poop!). What to do now? Sky had still not come back, and as far as Summer was concerned it was his watch and she might not come back for a couple of hours! I did the same as before, carried the eggs inside to my makeshift nest on the aga.
Baby dove hatching on top of the aga

The baby continued to hatch out of the egg in front of my fascinated gaze! It was tiny, but somehow bigger than I thought it would be. You can't see it in the photo, but I brought the unhatched egg in too the second time. I did not interfere with the hatching at all, as I know that can be dangerous - I just let it happen. By the time Sky came back half an hour later, the baby was totally hatched, and I was thinking that I could feel something.......movement... in the other egg but I wasn't sure. I took the hatchling and the egg back to him, and then did something I have never done to the adult birds before - I blocked him in with one of the square mesh feeding pan things. I had an event to go to, and wanted to make sure he stayed in with the baby and egg while I was gone, no matter what happened. I was pretty sure I'd be back before Summer wanted to come in for the night. When I got back, I could see that the hawk had re-visited it's kill as there were more feathers everywhere.Sky seemed perfectly content though, settled well back in the nest-box. I unblocked him of course and tried to keep a watch out for Summer, but I had Patience to attend to and may have missed the change-over. There is definitely a parent there for the night, and normally it would be Summer so I assume it is. "Aren't you amazed the egg hatched?" I said to Hubbie. "No" he said "Nature is very powerful".  I am worn out......
Sun 24 Feb 13 - 8am - I allowed Santa out with the flock as I am home to keep an eye on the garden. Later on there were a few pigeons, and one white dove on the roof that was not Santa, so she has flown off with them, and I can only hope she gets back safely.
Here is a photo of Cloud today..... I don't know what I am going to do with her..... she's not getting any better or doesn't seem to be.....
White dove with paramyxovirus

I have made an emergency nest in a round sweet tin lined with bits of old towel - which I hope I don't have to use - and put it under the kitchen table, just in case. This means that if the baby or babies are left again, I can pop them in that til the parents come back. Squabs really need a parent with them continuously for the first 7 days - according to my book - until they can thermo-regulate.
Yesterday when I was panicking about the babies I contacted the lady from this site and she was very helpful and supportive, and mentioned this site  as she felt the people there might take my babies if necessary. I do urge you to have a look at Raven Haven - there are all sorts of interesting stories about the original rescued raven, Tarquin, and a blog about the continuing work going on there. If you want to have a laugh find the bit about the Poop Pick game! In my ignorance, I thought there were only ravens at the Tower of London and in Scotland but according to my research there are even breeding populations in my home county of Surrey. From what I've been reading they are intelligent and fascinating birds. There's a little video of them on the Tower of London site. Charles II sounds like a man after my own heart! His astronomer, John Flamsteed, complained that the ravens impeded the business of his observatory in the White Tower but Charles instead of getting rid of the ravens, insisted they were protected, and moved the astronomer instead! 
Later - all has been quiet with no unwanted visits from the hawk, but my Santa didn't return at any point during the day. I checked for her, of course I did....and just before dark drove round the farm having a little look, but I am very much hoping she is with other birds from the flock and will turn up tomorrow. She can't pick up anything except tiny little grains, and there is not much natural food around but, knowing I was putting her out, I gave her quite a good hand-feed this morning with plenty of peanuts. My Santa baby - aged 81 days - has finally grown up and left home (sad face).
Monday 25.2.13 - A few early pigeons and one white dove were on the roof first thing this morning. I was delighted that the dove was Autumn who has been missing for about a week. It always pleases me when a missing bird turns up as it goes to show that they can fend for themselves. But I'm not so sure that Santa can, and she didn't come back today. You may wonder why I let her out at all, but remember this was by no means the first time she had been out, and she had always returned to the cottage door to be let in.... and I didnt have any reason to keep her in. She may still come back, I do hope so.
But better news.... when Summer was in the cote, I went up the steps to fill her little pot of grains, and took my camera, just in case..... and yes, I could see a fluffy yellow baby. The baby is ok, hurrah!
I'm not sure what part of it you can see in the photo - maybe it's foot?

