Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Destiny and Liberty, Fennie and Dolly - and their parents!

Tuesday 21st May 2013 - Big baby Destiny fledged yesterday at about 32 days. Younger sibling Liberty peeked out but didn't fledge. Later on, I found that Destiny had put himself in one of the side compartments of the cote, but Liberty was in the nest box with BOTH parents. In the photo below, it looks like a small baby cuddled between two bigger parents, but in fact Liberty is on the left (you can tell she is young from her beak) and then probably Summer in the middle and Sky on the right.

Sky and Summer

 Summer decides to leave the cote

It is obvious that Sky and Summer want the nest back to start a new family. I wish they wouldn't get ahead of themselves so much. Why can't they rear one set of babies properly before they start the next? As you know from the last blog Summer already laid two eggs when the babies were only 3 weeks old or so, which Sky abandoned and they came to nothing.

I thought Sky and Summer might stay the night, packed in with Liberty, and I even gently and quietly tucked up the little babies in the back nest while the others were all in front, but at 7pm after an hour or more inside S and S came out onto the roof and eventually flew away. I left Destiny in the side and Liberty in the old nest box, as they were settled.

Today - Sky had roused himself to arrive early in the garden with Summer, Lucky and Charm, and a few other white doves. Normally a few pigeons are the first to arrive in the garden, but it was the white doves today. Once I see Lucky I know Charm is there too, and I am not worried about the little babies - I know they will get fed! Sky and Summer didn't feed or take any interest in their squabs as far as I could tell. They ate some breakfast, and Sky chased Summer round the garden, before they retired to the roof. I didn't see Destiny get fed yesterday, so I did actually take him out of the side box, give him a few grains and peanuts and pop him back in with Liberty, in the hope that at some point during the day S and S will remember they are parents, and feed their babies. Of course, these big babies can feed themselves, I am pretty sure, but if they don't come out of the cote they are not going to find much food!

I don't normally name the babies until I ring them, but I decided on Lucky and Charm's babies' names a while ago, and told Fennie, my blog reader, that I would be naming the dark baby Fennie in memory of my previous white dove, Fennie. So we have a new little Fennie, and the white baby will be named Dolly, after another blog reader's (Hopeinparis) adorable 'pet' feral pigeon that she sadly no longer sees. I saw a photo of that Dolly and she was truly sweet. Fennie and Dolly are far feistier than any other pair of babies I have had - they rear up and spit at me like fluffy snakes whenever I peep into the cote, and snap when I try to change their nappy paper.  Their nest-box is pretty dirty and flies go in and out which isn't very nice. It's also much wetter than most doves' nests I have been involved with! Maybe Lucky and Charm bring the babies too much water! The front box is ok now, as Destiny and Liberty have learned to poop out of the opening, so they don't need nappy paper!

Later, I did see Summer feed at the cote, but whether both squabs got fed it is hard to tell. I am out for a long while today, so hope all will be ok while I'm gone.

3pm - Both babies still in the front nest box where I left them this morning and Summer was squashed in with them. She is definitely thinking about laying again. And I saw Lucky and Charm mating too!

Evening - Summer has stayed the night (Sky has gone 'home'). The nest-box is so squashed with 3 quite big birds inside that one of them has had to sleep with it's tail sticking out!

But will there be an egg in the morning?

Wed 22nd - Yes! An egg! I saw it when Summer came briefly out of the nest box onto the raised bed - for minerals and grit maybe? Baby Liberty fledged this morning (prob 34 days old) and came straight down to the ground, but Destiny hasn't been out. After a little while pecking around on the lawn below the cote, Liberty flew to the hedge and then to the side nest box where shortly Lucky came and routed her out! Oh dear..... he doesn't 'know' these babies and looks like he won't allow them to stay. Liberty tried again with another nest box and the same thing happened, so I grabbed her and put her back in with Summer and Destiny. Lucky can't get to her there when she's with mummy! And where was Sky? Not here of course! The birds arrived before 5.30am and it is now 7am but still no Sky! He should be here feeding the babies or at least trying to encourage them out on the hedge and looking after them in a fatherly way. I am so disappointed in him. It doesn't look like it will be a very sunny day and I am not here for the whole long morning, so I won't put Cloud in the hutch, but leave it open in case the babies need somewhere to shelter.

