Friday, 27 September 2013

Alf and Meg, slowly growing up......and Bertie again!

Sunday 22.9.13 -

My day started with a heavy heart as little Harlequin failed to turn up for breakfast.... or at all throughout the day. His sibling Columbine was already lost a while ago, and now poor Harli seems to have gone, leaving another little dovie shaped hole in my heart. I do miss and think about all the birds I no longer see.

I am still very much watching out for Alpha and Omega who are about 33/34 days old but immature and under-weight. In fact, they weigh less than they did a week ago and I fear for their survival, and if you read my last blog you'll know that I am concerned there is something wrong with Alf.  However, she did come out this afternoon, of her own accord, onto the hedge, like she did yesterday.
 Lucky found her there, and fed her

 Much flapping of wings by Alf - which is how the babies attract their daddy to feed them

 Below, Lucky and little Alf are just above Cloud's hutch. She was aware of them, and not impressed

 Close ups of beautiful but fragile little Alf

 Meg has yet to fledge - he or she is aware of life beyond the cote, but daren't take the plunge!
 Later on, I picked Alf off the hedge and offered her a drink from the little glass. She can drink well, and always seems to be thirsty - while Meg is not really bothered.

 As the afternoon progressed I realised one of the things that is wrong with Alf - she has a smaller or deformed left foot! She finds it hard to put weight on it and it is most definitely smaller, thinner and weaker than the right foot. I decided to remove the ring as that could only make it more difficult for her to use the foot - I have never de-banded a dove or pigeon before but felt this was essential. I also decided not to put it on the other foot, as she doesn't need to be hampered in any way at all. I don't feel that I was to blame for ringing her in the first place as I have ringed many small doves at the same age with no ill effects.
 Above, Alf's poorly foot - just before I removed the ring - and below, Meg scrambles to the top of the chair in the conservatory
 Meg is King of the Castle, but Alf is content to just sit in the box. Little Alf is going to need a lot of care and support, but it is perfectly possible for her to live a normal life with a weak foot - after all Cassidy manages with only one leg! But first I need to get these babies a bit bigger and stronger.
 Evening - Black Joseph was there as usual (right) and joined by a little mite of a pigeon. There seem to be many small pigeons and doves at the moment, but how many of these little ones will survive the next weeks - let alone into next year?
Monday 23.9.13 - Oh happy day! Harlequin turned up with the morning flock!  Thank heavens, I really didn't want to lose my spotty angel. Alf and Meg are spotty too - like Harli look-alikes. Alf did her usual morning thing of coming out of the nest box and sitting in the hedge. She is a bit other-worldy and serene, happy to watch life go by but not participating fully yet - Lucky found her there and fed her, and shortly afterwards I realised Meg was out on the other part of the hedge.So the babies are 5 weeks old today, and have both fledged at an average/late time of 35 days. Lucky was dealing with them, so I felt it safe to have my own breakfast (porridge mixed with oat-bran, cooked, and topped with blueberries). No sooner was it made, than Meg had gone missing! I guessed she had tried to make a flight - but where was she? I tried not to panic as it had only been a few minutes, and checked the nestbox just in case. It always looks awfully empty when a baby is missing! Then, in my dressing gown and clogs, I searched the wet and overgrown flower bed, before eventually spotting her tangled at the top of the hedge - and pecking the wall! I rescued her of course and put her with Alf . I did give them both a top-up breakfast and when the flock had dispersed and Lucky seemed content to just sit on the roof with the few remaining birds, I put them both back in the nestbox for warmth and safety. I noticed yesterday when we had a sunny spell that Lucky has one (or more) of those horrible flat louse-flies - it came to the surface on his feathers, then burrowed away again. I have little chance of removing it or spraying him but will be even more watchful in case it transfers to one of the babies - though as you remember I did spray them when I saw the little lice - which are tiny as compared to the louse-flies which are about the size of your small finger nail - and must I assume consume a lot of blood! Disgusting!
Later - lunchtime - Lucky arrived and both babies came out onto the hedge. Hubbie and I were sitting having sandwiches and soup in the kitchen with a full view of the hedge. Lucky fed Meg but not Alf - he totally ignored her. She didn't  make the flapping fuss that Meg made, although she did flap her wings a little. Over the period of half an hour Lucky fed Meg three times but not Alf - it's heartbreaking to watch this sort of thing..... Lucky obviously has decided that Alf is not worth expending the energy of feeding on. Obviously afterwards I went out and fed Alf, and also topped Meg up. I do adore these little fragile babies, and they are so tame, not bothered by my presence at all.
Tuesday 24.9.13 - The day started very misty and the birds were delayed arriving. The babies came out onto the hedge of their own accord at 7.30am - and now I am arranging some little towels, and a piece of carpet, so that Alf has a more stable base to sit or try to stand on. Lucky came to feed Meg, and again seemed oblivious of Alf's presence. Alf could've been any other dove or pigeon sitting there - not by a single movement did Lucky show that Alf was his offspring.

