Thursday and Friday 12th/13th Sept were pretty uneventful dovie days. The weather is so glum it's more like November than September, and raining most of the time. I am reluctant to put Cloud out in the hutch, as it is right under the over-hanging tree of paradise so doesn't get that much light, and is dripping and gloomy. The summer days of me sitting on the lawn, surrounded by my doves and pidgies, with the bold ones coming to me for peanuts and Cloud having a lovely wander seem to be long gone. Here she is attempting to eat from the dish - sometimes she is lucky and manages to peck something up - but don't worry, I always hand feed her anyway. She's been a 'home' bird now for about 9 months, and I have no hope whatsoever of her getting any better than she is now.
Lucky and Charm are doing the best they can for little Alf and Meg, but the gloomy rainy weather means the last feed is given quite early, and then leave the garden. It now always seems to be Lucky doing the last feed. Alf and Meg don't understand about the 'light' and just know that they want some supper! I am still bringing them in every evening for a feed at 6pm, then I quickly sort out their nestbox, keeping in clean and dry, and put them back for the night. They are blocked in with the half-brick, as all my babies are at this stage/age. There are several reasons for this - 1. It means they are protected from any winged predator - I don't think a cat, fox, mink etc would be able to reach them. 2. They are protected from the weather - cold and driving rain. 3. And very important - they are protected from falling out of the nestbox during the night or in the early morning. You might not think this is much of a possibility but in fact many young squabs do fall out of the nest at this age as they wiggle their bottoms towards the light to poop, or just teetor on the edge due to natural curiosity - and then of course have no way of getting back again. I'd hate to think of one of my babies at the mercy of the weather or predators in the middle of the night.
Back to today - Bertie came through the cat-flap without me knowing and turned up at my side while I was in one of the bedrooms - made me jump at first! Of course he was petted and stroked, and I found he was very damp - perhaps hunting all night? I did offer him some food but he turned his nose up, went off out again, but later came back and settled himself in the chair where he stayed all afternoon.
By 4pm I was wondering what to do about him - should I ring his owner to come and get him? Should I just leave him and see if he left of his own accord? But at 5pm hubbie came to find me in the conservatory - Bertie's owner was at the door! She said she had been considering what to do as she drove over (said she'd lost my number or would've phoned) ..... the trouble is - she wants a cat who is a pet (obviously) and who wants to be with her, at least some of the time! She had told me before that she was considering having him micro-chipped with the type of chip that opens a cat flap, and only allows the chipped cat into the house - but doing that and having the door cut for the flap wouldn't be cheap, and she doesn't want to do it if he isn't going to stay with her. Currently she leaves a top window open (not very safe, I thought!). I assured her I wasn't trying to cat-nap Bertie (or Babar as she calls him) and I knew she realised that - well I wouldn't have put his details on the missing pet website if I hadn't been willing to return him, would I? She wondered if we ought to decide who he was going to 'belong' to and the other should shoo him away. I said I doubted either of us would find that very easy! She had actually brought his vaccination card in case it was decided he would be handed over to us - but it's not as simple as that. Bertie obviously likes us, the cottage, our ramshackle lifestyle, the pigeons or the good hunting on the farm..... or something! - he is (or will be) voting with his feet BUT much as he is an adorable cat I hadn't really planned on having the expense/worry of another animal, especially one that is a hazard to my beloved birds! His owner took him away again this time......with nothing much decided. It's impossible for us not to feel a teeny bit pleased that he wants to be with us - though I hope I didn't show it, and no doubt his owner felt upset that he isn't choosing her, and maybe as she drove away with her Babar in a box she felt a bit disenchanted with him. She did say that all she wants is him to be happy...... Oh well, watch this space..... what will be, will be.
Sunday morning - mid September already! My life is going so fast I'll meet myself coming back soon! 15.9.13 - Chilly, but the sun coming up and the river steaming when I got up at 6.40am to feed the doves.
