Monday, 30 December 2013

The end of the year 2013, and two pigeons come into my life

I wasn't going to write my blog until I started again in the New Year but a few things have happened and I have been keeping notes, so I thought I better get in written up. Thank you to everyone who sent me messages and emails for Christmas - it crept up on me this year, and I'm sorry if I didn't reply.

Thurs 19th Dec 2013

I came back from Christmas shopping at about 2pm – a gloomy December day, turning wet. There were a few pigeons and even fewer doves waiting on the roof. I threw down some grains, then collected Cloud from the hutch for her afternoon feed. While I was sitting on the garden chair feeding her, I saw a young pigeon that I’d noticed for at least two consecutive days before. When I’d seen it before it seemed able to eat but was only picking up the very small grains, while the older pidgies gobbled down corn and peas, and then flew off, taking the little one – half-fed – with them. I put Cloud back in the hutch and observed the little one closely. Even when I threw the usual grain mix, and peanut granules right in her path she just seemed to be stabbing with her beak, ineffectually, at the ground – ignoring the food in front of her. I discounted the idea that she couldn’t see the food – she must be able to see to fly and keep up with the others. I decided that I would try and catch her, as I didn’t think she would last very long without some care and attention, so I went to get my net. It was so long since I’d used it that it was all tangled up in the shed, so I had to use my old small net that was hanging up, and far harder to use than the big one. Anyone who has tried to catch a poorly pigeon will know that it’s nerve-wracking – sometimes you get only one chance before the poorly one takes off in fright and won’t come down again. My heart was beating wildly, but I managed to trap her in the net, and bring her into the house, to be wrapped in a towel and hand-fed. I think I gave her about 20 grains or so before I thought it would be a good idea to weigh her. I put her in a little bowl to do so, and after taking away the weight of the bowl, she weighed in at only 227g – terribly light, far too light – poor little thing! Fortunately, I already had a night box prepared as I had got it ready for Cloud, when re-arranging the house for Christmas events – and then not used it. So I was able to put the little one straight in. I don’t know the sex of the bird of course, so I am saying she’s female for now, and calling her Echo. When I brought Cloud in for the night I weighed her too, for comparison purposes. She is an adult female white dove and I’ve known her for 1 year 8 months, so I guess she is over 2 years old – as when she first came to my notice in the garden she already had a mate so must’ve been sexually mature and at least 6-8 months old. So... she currently weighs 370g - 143g more than Echo.
About an hour after I brought Echo in, I took her out of the box and fed her again and offered her sips of room temperature water from a little shot glass – which I was pleased she accepted. You may remember the pigeon with paramyxo symptoms that I ringed and hand-fed on a couple of occasions early in December – that pigeon turned up when I was incredibly busy and I didn’t feel I could take it in and look after it, but after a few days it didn’t turn up any more and probably perished, so I did feel bad, and that was one of the reasons that I thought I really must try to catch and do what I could for Echo. Later that evening, we had a short burst of thunder and lightning, and heavy rain, and I was so glad that Echo wasn’t out in it, shivering – I just don’t think she would survive another night without proper food. I have no idea where the doves and pigeons roost – they are obviously divided up into smaller groups or flocks, and some of them probably come some distance to feed in my garden, and all that flying must be exhausting for an under nourished young pigeon.

20th Dec 13 -  Echo survived the night – excellent! I got up early to make special arrangements for her as I had to be out all day. Poor Cloud had to be taken out of the crate, fed early – while it was still dark outside! – and put in the hutch when it was just beginning to get light. Then I cleaned out the crate and set it up in the Christmas decorated conservatory. Echo was fed again, and accepted more water, then I had to leave her alone in the crate. She had done some poops overnight, but rather green and watery – I think consistent for an under-fed bird.  I came back at lunchtime with my little grand-daughter and gave Echo another feed, and more water. I had left both in the crate of course, and I could tell she had been doing something with the grain as it was all over the place but whether she managed to feed herself I don’t know. I will definitely be keeping her til after Christmas, and will make a decision then as to when to release her. Before I had to take my grand-daughter home in the late afternoon, she had another feed. My ‘3 day rule’ applies – I have often found that if a poorly or underfed bird survives 3 days, then they will often go on to recover completely. This afternoon I saw another two young pigeons in the garden – one of which could well be Echo’s sibling. This young bird appeared to be able to feed itself quite well, and maybe Echo was the younger or weaker of the two. There is also a bird coughing/sneezing in the garden every day, but it seems to eat very well and can fly, so I wouldn’t be able to catch it anyway. Here's poor 'Sneezy' on the left, with supporting friend.

