Sunday, 5 May 2013

The hawk returns......

Sat 27th April 13

There were no birds on the roof this morning when I went out to feed them and I soon saw why as I surprised the sparrowhawk on it's kill. Summer had panicked and left the nest and the babies - approx. 9 days old - were all alone. I have no doubt that this was the same sparrowhawk who had come into the kitchen - obviously it hadn't been deterred at all!

Gradually a few pigeons came back - or maybe new ones arrived that hadn't seen the attack. In amongst them was Lucky - the daddy of the nest at the back of the cote. He's a white dove with a smudge a bit like a horseshoe on his chest and he reminds me a little of Flash, as like my darling deceased daddy dove, he has a black feather in his white tail - but it only shows when he's flying!

Lucky dove amongst the pigeons

You may remember at the end of the last blog, a pigeon had crashed into the conservatory window and I took it in for the night, dazed and confused. I named her Charity and she sat calmly in one of my boxes for the night, and appeared to be ok. I ringed her in the morning with yellow and green rings and as I had no reason to keep her, I released her when the other pigeons were back, and the hawk had left (obviously!). She flew rather slowly to the hedge, and then to the roof.

I left the hawk's kill where it was. It was an unknown-to-me pigeon and if a pigeon has to die I am glad when it is not one of my favourites. Later the hawk came back, as I thought it would, and I took some photos out of my little pantry window. I was glad that it had come back, to eat the rest of the bird, as otherwise it would've died for nothing. The mess they make is dreadful - and I have to clear the feathers to prevent them blowing all over the lawn.
Sparrowhawk, unwanted visitor to Surrey garden
After the second visit, and clearing up the feathers, I moved the body, further away up the side of the garden, away from my view and that of the other birds. The hawk came back for a third time, and more or less ate all it wanted to - leaving a gory carcass - which had gone by next morning, probably carried off by Charlie Fox. As I said, Summer had left the nest, and I checked the babies were ok, and gave them a cashmere glove to wrap round them to keep them warm. A parent, I was not sure which one, came back at 9.30am - two and a half hours after I'd noticed their absence. On first seeing the hawk's kill, and Summer's absence, I went round the back of the cote to see if Lucky's mate was on her eggs - and thankfully she was. One good thing about the back of the cote is that you can't see nasty goings on in the garden!

Lucky's mate has proved to be an unknown pure white dove, so I have named her Charm. But unless I see her come out of the nest, I don't know her when she is on the lawn. This is a bit of a shame, but at least I can recognise Lucky. Here is Charm, looking much like any other dove!

Sunday 28.4.13 - A very dirty dove is now coming to feed. I can't imagine where he/she might live to get in such a state.
 In the photo below, the bird I call my 'Beautiful Stranger' is on the left, but his markings are brown feathers not grubbiness!
 And here are the new babies, acting up for the camera, and getting big! You can see my brown glove which has now got incorporated into their nest.

Monday 29th April 13 - A portrait of Cloud, calm and beautiful. She is not getting better, but is stable and I will keep her now as my 'home bird' for as long as she lives.

 The woodie ducks are becoming quite tame and strut about the garden, while a pigeon enjoys a bath in the background. The ducks eat grain, and I usually throw some soaked wholemeal bread out in the early evenings if they are around. My neighbour, before she died, used to feed the woodies and they would come to her cottage door (she was right on the stream, even nearer to the water than we are) - I don't know if this is the same pair that used to go to her, but I never saw them in our garden til she passed away.
 I didn't see Charity yesterday, but today she returned and I was pleased to see her - she moves more slowly than the other birds and she may be old (which was why she was targeted by the hawk). My ringed birds get peanuts..... and now she comes every day, always quite late in the afternoon.

Tue 30.4.13 -  Spot the odd one out in the photo below......

 Yes you're right, Mrs. Woodie is joining in for a snack
Below, Grace my 'old' baby is in the centre
 And here she is close-up. I still think about her sibling, Valentine, and wonder what happened to him, and what happened to poor little Santa. Nature fodder, that's what I call it.... so many sweet little birds live only a few short weeks before something happens to them.