Later - I came home at 3pm and found both babies in the nest-box with Summer. I expect they had been there all day. Sky was not there and I had no way of knowing whether he had come, fed the babies and gone again, but I doubted it, and as Summer left the box, I took the opportunity to take them both out and feed them. In the normal way, the daddy dove should feed the babies for about a week after they fledge, and although they do peck up tiny seeds I doubt they'd get enough to survive on and keep themselves strong. The most important thing though is water - I make sure they both get offered a drink in a little glass - and I offer it several times to give them a chance to cotton on! After the feed, they fluttered around with Summer, and I saw one of them beg but I couldn't be sure if she fed or not. When she went back to the nest, Liberty joined her and Destiny put herself in another compartment, but Lucky wasn't around to object, thank goodness.

I thought Summer would stay the night, with Liberty and her new egg, but she kept peeking out and at twenty to eight she eventually flew to the roof, and away - leaving teenager Liberty in charge of the egg! This new egg has been laid only 12 days after she completed laying the 2nd egg of the previous ones. I expect she will lay a second one tomorrow - and then what? Will Sky accept the new eggs and do his duty sitting on them? Poor Summer, what a feckless husband!

I know some people will think I ought to just let the birds get on with it - survival of the fittest and all that - but I feel if I can just get Libby and Dessy over this difficult period then they have much more chance of survival full stop! - which is what it is all about really. And how could I let two sweet bewildered little birds go hungry when I have the means to feed them?

Thurs 23rd May 13 -  No Sky..... but the other parents were all here early, and when the flock had gone, and Charm was with her babies, Lucky and Summer sat on the roof, being good parents.


With their babies well fed, Lucky and Charm had some cuddling time on the roof...

As you know, Charm is a pure white dove with no distinguishing features and therefore impossible to recognise unless I see her with Lucky, or just flown out of the nest, so I had made up my mind to ring her if I got the chance. Once ringed, I would know exactly who she was if there was any difficulties and also can make sure she gets extra feed! At the moment, I am trying to feed every white dove in case it's her! So I crept up the step ladder with a cloth in my hand, and captured her while she was in the nest. Although this was stressful for her and me, it makes sense in the long run. I kept the cloth over her head, quickly sat down on the end of the disused run and ringed her on the right foot with a green ring..... and then popped her back asap. She seemed to accept it ok and settled back down with the babies. Later on, I took her first portrait with her ring!

Summer took her babies out onto the hedge, where they preened their little selves
 They both scrambled to the top of the cote for a cute photo opportunity!
 Liberty had a bath so looks a bit bedraggled
 Destiny, smooth and sleek
37 day old white dove squab with adult female (mother)
 Summer took Destiny to the hutch - I had left it open as Cloud was still in the conservatory.

Later in the day, when Cloud was outside, she had a visitor, who stayed quite a while

By this afternoon, Summer's egg had gone! Pinched by one of the jackdaws no doubt. Summer hadn't laid another one as she had reverted to the role of sole carer of her two big squabs. I was pleased about this, but a bit sorry about the egg. I did put one of the plastic ones (that one of my blog readers sent me) in it's place for Summer, but removed it again when it occurred to me that the jackdaws would probably attempt to get it, not knowing it was plastic, and thus disturb the squabs and the whole cote even more! Summer left the squabs alone, maybe going in search of Sky and Lucky was off somewhere, so Charm was in sole charge of the cote and the two sets of babies when a white intruder arrived!...... Charm left her nest at the back, and in the photos below is the lower one of the two doves. The other bird even tried to get into Summer's nest-box but Destiny and Liberty held their own bravely, and Charm soon saw off the opportunist.