Naturally I will of course be fully feeding Alf but it is a shame that Lucky has rejected her. About 9am when the flock had dispersed, I considered the babies had been out long enough - an hour and a half - and it was still misty moisty so I put them back in the cote. Normal babies at fledging would be following Daddy to the roof but Meg is at least a week backward..... and I don't know about Alf yet though I feel more hopeful that she will make it.When I came back from the town later in the morning, the babies had come out of their own accord and as the day had warmed up, I allowed them to stay on the hedge. Alf just sits and observes and Meg walks around a bit, and pecks at the little grains I put out for her. She doesn't seem capable of picking them up though. The afternoon was lovely and sunny, really golden September weather - the babies benefited from a long afternoon soaking up the rays - must be good for their bones mustn't it?

 Look at sweet little Alf preening herself - such a shame that Daddy Lucky doesn't think she is worth bringing up.....don't worry, my little sweetheart, I will do everything possible for you!

 Cloud 'floated' in her water bowl, looking rather odd!
 And when I let her out later, she made straight for the blue water bath
 The pidgies think 'Who is this crazy bather?'

 This blur is Cloud trying to get out of the bath - which she managed perfectly well.

By the end of the afternoon, I noticed that Alf was limping less, able to put more pressure on her bad foot - and by some strange miracle it didn't look as weak or as small! When I weighed both squabs I found that Alf weighs considerably more than Meg now. I do have a problem though - I have to be out from 8.15am to about 2pm tomorrow. The squabs are incredibly vulnerable on the hedge, if a predator was to come along - and if Meg tries to fly or follow Lucky she might fall into the flower bed .... BUT I am reluctant to take her away from the natural environment and Lucky's care (such as it is). I feel I will have to take Alf with me, so I can feed her - though she would probably be alright as far as food goes if I gave her a good breakfast......but if something happens I couldn't bear to lose both of them! Not that I want to lose Meg of course - but she is the healthier specimen and Lucky will be looking for her. Oh dear, it's not a dilemma I like! I will put a box up on the hedge to give Meg the chance of some shelter, and hubbie will be back at noon-ish. He is on strict instructions to look for her if lost!
Wed. 25th Sept 13 - When I was just about to leave home at 8.15am, Meg flew from the hedge to the nest box, so I was relieved that she was able to do that, and I took Alf with me, to the amusement of my grand-daughter. Hubbie text me at lunchtime to say Meg was in the nest box and when I got home I was able to put Alf with Meg who was now out on the hedge so both of them could enjoy the afternoon sunshine together the same as yesterday. I didn't see Lucky around so I fed both of them at 2.45pm and they continued to stay on the hedge. For the past while Lucky has sloped off well before 3pm and often not fed Meg after about 1.30pm, but today he turned up at 5pm - ooh I thought he might feed Meg..... he might even feed both of them! But he didn't - he came down to have some nosh himself, then stayed on the roof til 5.30pm or later before leaving. I gave the babies supper and put them in the cote by 5.50pm but without blocking them in - and within a few minutes, looking out of the window, there was Alf on the hedge again! I let her have a bit of time, but it was getting gloomy and was time for little doves to be in bed - you can't stay out on the hedge all night, Alfie, where Mr. Foxy could find you! In case Meg had forced her out of the nestbox, I put her in another part of the cote, and blocked both of them in. Very glad all went well today!
Thurs. 26th - There was a dead pigeon on the path when I got up this morning but I wasn't too sad as it wasn't one I recognised, and there have been a few poorly ones about. I took Alf out of her night time quarters and put her in with Meg. Alf eventually came out onto the hedge, but Meg didn't and Lucky fed neither of them. I gave both of them breakfast, and before I went out put both back into the nestbox. Alf immediately came out to stand on the ledge, blocking Meg in, and that was how I found them when I came back mid-morning. Lucky was on the roof with a few pigeons, so I threw some food down and he came to eat - and so I brought the babies out onto their piece of carpet on the hedge. Lucky flew to them - and amazingly fed Alf!!! But not Meg..... Now Alf appears the larger and more vigorous of the two, though both did clamour to be fed - but only gently, they don't make the fuss that normal squabs do. Over the next ten minutes or so, Alf got fed about 4 times and poor Meg not at all. Now it's her turn to feel left out! But Lucky has gained a few Brownie points and does seem to be trying a bit harder. An unwanted white dove - I think a female - showed up on the hedge and started pecking the babies - who were then driven into the shelter box. Lucky did deal with her, but I did think he could've been more aggressive considering she was being nasty to his babies.
Below - Lucky's in front, with the intruder behind him
 Now I think it's her on the top of the box
 Eventually Lucky forces her to retreat up the hedge
 And Alf (bottom) and Meg hide in the box


