Saturday, 16 March 2013

Patience + Babies Ringed and Named

Sat. 9th March '13

The hawk struck at midday today, right where I was scattering grain on the lawn. The pigeon got away, but the hawk was in fast pursuit, and obviously I don't know the outcome. My birds were jumpy and nervous after that, and I didn't see my parents, Summer or Sky, all afternoon. By about 4pm I was getting concerned, but Summer turned up, and I thought 'thank goodness, now she will feed the babies' but something made them all fly off again, and I don't think she came back. I felt the babies' crops and they did feel like they had grain in them, and the babies were warm and seemed ok, so as it got darker I just put the feather-filled cashmere glove 'mummy' substitute in with them, and half blocked the entrance of the nest box, praying they will alright til morning. I am hoping that tomorrow Summer will be there feeding them by 7.15am as she was this morning. Sky just doesnt seem to bother - he is a hopeless father, it seems - sperm donor, nothing else! I need to read back on previous blogs to see what happened at this stage with Santa and Snow..... and snow is forecast for tomorrow night, But we struggle on....

Patience was very nervous today - when she was given the freedom of the conservatory, she just hid in various hidey-holes, and in the end I blocked her in with the wire cage again, to be safe.

Nervous pigeon finds a hidey-hole

Sunday 10th March 13 - I am writing this just before noon, and have had a stressy morning. Some pigeons and doves were up before I 'unblocked' the babies at 6.45am but none of the doves were Sky or Summer, and I have not seen them all morning. What birds were there were still nervous, flying off at the slightest movement, and there were not nearly as many of them as there usually are. I kept an eye on the cote all morning, but no sign of the parents. A few brave or desperate pigeons have been down, including my Charlie, but I have hardly seen any white doves today. The one spark of happiness in the gloom was that I saw my Autumn - Sky and Summer's baby from last July so now about 8 months old.  As you know I felt the babies (2 weeks old this weekend) had not been fed since yesterday morning, and I was getting very upset and worried, wondering when Summer at least would come back to them. I felt that at some point I would have to intervene though Hubbie felt they would be alright without feeding for a couple of days even.......I don't know about that! He was going out at 10.30am so I decided, without telling him, that if they had not been fed by 11am then I would do so. I made preparations using some of the stuff I had from the last time, but adapting them. I put some kitchen roll down an empty vitamin C tablet tube (to make it shorter) then I lined it with the cut off finger of a clean washing up glove, ready to fill with Kaytee mix (in a thick ketchup consistency). I defrosted peas and kept them in warm water - as per instructions on pigeon rescue - which says babies from 2 weeks old can have these. At 11am no parents, so I brought the first baby in. I've got no photos of all this because obviously it was difficult enough doing it, without trying to take pics! The baby didn't take to the filled tube, even though I put its beak down a few times - it got the mix all down its front - and so I decided to try a small pea, rolled in the mix - very messy! This went well, and so I fed it like that. I forgot to count how many peas! I felt its crop as you musn't over-feed them, and I didn't really know how much to feed, but when I thought it had had enough, and I could feel the crop squishy with peas, I stopped, and wiped its front and beak carefully so the mix wouldn't harden on it, especially round the mouth. Then I took it back to the nestbox, and got the other one. I wouldn't take both together in case the parents came back while I was doing it. I didn't even try the tube method with the second one, and just did the peas in Kaytee, so it was marginally less messy. I counted the peas this time and gave 16 - hope that's about right. Another reason I wouldn't want to over-feed them would be that if the parents came, I would want the babies to be clamouring to them for food, as usual. Poor little things, they have been squeaking all morning, trying to attract attention from parents that just don't come. My poor doves and pigeons - scared from the feeding ground and nesting site by the hawk! This neglect of the babies looks like it is maybe going to take on the same pattern as what happened to Santa and Snow though I do hope not. I feel sick with worry, and wish I hadn't got the cote at times like this. Thank goodness Mr. Sunshine abandoned his nest building - imagine if I had two lots of babies to worry about! I am going to a big Comic Relief fundraising event this afternoon and may not get back til 5.30pm or so...... I will just have to hope the babies get fed, and assess things again when I come home.
Later - Various doves and pigeons arrived - flew away - arrived.....flew away....and eventually at quarter to two, fifteen minutes before I had to leave, a good number came down, Sky and Summer with them, and Summer went in to feed. Thank God! Thank God! I watched and she stayed in there a long time, and after she'd fed them, I could see her eating from the small pot of food I tuck into the corner of the nest box. Just a minute or two before I had to go, she left the cote, and I nipped up the steps to feel the babies' crops. I knew they had been fed of course, but I wanted to see how full a full crop is, so I know in case I have to feed again. I waltzed out of the gate relieved, I can tell you, and enjoyed the afternoon, as I hadn't been able to enjoy the morning due to all the worry! I wasn't back til 5.30pm but Hubbie said that the doves had been in the cote at least twice that he saw. Maybe my worry was unfounded, and maybe I shouldn't have fed the babies, but it is impossible to know when or even IF the parents would come back - they might have been killed by the hawk, or abandon the nest, and how long do you wait? I am not sorry I fed them anyway, but hopefully I won't have to do it again. I made up a fairly stiff mix of the Kaytee and made it into little pills or grain sized balls. I then dried them out on the aga, and can keep in an air-tight box for if I need to feed again. I would dip them in water before I fed them, and also feed defrosted peas - note to self: buy petit pois, they suit the babies better for size!
Monday 11.3.13 - Very cold with wispy snow blowing around, but a far far better dovie day. The birds acted as normal, coming down to feed, and Summer was in feeding the babies at 7.10am. Today both parents fed the babies and both spent time in the cote,feeding and comforting them, giving them lots of 'mummy or daddy time'. Sky is now back in my good books! Here's the babies today...getting very well feathered up now.
Tuesday 12th March - again very cold, bitter, but the babies had several feedings from both parents. Despite rain and the passage of time, the lost feathers from Patience and other 'hawked' pigeons still blow round haunting the garden. Touch wood, but I haven't seen evidence of the hawk since Saturday. By noon, the sun was shining brightly and the conservatory was retaining the heat so I thought well it's three weeks today since Patience was attacked, and I will give her a bath! So I brought a tub of water into the conservatory and gave her a bit of a splash about. She struggled but possibly enjoyed it, who knows? Here she is afterwards, drying out, but looking very scruffy.