Friday 24th May 13 - I haven't been sure that I have seen Sky since Tuesday. I have seen a blue ringed white dove, but I think it was Bianca (note to self: never ring white doves with the same colour ring on the same leg!!!). If it was Sky, which I doubt, he took no interest in the cote, Summer or the squabs..... no I do think it was Bianca. Maybe something really has happened to Sky this time, or else he is still on French leave...... I wonder if he is sitting sulking on a roof somewhere or scrounging round the fields or back gardens looking for something to eat, determined not to go home in case he is forced to nest-sit or feed squabs!

I am still getting up at silly o'clock to unblock the babies, Fennie and Dolly. Last night I also blocked in Destiny and Liberty, as the jackdaws kept trying to enter the nest-box in the early evening, giving them no peace, and as I was going out I wanted to be sure they were ok. Five white doves were here first by 5.15am - Summer, Lucky and Charm and two others but no Sky. I feed the flock and go back to bed, but get up again about 7am as by then there are many more hungry pigeons and doves.

At about 10am four white doves alighted on the roof. Is one of them Sky? The two mother doves, Summer and Charm, went to their nests, and Lucky started making up to the other dove...obviously a female.. so the answer is no..... still no Sky.

Lucky and Charm obviously realise Sky's absence. They always used to stay on their side, but now they go in and out of the compartments as they please, taking over the cote, and having very little patience with Summer's squabs. Below, Summer is in her nest box on the top right, with Lucky below and Charm on the left.

 Lucky and Charm on the roof, sitting side by side, and lonely Summer
 Poor Summer tries not to mind when they start cosying up!

It does seem more and more likely that something has happened to Sky. He was certainly not the best of fathers, but he and Summer were a bonded pair so I am concerned about him, though I am not getting the vibe that he is dead. But he better come back quick or Lucky, a true alpha male, will have taken over the cote. Summer, below is standing on the box, trying to encourage her squabs out. Lucky and Charm are as they were in the previous cote photo.

Later, the squabs sit below the cote, enjoying the sunshine

We had an unusual visitor on the lawn.... we get the other woodpeckers, the Lesser Spotter ones, but I have never seen a Green Woodpecker land in the garden before.


Close ups of Dolly (white) and Fennie - about 15 days old

Hey Fennie, your feathers are in my eyes!
Destiny and Liberty, below, who prefer to stay in the nest most of the day, despite being about 37 days old. The longer they can stay in and around the cote, the better their chances of survival. I caught Lucky in their actual nest-box today, with Liberty by the scruff of her neck, trying to force her out. I physically grabbed hold of him and chucked him out!! Don't be nasty, Lucky, to my poor fatherless babies!

Sat. 25.5.13 - Summer took her babies down to the lawn and up to the roof this morning. She is still feeding them, and they feed themselves too. I saw one of them jump up onto the water bath to get a long drink, so I am satisfied they can pretty well manage now. Sky was most definitely not there in the early morning.

I took the little babies out of the cote for the first time this morning. As I was getting them out, I saw two white doves circling, and guessed it was probably Lucky and Charm, but knew if I was quick I could check them over and get some photos before they came back to the roof. Both babies seemed very well indeed - and adorably plump as you can see. I took more photos of Fennie, the dark one, as he is more unusual (to me! - but he wouldn't be to pigeon keepers! - it's just I am so used to pure white babies)

One black twin, one white twin!

I am absolutely enchanted with him! and Dolly is entirely sweet too of course.
Sun 26th May 13 -  The dove below - a male - spent some time today peering from the end of the gutter on the low roof where the doves sit into the porch, and the open door of the kitchen.

 He decided the small porch was the place to be - can you see him up there? There is no real room to make a nest, and hubby whose legs you can see, wouldn't tolerate him making a nest there anyway. But the first thing is to find a mate...... Cloud would be perfect, but she is still unreleasable and not mate material. I've had her in for five months now and she is no better, I'm afraid.

Destiny and Liberty spent some time exploring the path today, with a white dove (not Summer) -  probably the 'porch' dove. Summer is still feeding them today.