Later - As far as I'm aware Lucky didn't come back and feed any more today. I am now either topping up or feeding them four times a day - breakfast, lunch, mid afternoon and before bed - but they are still terribly light and don't seem to be increasing in weight whatever I do.
I can't really blame Lucky for abandoning the babies. They are not acting as they should i.e. following him around, flying after him to the roof etc. I still target him for food if he is around - in the hopes that he will share with the babies! - but Charm is now just one of the flock, with no special treatment. I usually see her for the early morning feed and that's about it. Both Lucky and Charm are moulting and look scruffy and thin about the neck, not very appealing. As soon as the babies don't need the cote anymore, I will be shutting up the nestboxes with the little grilles that hubbie made - I don't think L and C will start another nest now but you never know. I can't have any more babies this year - even if eggs were laid tomorrow those babies wouldn't fledge until the end of the first week in November - not a good time of year for a very young bird.
I'm not sure which day it was - yesterday or the day before - but I carried Meg to the grain bins with the intention of getting some grain and feeding her in the kitchen, but she escaped out of my hands and flew towards the cote, hitting the cable that secures the power pole in the garden. Since then she has been limping and obviously hurt her foot - not the one with the ring on. Alf's foot though still continues to improve in strength.
Below, Meg is limping
 But Alf's poorly foot is getting stronger
 Below - Meg's feet

I put the babies on the table for feeding - here Alf faces out. Of their own accord, they don't move around much. They are immature for their age - at least a week behind, and maybe two.
 Meg faces out - they are so adorable, very light, very fragile

I put them back on the hedge, and they investigate the small grains, and peck ineffectually but neither seems capable of feeding themselves. They remind me of Santa, but are even more tame - which is not surprising since I have been heavily involved in their care since they were about 4 days old.

Pandora is still visiting - with her huge flock. If she wasn't there, they wouldn't get fed (or only a sprinkle). Here she is walking up the roof, and preening. She can now peck up the larger grains efficiently, and seems to have recovered extremely well from her horrific beak injury.

Same as last night, I put the babies to bed together and Alf came out again, putting herself to bed in the box on the hedge. Sorry, bubba, but you are too young to make the decision where you sleep! She was picked up and blocked into one of the compartments.
Fri 27th - I was off much earlier than usual in the morning and had to make the decision about what to do with the vulnerable squabs - leave them on the hedge? take with me? or what.... The best solution seemed to me to leave Cloud in her crate in the conservatory and let the babies have the hutch. They then get to have an inside and an outside - and if Lucky was really determined he could feed them through the wire box of the outside part (but he won't). I felt better having decided this - they would be protected and I needn't worry!
Later - Thank goodness I did this with the babies, as I hadn't been back fifteen minutes with my grandchildren when Bertie appeared at our sides! How long had he been around I wondered? He was in an excellent mood - as always - and luxuriated in the warm earth of the raised vegetable bed.

I had already got the babies out of the hutch, and they were on the hedge - at risk of being noticed by Bertie, but soon Meg flew to the top of the cote - clever girl Meg! Very sensible!

 I decided the best thing to do was to pop Alf up there with her - out of reach.

When I had to take the kids home, I stood on the ladder and took the babies off the top of the cote to put them back in the hutch. It's the only way to keep them safe - when I think of all the days I went to the shops leaving them sitting on the hedge!!! Luckily Bertie didn't make his rounds then. At dovie bedtime Alf didn't want to go in the cote at all - she flew to the hutch, so at least I know she can fly roughly as well as Meg. It was so gloomy I took the photo with flash - and then she really did have to go to bed. The babies seem to have come on in the last day or so......maybe tomorrow they will fly to the roof! (but they still are not feeding themselves!!!)
To be cont...

1 comment:

hopeinparis said...

Isn't that interesting how Lucky's behavior changes and alternates with Alf and Meg. Thanks goodness you are so involved with them, Faith. You are giving them every possible chance to survive, and I really respect that. xx