And later, I couldn't resist having another peep, and I could see both of them. The other egg did hatch and both the new babies are alive and well. To me this is incredible because it goes to show that eggs can be left in the nest - in a very cold February - for an hour or even more and become totally cold, and still hatch. These babies will be the first squabs from my cote that I know exactly how old they are! I know for absolute sure that the first egg was there on the early morning of Monday 4th Feb (I checked back on my blog for when I saw it
Tomorrow will be a week since Patience was attacked, and how is she? I decided to have a good look at her today, as much as she would let me, and take photos. I let her out to stand on her box and I gave her a kiss on her little head before I put her back!



 I put out a pot of water to see if she would drink on her own, but she didn't.
The next two photos show her wound close up - so if you don't want to see skim over them quickly.
I presume the wound is healing but to my inexperienced eyes it doesn't look that great. I don't know what the yellow thing is - it looks like a piece of maize. If it is it must mean the crop is ruptured but how can it be as she eats whatever I feed her, drinks and does normal poops? It doesn't smell, or only very slightly, and I am still using the gel the vet gave me. I always that it was good for a wound to scab over but apparently not, the best thing is 'moist healing' - which is what the gel is for - and if you google that you will find a lot of interesting information. I've also found what looks like a super product Medihoney Wound Paste but it doesn't seem available in this country - has to come from USA, and is expensive. I'd like to try it though as I believe in honey for healing.
Tuesday 26th Feb 13 - another horrible hawkey day. There was an attempted strike at just after 11am and Sky bombed it out of the nestbox. I had seen the change-over and wished that I had blocked him in, but too late now. Sky, in a crisis, panics and freaks out so I must stay calm and carry on! I looked at the fuzzy little yellow babies in the nest, still with the plastic egg! - and waited some minutes but although other birds returned to the roof Sky didn't come back, so I removed the babies to the emergency nest I had made, and put it on top of the aga. From then on I kept one eye on the cote for the return of either parent - this meant I stayed in the kitchen, washed up, swept the floor, made soup, kept checking the babies, and looked at the cote every 2 seconds. The flock came for lunch at noon and Summer was with them. She ate but didnt even glance at the cote, and went away again. Although I enjoyed having the opportunity of seeing the babies and photographing them, I truly hate this happening and find it very stressful. The babies seem plump and healthy, making audible little noises, and they settled down happly in my nest. Adorable blind little things.

Four day old white dove squabs

Hubbie came home and we ate lunch, and at 12.55pm  (nearly 2 hours after the nest was left) one of the parents entered the box so I ran out with my tin nest and popped the babies back in. The parent tried to peck me, but within seconds the babies were underneath him or her and all was well. I didn't know then which parent it was. Other birds were still around so I got some more grain and was feeding them, when swoooooosh right in front of me the hawk swooped past into the midst of the flock. I was up the steps and blocking the nestbox up, quick as a wink, and then down to see the path on the other side of the hedge as that's where the hawk had gone. It had caught a pigeon, but saw me and flew off. You may think I should just let it have it's prey - after all it will only strike again and again until it kills - and I might be inclined to do so IF it would kill the bird it captures with just one cruel flash of a talon.... but it doesn't...... it holds them down, plucks the feathers off and eats the unfortunate thing alive. I just can't calmly get on with the next thing I would be doing knowing that is happening. My next task was to offer Patience her lunch-time drink of water - it would be crazy to be trying to save her while another bird knowingly suffers and dies in the garden - I just can't do it. The pigeon it caught flew to the hedge and wedged itself in, staying very still. I went to see if it was ok, but it wriggled through and flew away. Today was a lucky day for that particular pigeon!
I kept the block up on the cote for an hour, and then removed it, popping some peanuts in the little dish as compensation. The parent stayed in for the rest of the afternoon, and no more change-overs were done, so I know that it was Summer. I didn't see Sky til much later...... and still no Santa.
When I talk about the 'flock' I don't mean that all the birds are there at all the feeds. I presume they live in different locations, and are different groups. I see birds that I recognise or that I have ringed at different times of day. Goodness knows how many there are in total....but the hawk will diminish the numbers.
I had hoped to move Patience from the spare room to the conservatory today, as it is lighter and more interesting, but the conservatory is very cold, so I have decided not to try to hurry her on to the next stage til the weather warms up a bit. I just feel she must be a bit bored and lonely.