Lucky just WILL NOT let Dessy and Libby into the cote to rest, and at one point when I couldn't find Libby who I am sure is the younger of the two, and had checked everywhere, I looked into the back nest.... and there she was! Tucked up with Fennie and Dolly! What do you think of that Lucky???
 Poor little Fennie and Dolly looked a bit trampled on in the photo above!
 Ah, that's better - all cuddle up!
Big squab - 39 days old - from another nest goes in with 16 day old others
I left Liberty there for a little while, but I wasn't sure what Lucky and Charm's reaction would I moved her out. Would L and Ch have fed Libby with their own squabs or would they have chucked her out, perhaps upsetting their own babies into the bargain.....? I doubt they would've abandoned their nest entirely as they are getting more and more used to me, the cote and everything to do with it all. In fact, they are making themselves mightily at home!
The day ended with all the babies in bed where there should be and the parents going off as usual. Still no Sky.
Bank Holiday Monday 27th May 2013 - What a blessing - a beautiful sunny day (in the SE anyway)for the Bank Holiday. Summer wants to keep her nest box - after all she and Sky have reared many babies there - but every time she goes inside it Lucky roughly shoves her out. She spent all morning sitting on the box on the hedge waiting for her opportunity to get it back. The squabs, Liberty and Destiny, enjoyed the sunny morning by exploring the roof.

We are twins and we do exactly the same thing at the same time!

In the photo below Summer sits on the box on the hedge, waiting for a chance to get her nest-box back. The squabs sit with her, while Charm is on the side of the cote, and Lucky in the favoured box.
Here's a longer view - with the 'porch' dove sitting on the end of the boarded shed, watching.
The squabs visit Cloud
And eventually, Summer sits down on the box to rest, and the squabs sit underneath the ladder - letting Lucky have the cote - for now!
The porch dove is a very handsome and quite tame male
Destiny and Liberty sunbathe - unaware of how stressed their mother is..... no mate, and no cote!

I was dreading the end of the day when Liberty and Destiny would try to put themselves to bed in the cote - the only home they have ever known - and Lucky would prevent them entering and by doing so perhaps force them to fly away from the garden to goodness knows where. These squabs have not, as far as I know, even done any circling or scouting round. They always stay on the roof when the flock flies off. Once they leave the garden, they very likely wouldn't be able to find their way back or would find the journey too tiring. I haven't forgotten their older brother or sister, Valentine, who flew off one day with the flock and was never seen again, poor little thing - or Santa, also their sibling, my special needs dove, who also never came back after the first long flight away. I will do everything I can to stop Lucky frightening Dessy and Libby off, but it's a fine balance. Lucky is only doing what he is programmed, as an alpha male, to do! And I am very fond of him! So too am I fond of Summer, but neither of us can stand up against a determined male! I was relieved to find at the end of the dovie dove that Lucky and Charm just fed their own babies, then flew away.... leaving Liberty and Destiny to calmly put themselves to bed - and Summer to pop up and give them a bedtime snack! That was the only time I saw her feed them today, but it is natural for the parent feeding to tail it off now.
Tuesday 28.5.13 - Today couldn't have been more different to the Bank Holiday. It rained solidly all day and the doves - though waterproof! - eventually started to look cold and bedraggled. I was concerned for the squabs. Liberty and Destiny, as this was the first rainy day where they were unable to get shelter. I didn't put Cloud out at all, as there was little point, and also I hoped that the empty hutch could be a refuge for L and D. They didn't take advantage of it - or sit in the open boxes that I have left on the hedge and plank under the cote. Eventually Summer took Destiny to the porch which gave them a tiny bit of shelter - I have rarely seen doves so wet!