I was able to net Echo relatively easily as she was, I think, weak, tired and discouraged – needing a bit of mothering! The young pigeons leave the nest at roughly 30-35 days old – then probably they would spend the next week in the general area of the nest with the parents still bringing them food, so I am guessing from that and her appearance that Echo is about six weeks old. She doesn't look too bad in the photos but she's very fragile really.

There's two or three other very young pigeons around - one is probably Echo's sibling..... maybe this one. (sorry the photos are not very good!)

Sat 21st Dec 13 – Echo spent her day as usual in the conservatory. Thankfully she is quite calm and just stays in one position – usually standing on top of the box – for most of the time, and doesn’t try to escape or bash herself against the bars like adult pigeons do sometimes when they are confined. She likes to sleep. Outside it was murky, blustery and downright rainy all day long. I saw the other young bird and hope that it will survive on the little it eats, but at least it does eat and keeps up with the flock. Sneezy, the poorly one, stayed around all day, still eating well, and spent the night on the little roof above my door. I weighed Echo at about the same time as I weighed her on Thursday, and in the same bowl. She now weighs 248g so has put on 21g – I am so pleased! I will continue to weigh her every couple of days. According to my ‘Bible’ – Feral Pigeons by Richard F. Johnston and Marian Janiga – a feral pigeon should weigh approx 300-350g at 28 days old or 4 weeks. If Echo carries on increasing her weight at the same rate then she should be about 311g by next Friday – when I estimate she will be about 7 weeks (but she could be younger). But the main thing that I have to ensure before I release her will be whether she can eat on her own.

Sun 22nd – Today was awkward as I was going to a family party in Bognor and away all day and into the evening – hubbie was also away so couldn’t help. I fed Echo as much as she would take before she resisted, and then left her in the crate in the conservatory, as usual, with several dishes of food and small bowls of water. If nothing else, she was safe from harm. Poor Cloud had to be left outside in the hutch – with me knowing that I wouldn’t be able to bring her in at dusk – I hate that, and if I hadn’t had Echo in the crate I would’ve left Cloud in all day. I also hoped that poor Sneezy would be ok too. Obviously I enjoyed the party and forgot about my feathered charges – but when I got home I straight away collected Cloud from the hutch, and brought her in to her nightbox, and took Echo out of the conservatory and put her in hers – which is warmer than the conservatory. Sneezy wasn’t above the porch for the night this time.  Echo has survived the three days from my ‘3 day rule’ but doesn’t seem very feisty – all I can do is look after her for the time being and see how she gets on.

Monday 23rd Dec 13 – Today was forecast high winds and rain. Despite the weather Lucky was bringing sticks to the cote, and Charm was arranging then in the front most favoured nestbox – and I saw them mating on Saturday too! They seem very tolerant of Snow-White and Rose-Red who are also popping in and out of the cote today. Sneezy made it back to the garden, but is still poorly – I did manage to pick him up from the patio, feed him a few extra peanuts, though he can feed himself, but slowly - and I weighed him (248g so probably too light to survive with this 'cold' that he's got). I put him in a box for a while, but he struggled so much to get out that I had to release him. I did ring him though, with a red ring, to make him easier to spot if he came back. Echo was also weighed in the afternoon and has only put on another 6g – up from 248g to 254g – a total of 27g since I first weighed her. Hubbie, busy arranging his mini barrel of Christmas beer in the conservatory, observed that maybe she has paramyxo – I do hope not! I just had assumed she was very young and under-fed so not coping Oh dear, the pidgies are such a worry, but I can’t just see one in trouble and not help! If Echo does has paramyxo then she will be tended with care, in the hope she will recover. Below, Echo looking big and fierce, when in fact she is neither!

Christmas Eve – VERY stressful day – (but not for the dovies). We had very heavy rain and strong winds last night, the river is way up, and the fields are flooding. By midday our neighbours’ gardens were flooded and by late afternoon our elderly neighbour in a wheelchair had to be evacuated from his house which is right on the stream.

Me standing in the flood-water, and, below, our exit to the world outside the farm - blocked off with the flood, which was deeper there than the bit where I am standing.
 Never ever seen the river so high up - to the top of our island - wow! It was getting scary!

 I wasn’t that worried that our cottage would flood, as it is the old lock-keeper’s cottage and built on slightly higher ground but it isn’t nice to be surrounded by water, spreading and rising! Last night about 10pm, Bertie burst into the house, miaowing wildly, scared and saturated. We dried him off and allowed him to sleep the night with us on the bed. He had been with us during the day, and early evening, but had gone off, and perhaps had attempted to get home and found the way across the fields cut off by water – poor Bertie. In the morning (today) he was his cheerful self again.