And here's a close up of her healing injury - I can never really examine at closely as well as I would like to, and there seems to be a horrible 'gluey' bit, but as hubbie cheerfully says 'It's better than it was before!'

Pigeon's healing injury 3 weeks after hawk attack

And here's Cloud relaxing and enjoying the warmth

She is so pretty, Cloud, and it is such a shame she is not recovering from her illness. The trouble is, I have a deadline of mid April when I go on holiday with my daughter and the kids for a few days and any 'home' birds will be in the care of hubbie who is staying home. I intend for Patience to have been released long before then as it is not for 5 weeks, but it looks like Cloud will be unreleasable - certainly unreleasable by then. I considered the options - and yes I did consider taking her to be euthanized but I quickly unconsidered it as it would only be an option if she was in pain or had no quality of life, and neither is true. You had only to see her sun-bathing today to know that she does enjoy life - and I am as sure as I can be that she is not in pain. You may be thinking 'Surely hubbie can look after a dove for a few days - even one that needs feeding?' and yes of course he can, but I am thinking long term for Cloud too. The only thing she can really do for herself is drink - as long as she has a fairly tall container to drink out of - but that's great that she can do that anyway. Her living arrangements get incredibly messy due to the large loose greenish poops she does - and I know mucking out doves would not be on hubbie's to do list, but she would survive a mess for a few days. So it looks like I will be keeping her and we will see what happens in the months ahead. In the summer, I would be able to put her crate out in the garden - or she could go in the hutch if I didn't need it - and get some sun and fresh air. I have now had Cloud inside for about 11 weeks with no improvement but according to this site recovery can take up to 12 weeks or more. So we are nearly on to 'or more'!
Mid afternoon Patience came back down into her box, so I shut her in and took her off to see my elderly neighbour who is confined to a wheelchair after a stroke. He used to feed the doves and pidgies for me in the past when I was away, and is always interested in them. So two new things for Patience today - a bath and a trip out!
When we got back to the conservatory again, I removed the grille from the front of the box and again she flew up to the rail. Before dark, I removed Cloud to her night box in the spare room, but Patience didn't come down from the rail and I didn't fancy upsetting her by chasing her around the room with a net, so I decided to just let her be. Presumably she will come down tomorrow to eat! and her box is there if she wants it. The conservatory gets very cold..... that's my only worry. But that's three new things now - bath, trip out and night on the rail.
Patience would ideally be released when she has totally healed, with feathers grown back, the weather settled and a bit warmer AND no more threat of the hawk - I have no idea how long all that would take and I will obviously have to compromise as her feathers may not grow back til the next moult time, or never. The important thing is the weather - I will see how it is next week. It is important not to release a pigeon until the weather forecast is reasonable for three days ahead, to give them a chance.
Patience and Cloud both are given pink (powder) vitamins and stuff called Magic which is supposed to 'keep birds in peak condition' - neither P or C is anyway near peak condition but maybe it helps!

