Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Difficult times.....and not a good start to the dovie year

Warning! -  Unfortunately, this blog contains distressing photos so don't read if it will upset you.

Tuesday 14.1.14 – Echo weighs 329g... surely not? That’s a jump from 309! Big growth spurt if that’s accurate but I will weigh her again in a couple of days.

 I put Cloud next to Echo - see the naughty glint in Echo's eye?
Then suddenly she turned and pecked Cloud hard! Woo! I didnt expect that - thought it would be the other way round! - and Cloud ended up on the floor!

16th Jan – I was putting Cloud in her hutch after her perambulation with the flock on the lawn this morning, when I noticed Lucky push an egg to the front of the nestbox and then fly out of the cote with it in his beak He landed on the ridge of the roof, dumped the egg and it bounced down to the flowerbed. My first thought was ‘Is the egg no good?’ and then I thought ‘Wow, it must be hatching day!’ Normally I know exactly when the eggs are due to hatch and wait anxiously for a sign, but I forgot to mark it on the calendar. I will look back at my blog...... I found the egg in the flower bed – it was only the shell, so hopefully all is well with the hatchling.

There’s no chance of course of seeing the baby or babies at the moment, as Charm and Lucky are guarding them well – as they should. Echo weighed 337g today – wow she’s really putting it on at the moment.
17th Jan – I had both my grandchildren this afternoon, and when we got back from a short local walk we found a dog just running out of the garden! It must have been rampaging round, maybe barking, and both my mummy doves, Charm and Rose Red were off their nests! Rose Red is so nervous, and she makes Charm jumpy too – and neither of them are used to dogs in any shape or form of course. (It wasn’t one of the 3 dogs that belong to the neighbours whose dog killed my Jose). I think we left the gate open – so my fault – but there are not usually dogs around here. I grabbed the steps and checked Charm’s nest – two downy yellow babies! Both obviously only a day or so old, and I only took the quickest peep and didn’t touch them. I shepherded the children back into the house in the hope that if the garden was quiet Charm would quickly return to them. RR leaves her eggs so often that I am thinking they may well not hatch anyway. I watched out of the window, and Charm went back soon enough I think – luckily it’s not too cold at the moment, but still these tiny babies need a parent with them all the time.
A bit later on, while the children were happily playing inside, I went out to feed the flock and the young pigeon with paramyxo was there again, trying to pick up grains out of one of the near empty little pots. I got the big net and stealthily crept up towards it, hiding the net as best I could behind my back, and this time managed to catch it! The poor thing was so hungry it just sat patiently in my lap, wrapped in a cloth, while I popped the grains in its beak. I weighed it quickly after I’d fed it, though it should have been before and it weighs approx 307g, which is not too bad. As I had the children with me, and had to take them home, I just made basic arrangements for the pigeon’s comfort and safety for the time being, and the night ahead, and will think about it all tomorrow.
Sat 18th Jan into Sun 19th  – The pigeon, who I fondly imagined might be a friend in adversity for Echo, was reasonably calm in the morning, but after a good feed, he couldn’t imagine why he couldn’t be free and started bashing about in his cage. Since he could hold his head up properly and as it was a fine lunchtime I decided I would let him go so I ringed him with a pink ring and named him Narcissus, and when free, he flew to the roof to join up with the rest of the birds. Paramyxovirus (PMV) is highly infectious but what am I to do? There is no way I could kill a bird (to help the spread of infection) and he still has a chance of survival anyway. It’s not good for the rest of the flock, but they have to take their chances too. Narcissus is not the only one with the symptoms – a white dove is also showing the signs, and so is Fennie, my pigeon born of two white doves last spring. Not long after releasing Narcissus, I caught Fennie. He has been a free spirit since fledging from my dovecote about 10 months ago and didn’t like being caught. Like most of the birds with PMV, they are so hungry that they readily accept a hand-feed, he sat in my lap but when put in the cage just, vacated by Narcissus he wasn’t a happy pidgie, literally climbing up the bars.  I weighed him  - kissed the top of his very soft head as he was one of my babies, born in my cote! - and released him. I will be watching out for both of them, Narcissus and Fennie, and will just have to re-catch them if necessary.