Wed 1st and Thurs 2nd May 2013 -  Here are the babies, coming up two weeks old now,bursting with soft white feathers. I told you that there is another nest at the back of the cote, with Daddy Lucky and Mummy Charm, and it is lovely to have two nests - but it does mean that I am wary about doing too much with these babies, in case I disturb whoever is on the nest at the back. I would like to take the babies out and check them, but I haven't liked to so far. They look pretty normal, and I put in their 'nappy paper' and change it regularly as the warm weather means that otherwise they would be frankly smelly! - but that's about it. In a few days time though, I will want to ring them but can't see how I am going to be able to do it - I may have to wait til they emerge from the nest and hope to catch them before they can fly properly. Lucky and Charm's eggs are due to hatch around the 11th of May and then one or the other should stay in all the time with the babies until they are at least 7 days old... but which time this pair of babies would be 29/30 days old approx, so it may work out that I am able to take them out and ring them, before they fledge, and without disturbing the other parents.
As I was working in the garden, I let Cloud have the wire box off. I would never leave her unprotected if I wasn't there. A male can to see her - and when I processed the photos I could see his rings and knew it was Mr. Strong. Here Cloud (on the stone) looks normal....
 'But what is wrong with you?' says Mr. Strong
They make a sweet pair, don't they? But it is unlikely he would stick around as she can't fly off with him.
Another sweet pair - my little brown collared doves
 Here, Sky is in the cote with the babies, and Summer flew to investigate Cloud

I have also seen Lucky courting Cloud when the wire box was off and he tried to mate with her - which made me realise maybe it's not a good thing to allow her even that small amount of freedom. I don't know if she can cope with mating - although of course it would not result in any eggs unless a nest was made. I don't think that she carries the active paramyxovirus, but I can't be sure, and I certainly don't want Lucky carrying any germs back to his nest. Naughty Lucky, you should be faithful to Charm! - he is so like Flash who used to carry on with Jose, behind Omo's back! Sky is different, I have never seen him try to court another bird except his wife, Summer! The babies are only about fourteen days, but already they are mating again.

My robin was especially cute today - I wish I could've got photos. First thing in the morning, I caught him in the shed kitchen eating the cat's left-over hard biscuits, would you believe? I went for my camera, but of course he had gone when I got back. Later, when I was gardening, and on my hands and knees near the shallow bird bath, he came and had a little splash - I was so close I could see every drop on his delicate little body. I've seen up to three robins together in the garden, but they are all Robs to me! They come to the back door for soaked meal worms.

Friday 3rd May - my camera is playing up so I haven't been able to take any photos. I hope it doesn't die as I am not good with new things and I don't want to have to learn a new camera. It was warm and sunny, and I lay on a rug on the lawn in the afternoon, with Cloud. I made her a little 'summer house' out of an upturned box, draped with a pretty cloth, and lined with paper. She sat in it for a while, but gradually she edged out, in her funny star-gazing way, until she had positioned herself between my arms, as I propped myself up on my elbows to read, and she rested her head on the crook of my arm - it was a special moment. I realised that she trusts me, despite the grumpy noises she makes, and although I have wondered at times if it might be the right thing to do to 'put her down', I would never be happy to do that, and she does have a quality of life - she accepts food and water, she drinks on her own sometimes, she preens, she enjoys the sunshine and she gives me charming company, and there is always the hope that eventually she will totally recover.

My blog reader Jane (Hopeinparis) suggested that I have a family tree of the doves that have raised families in the garden. Well, none of my dovies have got a very long family tree and only one of the babies reared in the cote has ever gone on to have babies of her own in the cote, and that was Lily, see below - if you want to read my blog from the beginning, see the side panel or click this link for the first blog -

My very first two pairs were John and Irene (named after my parents) and Pax and Persephone  - Only Pax and Persephone reared babies - Columba and Lily.