The birds were there before me - whoops, I quickly unblocked and cleaned up the babies, and then fed the flock. The weather was forecasting rain and high winds for later so I was feeding Cloud early in the conservatory, planning to put her in the hutch to get the best of the bright weather, when there was a loud miaow and his Lordship was coming to find me! Oh Bertie! Here you are again - run away from home so soon! He twined round my legs and so I did feed him, and then went back to feeding Cloud and putting her out. Bertie finished breakfast and while I was making tea for me and hubbie he went off again.
Here's young Harlequin - bright, beautiful and inquisitive on the low roof. I have to wait til he arrives in the mornings, always later than the others - but I want to make sure he gets a good morning feed especially today when this might be all he gets if the weather is all they say it will be.
What a lovely bright morning though - it inspired Lucky and Charm to hang about the cote, feeding Alf and Meg, popping in and out, and wondering whether to start another nest. If the forecast is correct, the wind and rain will soon put a stop to those ideas!
In the photo below you can just see the babies peeping out of the cote
Bertie was back before 10am - cleaning his paws and being sphinx-like on the arm of 'his' armchair with not a care in the world about his ownership. As far as he is concerned, he belongs to himself and we are the current Chosen Ones on whom he will bestow the high honour of Food-Giver.
Later - Bertie has spent the day in and out. Now it's 4pm and he's on my lap, while I try to type sideways with the laptop on the sofa next to me. Then he had a snuggle with hubbie.
I will ring his owner at 5pm and it's up to her if she wants to come and collect him or not. Even if she does I suppose he will just come back again.
I brought Alf and Meg in at about 5.45pm for supper. The birds had left the garden early as it is dark-ish, rainy and windy. The poor little things didn't seem to have much in their crops and, when weighed, don't seem to be putting on weight....but they seem perfectly healthy and lively - and they make plenty of noise!
6pm - Bertie's owner, who I will call S, doesn't seem to want to collect him, but she does want me to put him out - on this extremely wet and windy evening - and not feed him. I said I have the cat flap that I can't lock, and she suggested I put a chair against it to block it shut. I also said I have to feed my other cat in the open shed/kitchen - and could not prevent her cat going in there at any time during the night to eat the food. I feel the situation is awkward and that she was getting a bit edgy with me. Hmm what to do? I felt if Bertie followed his usual pattern he would leave during the evening anyway - and he did so at about 9pm. I'm not telling if I gave him supper or not - ha ha! S intends to phone me at 8am tomorrow morning to find out if he is with me or not.
Monday 16.9.13 - S did phone - full of the joys of spring. If I had told Bertie what to do and he had followed instructions, he couldn't have behaved better. Apparently he turned up at hers at midnight - which was not a problem as she says she doesn't go to bed til 1am.... and he was hungry which of course pleased her, and then he cuddled up on her bed. Good boy Bertie, you know how to play your slaves! We missed him today, of course, but I assume he will visit some time..... our secret cat! I wondered where he had been and what he had done in the three hours between leaving ours and arriving hers - S said he was dry and wondered if I had driven him over.....errr no! I suspect he has other people he calls on!
Alpha and Omega. Lucky and Charm's young squabs, are 4 weeks old today. Here are photos I took of them in the nest box in the morning, and early evening when I brought them in for a check over and a little top up feed. Alf is now so clever about drinking from a little glass - I wish you could see him, thirsty boy! He is probably the older of the two, and has more dark feathers. Alf - blue ring. Meg - orange ring. They are both gorgeous but.....
I did find some lice on them today - they look like tiny lines drawn with a pencil - so I sprayed them with anti-mite spray this evening, and let any fumes evaporate in the conservatory before I blocked them into the dovecote for the night. They have obviously got the lice from mum or dad, but not much I can do about them - but let's not have lice on the babies, horrible blood-sucking things.
Corrie had a pigeon storyline tonight - that's good - raising the profile of pigeons! Mentioned the special pigeon - Gustav - http://www.rpra.org/pigeon-history/pigeons-in-war/ scroll down to the end to see the Dickin Medal winners.