Back to the hawk problem - I can't stop worrying about it, and I don't know why. It is totally out of my control.  I know that there will always be hawks (and there will always be doves) and it is inevitable that some of my doves/pigeons, including the special ones, will get killed by the hawk. I even just now googled 'how to stop worrying' and one thing suggested to do is keep a journal/write about it - which is what I am doing now anyway! I have to accept that I can't protect these new babies from being left, and possibly dying from the cold (or being taken by a corvid), as I can't stay in the whole time. But I just know that if I come back home and find the nest parent-less and the babies dead I will be devastated. There seems no solution. 

Wed. 27th Feb 13 -  When I got Patience up this morning I found her standing on her brick - and the poops on the paper behind indicated she had probably been 'roosting' on it all night. That's the first time she's done that, so a good sign. I can't remember when I put the brick in with her - not at first as I didn't want her to hurt her injured bits on it, but it's been there for several days. This afternoon when I put her on top of her box while I quickly cleaned up inside, she tried to fly to the window - so she is definitely feeling better. I expect her wound will eventually heal fully, but I reckon she will always have a deep pit or scar there.

My garden was a HFZ - hawk free zone - today as far as I am aware, but I did see a pigeon in the late afternoon that had either lost an eye or damaged it. I couldn't get near enough to see. It also had tufts of feathers in two places on its back, which were evenly spaced and looked to me like the place where the hawk's talons had been, pulling up the soft under-feathers. It sat up on the roof above the cottage door until the early evening but didn't stay - luckily as that wouldn't be a very good spot.

No sign of Santa - I doubt I will ever see her again so I'm glad that one of the last photos I took of her is so sweet (the one of her standing on the armchair). To be honest, it makes me sad to think she has probably perished, so I try not to think of her like that. She was free to go, she went.... and now I must concentrate on the birds I do have here.

Thurs. 28th Feb - last day of February, goodness time does fly! - again HFZ thankfully as I had both my grandchildren all day and hadn't much time for attending to the birds.

Friday 1st March - Summer came out of  the nestbox to eat and relieve herself, so I got a glimpse and a photo of the babies for the first time since Sky left then on Tuesday. They've got their backs to us in the photo.

Today was a big day for Patience as I decided today was the day she needed to move on from the spare room to the conservatory - it was grey and mizzly but not too cold and I didnt move her til 1pm and put her back in the bedroom at 4.30pm. Most of the time she stayed at the back of her box - on a wrapped Snugglesafe hot water bottle...... (these microwave flat pads are great for poorly pets) Mine was the same price at my local pet shop though.

 At about 3.45pm she ventured into the 'outside' area....


At the afternoon meds/feed she struggled out of her holding cloth  (smashing my sweet tiny glass tankard that I've had for 30 years in the bargain - naughty Patience!) She didn't fly, just fluttered about on the table. The gel the vet gave me has run out, but I have a bird skin cream that I use and will continue on with that as the wound is still a bit nasty. Earlier on in the day I ringed her with a blue ring and will do another one tomorrow.

At 2.35pm the flock on the lawn were startled off, although I didn't see the hawk - and it may not have been the hawk, Sky followed his annoying pattern of abandoning the babies. I waited 5 mins and then took them in.

 The eldest is 6 days old now and has his eyes just open - the other's are still closed. I made a little ring mark on the eldest's leg with waterproof pen to mark it.

It was 20 mins before even one pigeon scout was back on the roof, but eventually there was a little line of them, including three white doves. I threw peanuts and they came down, but they weren't Sky or Summer. I kept watch, and hubbie came in for tea just before four, and still no parents. It's been an hour and a half now. Will I have to keep the babies in for the night, and hope Summer comes back  in the morning?

To be contd...




Fennie said...

I am wondering whether the yellow you saw on Patience could possibly have been fat. I have seen birds with fat almost the colour of custard, especially if they have been eating maize. Don't run yourself ragged, on the other hand you are collecting loads of Karma points.

hopeinparis said...

Oh, Faith, how magical to watch the dove hatch on the aga! In your place I would have the same worries about the hawk and the eggs. Somehow my intuition tells me that Santa-girl is OK, somewhere,

Gemma Howlett said...

I found your blogs today. Very informative. We have some White doves and one rehomed racing pigeon called mike.
We have kept diamond doves and laughing doves.
But new to the larger doves and pigeon keeping.

We thought about a dovecote, but decided on an aviary for them, due to a hawk on one of our aviaries last year, killing a splendid hen. And cats.

Will our doves still live a happy life in a flight? As apposed to a free life in a cote?

Loved reading your blogs, will keep checking back to read new posts. ;)