 But little Liberty stayed on the roof, and got even wetter! This roof doesn't 'belong' to us, and you can see it is in a poor state. We have been contacted by our land agent and been notified that work will be carried out soon on the roof - I presume scaffolding etc will go up. Nothing I can do about it - we rent our cottage and can't refuse them access to our garden so they can repair this roof - but the doves ain't gonna like it!!! I hope they will all congregate on our roof instead - but it may make them desert the cote and the garden. We don't have a date yet for the work but they wouldn't have sent in letter if it wasn't imminent, I assume.
Summer spent some time on the porch roof - I wonder if she misses Sky? The porch dove has noticed her - perhaps she is the reason he came to the garden in the first place (see his reflection in the window too!)
Oh, thinks Summer, where did he go?
Oh, there he is!
I think he likes me.....
 But do I like him?
 Well..... he's good looking..... I'll think about it!
 But, no we can't make a nest there! Not after the cote I was used to!

The rain stopped about 4pm and the doves cheered up a bit. Summer kept fighting for the cote. If Charm was in there, then she would win, and would sit inside for a while, until Lucky noticed. He enters the cote, grabs her by the scruff of her neck - I can seeing them tussling and circling, and then he forces her out - often following her to the roof for further aggressive pecks! Summer herself has become more aggressive with other birds - I saw her rush at a small white dove to frighten it away from the food, and peck a pigeon that happened to be next to her, although it had done nothing at all.
Today, Charm and Lucky spent whatever time they could together in the front nest-box - Summer's box. It seems unlikely that Sky will come back and therefore there is no chance that Summer can hang on to it. Since last summer Summer and Sky have reared Elizabeth and Olympia, Elizabeth2 and Philip, Spring and Autumn, November and October, Santa and Snow (well I reared them and Snow died), Grace and Valentine - and now Destiny and Liberty (not to mention 3 eggs that were not incubated) so it's no wonder Summer considers that the front nest-box is hers! She is not giving up easily!
Again, I started to dread Liberty and Destiny's bedtime. At about 5pm neither Lucky nor Charm was in the box so Liberty put herself to bed. I grabbed my chance, and took her out (though I felt pretty mean as she clearly didn't want to be plucked out of bed) and placed her in the hutch with a little dish of small grains and peanut nibs, and a bowl of water. Shortly afterwards when Destiny tried to go to bed, Lucky was in the box but I was watching and waiting, and grabbed Dessy away from Lucky. So now I had both babies in the hutch, safe - result!

 Destiny and Liberty seemed reasonably content, together in the hutch, and helped themselves to the dish of food I'd put for them - which I was pleased to see.
The only trouble now was - would Summer want to try to give them a feed? She flew up to the cote, and I just did the same thing - ran up the steps, quickly identified Summer from the whirl of white by her rings and removed her. I placed her in the hutch with the babies which she didn't seem to mind - here's Destiny begging for food but I don't think she fed them, though she helped herself from their pot, and I took her in some more big peanuts. The squabs can't eat big peanuts yet, which is why I get the little nibs for them.
I had no intention of keeping Summer in for the night. I just wanted her to know where the babies were, and feed them if she thought it necessary. After about 15 or 20 minutes, I opened the door to allow her to leave - but ready to stop the babies doing so ... but they didn't even attempt to. Summer flew off to the roof, and by 6pm all the birds had gone. Lucky and Charm didn't stay the night.

I then sheeted up the hutch with the old plastic sheets that I've used in the past when I've had to leave a bird in the hutch, and secured it with bricks - to prevent any possible attempted attack from a fox or other predator. The little babies, Fennie and Dolly, no longer have their mummy substitute as they are quite feathery by now, but I still do block them in with the half brick til morning. Then I decided that as Lucky and Charm are determined to have the front nest box (which is the one always favoured by the doves and obviously the penthouse suite!) - that the least they could do would be to build a new nest in it - so I pulled out all of the old nest, and relined the floor with newspaper. This is a tip I picked up on a dovie site somewhere, and it saves a lot of work when cleaning the cote.

Wed 29.5.13-  The white doves were there before me though it was only 5am! Lucky was in the cote at the front, so I quickly shimmied up the back steps and unblocked his babies and changed their nappy paper. Then I unsheeted the squabs - who were fine, pecked a few grains then flew out when I opened the big wire door.

To be cont..................