I rang his proper owner and she said she would come and get him despite me telling her there was a tree down in the road. She turned up shortly after the last bit of tree had been cleared, and took Bertie – and, amazingly, brought me a bottle of champagne to thank me for all the times I had brought him home. I was very glad that Bertie had been taken safely back to where she lives, as after they’d gone the situation got steadily worse. BUT today the doves and pigeons carried on as normal, in fact even more exuberantly than normal – with Lucky collecting sticks for the cote, and Charm dragging them in and arranging them nicely. She sat alone for ages and I wondered if she was laying, but she didn’t. Today, I was delighted that Bianca and Autumn were both there, and guess who also turned up – Destiny! I was so happy to see another of Sky and Summer’s babies, born in my cote, return to the garden.
I observed Echo in the crate when she didn’t know I was watching – and I fear Hubbie is right, she does has paramyxo. I watched her try to pick up grains, and then tossing and turning her head to try to swallow them – it is such a distressing disease, and if I hadn’t managed to capture her and bring her in she would’ve quickly starved to death, or got so weakened she would’ve been caught by a predator. But of course I am hand-feeding her, so that of course she does get enough. After every few grains, I have to sort of smooth then down her throat, by gently massaging them downwards. Sweet little Echo, she is adorable, accepting my ministrations calmly – not long out of the nest, she is used to letting mummy and daddy look after her, and probably thinks I am a different looking version of a parent!!!

Christmas Day – The flood water has gone down thank goodness and we were out all day so I fed the doves in the morning, and just chucked plenty of food on the lawn which had to last them.  Cloud stayed in the hutch til we got back and Echo was in the conservatory. When we got home Sneezy was spending the night above the porch – I fear the poor thing won’t live very long. She has some sort of respiratory problem, but can still eat and fly reasonably well. Thank you to my internet friend and blog reader, Fennie, for the lovely and appropriate present below - which is one of Emma Bridgewater's designs. It was so sweet of you and much appreciated.

Boxing Day – Home all day. Both pairs of doves brought sticks to the cote but Lucky and Charm’s nest is more advanced than Snow White and Rose Red’s as they can’t really decide which nest box they want to use. Sneezy is still alive and managing to eat.. Echo’s crate had to be moved out of the conservatory as the my daughter and her fiancĂ© were coming for a big roast lunch. So she spent the day outside for the first time since I caught her a week ago. Poor Echo, I can’t release her, she can’t feed herself properly.

 Pretty Echo!
 and poorly Sneezy
 Echo, below, ringed

27th Dec 13 -  Today was clearing up day after Christmas. The doves continued to make nests in the cote. I saw Bianca, Autumn, Destiny, Dolly and other favourites including Wooden Eye, but unfortunately Fennie is AWOL. I weighed Echo again and she weighs 270g (up from the original 227g) so she is doing well. I’ve now had her, and been hand-feeding her, for 9 days. She is content in the crate at the moment, but I do feel bad about her confining her, despite it being for her own good. I ringed her today – orange ring, right foot – in the hope that eventually she will be better and able to be released into the flock. She is not showing the unpleasant symptoms of paramyxo – star gazing, head flopping, fits etc The two other young birds that come with the flock (one of which that I think may be Echo’s sibling) are doing well, getting less scared and able to feed themselves small grains. Charm stayed the night in the cote – will there be an egg in the morning? If so, then if all goes well the new babies would be out of the nest around Valentine’s Day – sounds romantic but it could be very cold, or snowy.

Sat 28th – Charm and Lucky gave me no chance to see whether there is an egg or not in the nest - guarding it closely and taking turns. Snow White and Rose Red popped in and out and made half hearted collecting nest material attempts, but nothing much is happening with them. I gave Echo a bath in the warm kitchen this afternoon and kept her in there to dry off for half an hour while I pottered about. Cloud didnt get a bath this time, just a light shower with the garden hose. One of the young pigeons, a smooth grey one, obviously has paramyxo too - poor poor little thing, I didnt manage to capture it.

Below, Charm in the top nestbox, and either SW or RR in the one below - and then Echo's bath time.