Irene flew away or died away from home, and poor Persephone had her head bitten off, but eventually John and Lily paired up - and had babies Francis and Iona, then another pair that died, and the Ugly Dovelings who also died (I still feel terrible about those deaths). - When Lily herself died, after a while John flew away never to return.

(I cut and pasted the following from one of my early blogs - about Lily:

Lily's life: She was the squab (chick) of Pax and Persephone and hatched on 17.7.06 with her sibling, Columba. In December that year she was injured, presumed shot at, and I nursed her until she was better and able to fly again. Handling during nursing made her the tamest dove we had, and she was never scared to be near me. She mated with John, and became a mother at 8 months old, to Francis and Iona. She had more squabs right at the end of May but they died aged a few days old, and then more in July. They were the Ugly Dovelings who died aged 2 weeks. (More details on all of this in previous blogs) Lily died 15.11.07 aged 16 months. RIP my beautiful dovie angel)

After a long gap with no doves in the cote, Hope and Glory - out of the blue - set up home there, but Glory was killed by the hawk (March '09) when their babies, Victory and Purity, were only 2/3 days old - and Hope reared them alone. In the autumn of that year a local farmer shot all the doves/pigeons roosting in his barn, and Hope, Victory and Purity were probably among them. I never saw them again (these were very dark days for me).

Flash and Omo rented the cote from about June '11, and had baby Fairy (the other egg was a dud), then Daz and Vim. After that, Omo did lay more eggs, but Flash went missing, and eventually the eggs got abandoned. I opened them and there were two little dead babies inside who I named Dreft and Burti (names suggested by blog readers. Burti is a German washing powder). Flash was killed by the hawk in mid January '12.

Sky and Summer took over in early summer 2013 and have not looked back since.
Their babies so far:
Elizabeth and Olympia
Elizabeth2 and Philip (Lizzie and Pip)
Spring and Autumn
October and November
Santa and Snow
Grace and Valentine
Latest pair in the cote - still unnamed

The first Elizabeth died, and so did Pip. Autumn was seen up til fairly recently, when I saw her being courted in the garden, so I hope her mate took her off somewhere and she is still alive. Tiny poorly crippled baby Snow also died (how I loved that little bird!). The rest (except for Grace) are all unaccounted for, but I should think my special needs Santa and sweet young Valentine are unlikely to have survived. Grace, thankfully, is doing well and seen every day.

My flightless dove, Jose, and her mate Happy reared baby Pearl in the hutch.

And I now have Lucky and Charm at the back of the cote, taking it in turns on their eggs.

To be cont....


hopeinparis said...

Hi Faith,
Thank you for the re-cap on the starring characters of your dovecote and garden! I may yet make a diagram :-) I posted the wonderful photo of the babies on my Pinterest Pigeon board (appropriately linked of course). I do hope that hawk just stays away. Your mention of sweet Santa reminded me of Dolly, the crippled little pigeon hen I used to feed, and who I haven't seen in nearly 6 months...
Thank you for such a beautiful blog.

Fennie said...

Faith, a truly wondrous picture of the hawk and pigeon kill. A bit yucky perhaps but a marvellous nature picture. The feathers make a perfect frame. You could enter it in a competition!

I understand you not wanting to mate Cloud but am wondering whether she could breed eggs. If you got some bantam eggs, for example? It would give the poor girl something to do.

Still no sign of Fennie - that's so sad. Even I am starting to lose hope now. There'll have to be a new Fen or Fennietta one of these days.

Fennie said...

PS I thought hopefully when you mentioned the dirty dove that this might be Fennie, who has been, if you remember all the way down to Mali and those will be very dusty and brown when he returns. But it was not to be.

CAMILLA said...

Glad to hear the Hawk kill was not one of your Pigeons or Doves Faith, phew.! still sad though that a Pigeon bird has been killed nevertheless, I know it's nature.

I do hope Fennie comes back soon, you must be really worried. Yes, can understand too why you would rather not wan't Cloud to mate, perhaps put some little chicken eggs next to her to keep her busy, a new little Fenella perhaps soon.