 Narcissus above, and Fennie - looking remarkably well even though he's not - below
And here's Fennie as the most adorable baby in May last year

 Narcissus and Fennie really need nursing care, but I just haven’t the time to keep too many birds in. It takes me about an hour in the mornings alone anyway to do what I have to do for Cloud and Echo, feed the flock, clean up etc – and that’s just the mornings! My favourite kind of nursing of course is when a bird recovers – like Patience with the hole in her chest made by the sparrowhawk, or Pandora with her damaged beak. I’ve seen Pandora fairly recently and it’s such a pleasure to know I’ve helped. I am hoping Echo will recover and be released eventually too – but if not I will just have to keep her, like I keep Cloud – and how many Clouds can I have?? But Echo is my little reminder and echo of Santa from last year – though he was just backward and didn’t have PMV – and now she is ‘coming along’ and a good weight I am feeding her myself slightly less and she feeds herself from a deepish pot. She also now resists hand-feeding making it very awkward but I don’t want her to lose weight so I have to do some feeding. I’ve now had her for a month today! – 19th Dec to 19th Jan – or 31 days. Weight today 345g (so in a month she’s gone from 227g to 345g that’s 118g in a month! According to what I’ve read, I believe a pigeon with PMV keeps shedding the virus for 6 weeks and needs to be isolated. They can spontaneously recover between 6-12 weeks but sometimes it takes longer. Cloud of course has been in for over a year and has not recovered and is unreleasable – obviously I couldn’t have too many birds like that, but how could I have her or Echo put down. They both have their own little personalities!
Charm flew out of the nestbox to relieve herself and grab a few grains, and I peeked at the babies again – blonde and plump! I am not quite sure when Rose Red’s babies are due to must be about now as there were two eggs in her nestbox on the 1st of January and incubation is 18 days. I will have a peep if I get a chance, but if Charm or Lucky are with their babies I don’t want to upset them. Sometimes it’s possible to set the steps up away from the cote and get a glimpse, but as I keep saying SW and RR leave the eggs so often that I wouldn’t be surprised if their eggs don’t hatch.
Narcissus was here this morning on the lawn, but I haven’t seen Fennie so far. The food I gave them yesterday will probably keep them going for a day or so anyway. Narcissus went back to the roof and hunched up, so maybe he is feeling worse. He's in the middle of the photo below.

 Later I managed to catch him to feed, and kept him in. He seemed resigned to it. I also caught a white dove with PMV and fed and ringed her (green ring – called her Emerald) I released her back outside as she didn’t settle.

I didn’t get a chance to peep at SN and RR’s nest, and when darkness fell both mummy doves were on their nests – I checked with a quick flicker of the torch.
Mon 20th Jan 14 – Ghastly dovie day......dreadful! Hubbie and I were up early – well before the first doves and pigeons arrive on the roof – and he left the house at 7.30am. It was a sharp frosty morning and I went out with the boiled kettle to de-ice the water baths. I saw that Rose Red wasn’t in her nestbox and it seemed pretty early and dark-ish,even for her – and then, oh god, I saw that Charm wasn’t in hers either! Neither bird was anywhere around. I grabbed the steps close to the cote and looked inside Charm’s first – the babies felt cold and floppy to my touch – I drew one out....dead! And the other, also dead.....and then I looked in Rose Red’s nest. A tiny baby had hatched, but it was dead too – lying next to its egg shell and the unhatched egg.  I carried them all in to the house and laid them down to look at. There was no doubt that all three were dead.