Sunday 29th This morning, early, as I put the kettle on, I saw Charm peek out of the nest. When she flew to the roof, I flew to the cote and up the steps to see if there was an egg. Yes, but only one – it felt cold, but I have had experience where the eggs have felt cold in the early stages and can still be incubated and hatch successfully so I wasn’t too worried. There had been a sharp frost though and I had to break the ice in the water baths, but Charm soon went back to her nestbox. I wonder when the egg was laid and if there will be another one – as is usual with doves/pigeons. Another early bird was a hen pheasant who has been tentatively visiting the garden – I put out some grains for her. Her days will be numbered, and they will be shooting on the farm today – how I hate it! Later when the flock started to arrive, Sneezy landed at my feet – hello darling! – I was surprised he’d made it through another night. When I went to the bins for more food, Sneezy followed me and got fed some extra peanuts. In the afternoon, I weighed Echo and she’d gone up from 270g to 273g – only a small increase, but still an increase. I will start feeding her a few more grains at each feed. At the beginning I fed her three times a day – now she gets fed in the morning around 8.30am, after I’ve dealt with the other birds and 2.30pm. I always offer her water (blood temperature) from a little glass at feeding times, and before bed, and to keep her warm she has a covered hot water bottle (microwave hard bottle) to stand on – so you can see that having her, as well as Cloud, gives me a lot more work! It will be worth it though if eventually she is cured and can be released. I saw two of three other young pigeons today – the sweet smooth grey one from yesterday was missing and I fear has perished. Out of the other two, one seems fine and the other most definitely has paramyxo. The only thing I could do for it was to place a deep, largish container full of grains on the lawn to give it a chance to get something to eat with its random stabbing attempts. It’s painful to watch, knowing I can do so little to help. I did unearth my big net from the shed, and made a couple of attempts to casually walk that way, but the little one is wary and flew off, and I don’t want to make it so scared it won’t even try to come down and eat. The weather this evening is predicted wet and very windy so I am very much afraid that I won’t see it tomorrow, and Sneezy won’t have a good night either in those conditions and may not survive either.   I went for a walk at Painshill Park this morning – it’s always so lovely there when the sun shines. Here is a swan in flight over the calm and bright lake – now the flooding has gone down.

 Above Painshill Park Cobham, and below the very young pigeon with paramyxo 
that I havent managed to catch

In the early afternoon, Sneezy came down for more food, right to my feet. I was easily able to pick him up and hand-fed him about 10 peanuts before he struggled to be released. He doesn’t like being confined, and so I didn’t attempt to keep him,especially as I don’t feel there is much I can do for him – he’s not long for this world. I gave Echo a little more freedom in the conservatory but she can’t really fly very well at the moment, so she can only be free when I am around to supervise (and clean up!) I talk to Echo and make clucking sounds with my tongue, and she responds by flapping her wings a little, in the manner of young pigeons with their parents.

Monday 30th Dec 13 - The morning was dreadfully blowy with driving rain but by the afternoon there was a bit of sun and the young pidgie with paramyxo was with the flock. Amazing how they can survive. I had no chance to catch it, and just put the deep container filled with grains out again. Then I spotted Sneezy - he'd made it back! Soaked and bedraggled, he was sitting with closed eyes on the little porch roof. I decided that I really would have to bring him in, like it or no, so I got the steps and the big net, and wobbling on the top managed to catch him. He felt very wet, and very cold so I warmed him up on a covered hot water bottle before hand-feeding him some grains and peanuts, as you are not supposed to feed a cold bird. Later I weighed him and he'd gone down from 248g on Christmas Eve to 238g (lighter than Echo is now!). I prepared another container for him, and will keep him until he either dies, which seems likely, or I feel he has a chance of recovery and survival. He was calmer than yesterday - obviously very poorly - I should've kept him from the beginning but it's difficult when a bird doesn.t want to be kept in. I'm not always sure that it is the right thing to do to keep a wild bird against it's will even when it's obviously ill but Sneezy has been struggling on for over 10 days now and it's time to step in and give a bit of help. The trouble is I now have three birds to look after, and  that will be a struggle for me, time-wise anyway, as they all need hand-feeding.

Echo, approx 7/8 week old pigeon,  in typical paramyxo pose.... star-glazing
Update on Echo and Sneezy soon!

To be cont...


Fennie said...

Oh well! At least the Bridgewater dove will never get Paramyxo or need hand feeding. But will it lay an egg?
The doves really are very grateful for all you do for them and would award you a medal if they could. Maybe you could help the pheasant by providing food and a nest box and keeping it safe. Of course you'd need a male pheasant, but they look quite pretty on the lawn. Have you ever experimented with automatic feeders - we used to use them for chickens? That might save you some work. How do the birds react to sound? Do they like music, or recordings of other birds, or do they prefer calm? And whatever happened to the passing ducks that dropped into past blogs? With the river so high some might still be seeking refuge among the pheasants, pigeons and pottery! By the way I have done you a Jack Sparrow bit on your Mystery Monday. I think you'd better acquire a parrot!

Faith said...

Pheasants and ducks come and go as they please, and all birds prefer calm I think and don't like unexpected noise - like me dropping the lid of one of the metal bins. I'd would adore a parrot, but can't see that happening in this life anyway.