Wed. 13th March - Through spying on Patience, I have seen her eating and there are poops on the paper under her favoured positions on the rail, so I am happy enough. I can't of course apply any more of the cream on her wound but it's a scab now and I don't think it's really necessary. I certainly won't upset by chasing her round to catch her, and it would be virtually impossible anyway - when I decide to release her, I will just open the conservatory doors wide to allow her to go.

5pm and a late-ish feed for a few pigeons because Summer was with them - and then suddenly the hawk was amongst us again! I heard crashing down on the other side of the hedge, practically in the river. I ran round to see and found the hawk on a pigeon but both flew off on my arrival. Of course the whole flock had disappeared, Summer with them, so I decided to pop the babies out of the nestbox and give them the feed that Summer wasn't able to! I just gave them small peas from the grain mix, and they ate quickly and happily - cute little things! What a scary world they will be entering.....when will this hawk nightmare can I release Patience?.....

Thurs 14.3.13 - The day was sunny but the weather forecast for the next few days is rain, so even without the hawk it wouldnt be a good time to release Patience yet. She makes a mess in the conservatory - how can one bird do so many poops? But I do put paper down under her favourite perches. The poops mean she is eating well on her own, so that's good.

Friday 15th March - The squabs previously have been ringed at about 18 days, and in fact this pair are today 20 days - well the eldest is - so after they had been fed by mummy and daddy and the doves had gone away, I took them out of the nest box together, and in to the kitchen to ring and name.


The largest one weighs about 313g - its sibling wouldnt keep still on the scale but is approx 290g - so they are good weights as the book says 300g for squabs of this age. The big one was ringed with a green ring on each leg and named Valentine (pronounced Val n teen - just my whim!) and the other with a blue ring on its left leg and pink on its right, and named Grace.  Valentine and Grace, are, at 20 days, the same age as poor tragic little Snow was when I first realised something was wrong with him (other than being very small and underweight) - they are both looking very well and normal and are far larger than Santa was at the same age so I am much more confident that they will be ok. Often I clean out the nestbox at this stage, pulling out all the sticks, but due to me putting down the 'nappy papers' and replacing them three times a day it is staying relatively clean, and also as the flies aren't about yet, I don't have to worry about m*ggots (yuck! I have a phobia about them). I will probably still have to do it in a few days or a week as there will be a lack of space, but I don't want to deprive them of their nest until I have to. They need the sticks for their feet to grip and develop properly, so I would never pull out the whole thing anyway.


I took them back to the garden - took a quick photo in natural light - then back to the nestbox so they didn't get chilled.

Sat 16th March - the weather is forecast very rainy and windy for the next few days. Not ideal for the release of a healing bird with a lack of feathers - so Patience will have to be patient and wait til mid week. I am keen to release her as she flies into the windows sometimes and I think she wants to go!