Tuesday 17 Sept. - Alf and Meg sit looking out of the doorway of the cote. They will probably fledge in the next week. There is nothing much to look at in the yard, and it's a shame they are not in the front nestbox where they can see the birds in the garden, but Dolly and Fennie were raised at the back, and fledged perfectly well, and were both seen this morning - still fine! Dolly is moulting so looks scruffy round her neck. Fennie is difficult to spot among the pigeons as his colouring is just a grey banded pigeon among so many - until I see his mauve and green rings and think Ah there's Fennie and give him some extra feed!
There was a very sweet brown pigeon today on the lawn - I think I saw it yesterday too. It doesn't seem to either be able to pick up food very well, or is just lethargic and probably poorly. In the crowd I was able to pick it up and give it - her - some peanuts for a boost. I named her Mocha and ringed her with an orange ring, and wonder if I will see her tomorrow. Will she be strong enough to make it back? Pandora wasn't here today which was a shame - and neither was Bertie. Here's Mocha, bedraggled in the rain.
Alf and Meg were checked tonight, under a magnifying glass, for lice and seem to now be clear.
Wed 18.9.13 - Lucky was trying to entice the babies out this morning, and they teetered on the ledge for a while ...... photos taken with flash as it was still gloomy in the very early morning.
Below - Charm is on the top of the cote
This is Lucky, right, squeezing past Alf, left, to get into the cote to feed them!
Little Meg's turn to be on the ledge
It's Lucky of course!
In the afternoon, when it was warmer, the babies spent most of their time sitting on the ledge. I like them to do that on a nice day, getting some beneficial warmth, light and air. I went and talked to them - they are very tame and not in the least worried by my presence. I pick them up and let them walk up my arm - then I give them little flying lessons, by letting them jump/fly from my hand to the ledge of the cote.
At about half five I was pleased to see Lucky on the lawn with a few pigeons, and I made sure he had plenty of peanuts and grains. He had a drink, and I was sure he would soon fly up to the babies and give them supper - but suddenly something startled the small group of birds causing them to fly off- even though I wasn't aware of a noise, or anything. The babies were still waiting on the ledge for daddy to bring them their tea - Alf comforts little Meg 'Don't worry, I'll look after you!'
You are such a sweetie, Alf (he hangs his head modestly)
I waited til near 6pm but Lucky didn't come back - those poor babies, if it wasn't for me they'd have had no supper and worst of all, no drink! I fed them sitting at the garden table, just in case Lucky did come back and I had to pop them back quickly. Both were thirsty little mites, and I probably gave them at least 20 grains/peanuts each plus a few defrosted warm peas. I was very disappointed in Lucky, but no doubt he will be back in the morning. However tempted I am or however little I think they get fed, I only check them and feed them if necessary at 6pm ish after Lucky has left the garden - they need to be eager for any feed brought to them by the parents during the day - and as they are now about 30 days old probably will fledge within the next 5 days - though to me they look immature, but I probably always think that about my babies.
They say the weather is going to warm up a bit over the next week - which will be lovely of course, but I hope it doesn't give my mummy and daddy nesting ideas!
Thursday 19.9.13 - Alf and Meg sit on the ledge if it's not raining, but no sign of fledging yet. Here they are with me in the late afternoon, after Lucky had left. Not very good photos as the squabs won't stay still! and the light wasn't good.
Alf, above, looking a bit bedraggled, and Meg, below, inspecting my fingers
I tried to get a photo of them clambering into the cote, but they're too quick!
Friday 20.9.13 - I was going to be out for quite a while so I asked hubbie to keep an eye on the babies if he was around the cottage or at lunchtime. Apparently he came back at one and found older brother Alf sitting calmly on the hedge - so, for my sake, he popped him back into the cote with little sister Meg. What worries me about babies reared in the back of the cote is, that when they fledge, they obviously come out onto the rear hedge, and would maybe fly or tumble down into the yard beyond....where the cars are..... and other dangers. So - 32 days old - and fledged....if you can call it fledging! Proper fledging is really when they fly to the roof and I don't think they are capable of that yet. I looked after my grandchildren today and my three year old grandson who used to be a little nervous of the doves wanted to hold Alf on his arm, but needed to have him taken away before I could get a photo!