Dead white dove squabs - from two different nests
(abandoned by mothers on frosty night)
It wasn’t like the time when I found Alpha and Omega, cold and abandoned, but still with some flicker of life left that gave me hope – these babies were floppy with open beaks. I have rarely had a sadder dovie moment. What on earth caused my two mummy birds to leave their nests and babies during the night or early morning before light? Was it Charm doing her usual thing (but at night??) and taking the inexperienced Rose Red with her. Instinct tells me that RR is the younger bird, and these may be her first eggs. I am so upset with myself - I could've helped and should've been more cautious. Obviously I couldnt watch the cote all the time during the night hours, but if I'd only blocked Charm in as soon as I knew the eggs had hatched. I have never blocked the parent doves in at night - only the young squabs - and I don't know what a bird like Charm would do if she couldnt get out when she wanted to. I like to think she would just accept it and settle down on the babes - I hope she wouldnt turn on them! I am going to practice with the little grilles Hubbie made for me, stealthily approaching the cote and putting them up. Is it even going to be possible at all? Charm’s babies were no more than about four days old, and Rose Red’s baby up to a day old maybe – you can see the difference in the sizes below. There was a time when I wouldn’t have dreamt of touching a dead baby bird but now I only find it dreadfully sad, not unpleasant. I put the dead babies back in their nests as the doves and pigeons started to come into the garden. All four parent birds arrived – Charm alighted on the lawn. Oh you stupid stupid thing! I admonished her ‘Don’t you know what you have done!’  I don’t blame the daddy birds, Lucky and Snow White, it’s not their job to brood the babies at night. Obviously I fed them all as usual but I felt animosity towards Charm and RR.  My thought had been that if Charm had left the babies at dusk I would’ve brought them in for the night and replaced them before she came back in the morning – I never never thought she would leave them during night hours or in the early morning. Now I have learnt my lesson, and if she nests again I will block her in at night as she can’t be trusted. Why didn’t I do that this time....too late now. I am so sorry, little ones, I let you down.

The babies were dead but the parents still went in and out of the nestboxes

I had Cloud, Echo and Narcissus to feed and set up for the day, but I kept an eye on the cote and first Rose Red and then Charm went back to their nests and settled inside. I started to doubt what I had seen – was it possible that those babies had in fact been alive? Surely they wouldn’t stay with them if they were dead? I had to go out but when I got back at 10ish the day was warming up, the garden was bathed in wintry sunlight and if I hadn’t known better, I would’ve thought all was well as both mummy doves were on the nests, seemingly quite happy. At the change-over when the daddy birds took over the duty, I saw Lucky enter the nest-box – and settle in! Surely he must realise the babies are dead? Charm acted oddly though – she went down to the ground under the cote and started collecting sticks! What for, Charm? To warm up the dead babies? To make a new nest? Goodness knows – I don’t understand her at all.

I kept Narcissus in as he seemed content to do so today. He and Echo can see each other in the conservatory which maybe helps them both feel less isolated.

Echo - showing her white bits!
Below - Narcissus' poops - looking normal for a bird that appears to have PMV

The parents were still on the nests after lunch. I researched on the internet and could find nothing about pigeons but read about a tiny baby born at only 26 weeks who was pronounced dead at birth – and visited 12 hours later by her parents only to find her alive in the morgue. Doctors seemed to think that hypothermia had made her to go into a type of hibernation causing vital signs to vanish completely – a harrowing story from 2012. Could this have happened to the baby doves?
Fennie arrived back in the garden and was caught without too much trouble, and fed. The green ringed white dove also arrived, and I failed on two attempts to catch him.
I had to go out at 4.30pm and this seemed to be around change-over time Lucky came out of the nestbox, but Charm didnt straight away go in as she would've done if the babies were alive. All four parents were on the roof, and I checked the nestboxes again - Charm and Lucky's babies felt warm to the touch - well they had been sat on all day - but they were still dead, and so of course was the other baby and egg. I went out taking my heavy heart with me. Back at 6pm, it was dark and all the doves had gone so I removed all the babies and the egg from the nests and wrapped them up to look at again in the morning.

21.1.14 –  I kept waking up in the night and remembering the babies were all dead – what a waste of those little lives and so unnecessary. What on earth is wrong with Charm? Why does she feel it is ok to leave the babies?  A sad start to the day as I opened the egg – I didn’t know what would be inside but if there was a baby I wanted to put it with its sibling ready for the ‘funeral’. The little thing inside didn’t seem very well formed, with one leg being adrift and its insides coming out, but that may have been because I removed it from the egg. You know of course that you must never ‘help’ an egg hatch as you can do much more damage than good. Hatching takes time and you must let nature progess in her own way. You can see from the photos that the egg baby was much smaller than the other.