I can't get near her to see how the injury is healing - this photo is taken with me standing in the conservatory and the camera zooming up to her on the rail above. It looks like the 'gluey' stuff is coming off - hopefully all is healing underneath. I wish I could hold her and see it properly.


I found this poem by Louise M Alcott, the author of 'Little Women'  named the same as my blog- it's a bit twee I suppose but here it is anyway:

My Doves
    OPPOSITE my chamber window,
    On the sunny roof, at play,
    High above the city's tumult,
    Flocks of doves sit day by day.
    Shining necks and snowy bosoms,
    Little rosy, tripping feet,
    Twinkling eyes and fluttering wings,
    Cooing voices, low and sweet,--

    Graceful games and friendly meetings,
    Do I daily watch and see.
    For these happy little neighbors
    Always seem at peace to be.
    On my window-ledge, to lure them,
    Crumbs of bread I often strew,
    And, behind the curtain hiding,
    Watch them flutter to and fro.

    Soon they cease to fear the giver,
    Quick are they to feel my love,
    And my alms are freely taken
    By the shyest little dove.
    In soft flight, they circle downward,
    Peep in through the window-pane;
    Stretch their gleaming necks to greet me,
    Peck and coo, and come again.

    Faithful little friends and neighbors,
    For no wintry wind or rain,
    Household cares or airy pastimes,
    Can my loving birds restrain.
    Other friends forget, or linger,
    But each day I surely know
    That my doves will come and leave here
    Little footprints in the snow.

    So, they teach me the sweet lesson,
    That the humblest may give
    Help and hope, and in so doing,
    Learn the truth by which we live;
    For the heart that freely scatters
    Simple charities and loves,
    Lures home content, and joy, and peace,
    Like a soft-winged flock of doves.
    Louisa May Alcott

    Blog to be cont...


hopeinparis said...

Beautiful names for the babies, Faith, and little Cloud does indeed look content on her tummy in the sunshine. I can only imagine the worry about the hawk, though. I do hope it will calm down soon. Jane xx

Jayne said...

Lovely to read as always, Faith.

Thanks for the advise this week it most definitely helped, I fully understand how you worry so much about your flock now.

The Hawk is a problem, but it has to eat even though I hate its method and better than a needless cat kill.

Keep up the good work. Jayne x

CAMILLA said...

Lovley names you have chosen for the baby's, Faith. I so hope Patience will recover well, know that you are doing all the very best care for her.

Very worrying about the Hawk hanging about though, as I am sure you are too Faith.

Little Cloud is such a pretty Dove I see from the photo's. You are amazing Faith.!


CAMILLA said...

Lovley names you have chosen for the baby's, Faith. I so hope Patience will recover well, know that you are doing all the very best care for her.

Very worrying about the Hawk hanging about though, as I am sure you are too Faith.

Little Cloud is such a pretty Dove I see from the photo's. You are amazing Faith.!


CAMILLA said...

Forgot to say Faith, beautiful poem by Alcott.


Fennie said...

This might be a silly idea but we would all be living in caves still if someone hadn't had the silly idea of building houses. I was just wondering whether you could possibly feed the hawk - as far away from the pigeons as possible - but on top of a post put some dog meat or something like that. Maybe even some feathers too. The hawk might then be pleased to take that and give up on the pigeons. Probably wouldn't work - silly ideas don't have a high strike rate - but you never know.

I am starting to be worried by Fennie's non appearance. I have fancied he's been down in Mali, trying to bring peace to the Islamists. He may have got lost on his way back across the Sahara. I think you should draw and angel card for him.

Cloud looks so beautiful. I am sure she will recover. Maybe draw and angel cloud for her, too.

Faith said...

Thank you everyone for your comments - any feedback is always much appreciated. Glad it's going well for your pigeon Jayne, and I do understand the hawk has to eat, and that the way it does so is how nature intended (and they are beautiful birds!) but NOT in my garden if I can help it! Fennie, that's not such a silly idea - i've thought of it before, and tried it - leaving bits of offal on the fence posts - but the jackdaws etc just take any offerings, and it is beneath the hawk I think - it is programmed to kill!

Guernsey Girl said...

Reading your blog is like stepping into another world...thanks, Faith x