Saturday 21.9.13 - I fed the morning flock as usual - and went back to bed for a short while as usual. I mostly feed Cloud when I get up again and take her out to the hutch. There was Alf, on the ground, near the pampas grass, looking incredibly helpless and not at all able to fend for himself in any way. I picked him up and put him on the hedge, then took the photos.
Lucky and Charm were around the cote, with other doves - but when a vigorous male jumped on top of poor Alf, Lucky did nothing to prevent it. Unlucky little Alf - obviously female - and raped in front of my eyes. I quickly shooed the male off, and was grateful that with birds no actual penetration occurs. Alf looked bewildered, as well she might, and I collected her from the hedge with the thought of putting her back in the cote - but she felt so light and fragile that I took her into the house for weighing. I haven't weighed the babies for a while as I had begun to get worried by it and also felt it was somewhat pointless, but I was shocked at how little she weighed - only about 195g! I have seen Lucky feeding the babies, though maybe not as much as I would like, and I have still kept up their evening top-up suppers, but this is not the weight for a pigeon at fledging - she should be about 300g! I gave her a good feed of peanuts and grains, and will just have to feed them more often. I didn't want to take over from Lucky but something is not going right here - oh I feel I am interfering too much but what can I do? I can't let them starve! Somehow, I feel that these babies are not going to survive, whatever I do..... they had that dreadful cold start when they were only 4 days old, and then no feeding for 24 hours (except by me) when Bertie was around and maybe they just haven't had all the nutrients they need. Perhaps I will make up the Kaytee mix and give that that too. I am writing this not long after the above happened, but I will get Meg out of the nest and weigh/feed her too - from my window it looks like the flock has left the garden so now's a good time. I can only be grateful Bertie's not around now, with Alf trying to fledge!
Later - I went out for a few hours but was glad to find both babies still in the nestbox when I returned. Pandora's huge flock of pidgies were there, with just about 3 white ones dotted in! I gave them a sprinkle of the feed I am currently getting from the Poultry Farm and targeted Pandora for larger grains and peanuts. I changed the feed from the PF as it had grit in it (for hens) which got left on the lawn and however small the percentage in the mix, it was still a waste of money! This new type is the same - whole wheat and cut maize - but with no grit, and actually costs less - excellent! I'm paying £11 for a 20kg sack of this one. It's called Badminton Poultry Corn and is the type of thing I was looking for a few years ago - and gave up because the cost of delivery made it as expensive as the usual stuff I get from the pet shop (mixed grains and hard peas) http://www.badmintoncountryfeeds.co.uk/index.php They don't sell online - you have to buy from one of the stockists and I'm lucky that the PF is so very near me, and such a pleasant place to go with such nice people! Photo is varied chicks in the barn - though most of the poultry is outside.
After the mid-afternoon feed which is about 3.30pm at the moment, I knew that Lucky had been up to the babies, so I went to feel their crops. For the first time in ages, I was satisfied that both squabs had been reasonably well fed by daddy Lucky. In the mornings, it always seems to me that Lucky would rather flirt and dally on the roof than come down and do some serious work picking up grain for his little ones but this afternoon he seems to have concentrated, thanks goodness! But.....I am worried about Alf in particular. She seems listless and whether this was to do with this morning's unpleasant experience or whether there is something wrong with her I don't know. She seemed ok yesterday when my grandson had her on his hand.
Squabs weights at lunchtime were - Alf - 195g and Meg 207g - then before I fed them just before 6pm, I weighed them again - Alf 209g and Meg 214g. I will have to see how they are in the morning, but probably will top them up after every feed from Lucky...... if Alf survives the night..... somehow I have a despondent feeling about her. I took the photos this evening, just in case ....God bless my babies!
To be cont...