Dead white dove squabs after being abandoned by mothers

Left, dead white dove hatchling and right, one removed from dead egg

I named Lucky and Charm's babies Hayley and January, and Snow White and Rose Red's Monday and Tiny. (Hayley after the character Hayley Cropper in Corrie who also died today). These are not the names I would've called them but I wanted to give them names to give them a bit of dignity and validity. It was sad to have to organise the disposal of 4 little babies – I placed them all in a little paper ‘boat’ sprinkled with yellow flowers from the winter flowering jasmine and gave them the usual float down the river.  RIP little sweethearts. Some people would leave dead chicks or eggs out for the corvids but I just couldn’t do that. Charm and Lucky both checked out their nest box but I didn’t see Rose Red go to hers – though Snow White spent quite a lot of time today in the cote – but not in his nest box. I wondered what happens to the mummy birds crop milk when the babies are dead and don’t need it – I suppose it just eventually dissipates like breast milk.
I weighed Narcissus (Cissy for short) first thing and she only weighs 243g (lost 54g in 4 days so it’s not looking good) – she’s a quiet little thing now, unlike Echo who has found her voice and ‘bree-bree’s’ at me, or is it ‘brou-brou’. Cissy and Cloud both sit quietly and let me feed them but Echo fidgets about and makes it truly difficult – I take this as a sign she might be getting better! I was unable to catch Fennie  for feeding or Emerald but put down quite a few little deep dishes and hope they got something to eat today. What can I do – I really can’t have row upon row of pigeons in boxes to feed and look after. Hubbie noticed Cissy’s box in the spare room last night and I had to say she’d be the last! We have an outside shed (which was the original loo for the house) and now converted to a small shower room plus kitchen/laundry room and that's where I feed Loopy. Hubbie came out of the loo part last night into the kitchen part about 10pm and was surprised to find a fox in there! Apparently it didnt seem that scared, and he wondered if someone at some time had made a 'pet' of it! He reckoned it was a vixen.

Wed 22.1.14 - This morning, while still dark, the fox was on the lawn. She didn't seem particularly scared of us, and I noticed she was limping.

This is why I will never leave any birds outside in the hutch or low run  if at all possible. When I came home mid afternoon, there were feathers on the path - possibly a scuffle with the hawk. What with two cats, a fox, the sparrow-hawk and all the other hazards, what chance do my poor birds have? Yet there are always birds.....
Cissy seems a bit low - unlike my jaunty Echo. Echo looks worse as she star-gazes all the time, whereas Cissy's head is always in the right position but something about her today makes me wonder if she will make it through.
I saw Emerald and Fennie in the morning, and Fennie again in the afternoon, but could catch neither. Fennie now understands about the deep dishes and I think was able to eat.

I am sorry that this is such a depressing blog and hope for better news next time, but thanks for reading it. Let's end of a pleasant note - today when I was buying petrol I noticed a nest  - with a pair of sweet collared doves. I said to the young lad behind the desk, you've got a nest above pump 2 and he said Yes they were there last year - it's safe and sheltered. Did they rear the babies last year I asked - Yes I believe so, he said. I plan to take my camera next time and see if I can get a photo for you.

To be cont....


Inthemud said...

Oh that is so very sad.

Fennie said...

Don't worry so much, Faith. Nature is prodigious. There'll be more babies along shortly. You are just an observer of the life that passes through your garden and you help where and when you can. But death, illness and so on - even among babies are part of nature's way. You won't have doves without dead babies just as you can't have milk without sweet little bull calves destined for the slaughterman's hatchet. Nature is cruel and unremitting just as much as she is bountiful and beautiful. There is no meaning in life - a bleak sentiment perhaps - but true nonetheless. All we can do is to try and minimize pain where we can while wondering at the infinite variety of what is around us. Big hug anyway. I know how attached you are to your dives and how sad it must be when something like this happens.

Guernsey Girl said...

I'm glad you told your story, Faith, however sad, and I hope it helped you to come to terms with it all. Sending you a cyber hug ( ) Marilyn xxx

Faith said...

Thanks everyone x