Friday, 14 February 2014

Poppet and Big Boy - and my dilemma for Echo and Narcissus

Friday 7th Feb – Definitely a bird day today – bad....and good. First thing I found when I stepped outside, still in semi-darkness, was a nuthatch on the ground under the feeder. I took a photo, and watched to see what it would do.

It seemed happy enough eating little morsels on the ground, and then hopped away into the winter flowering jasmine until I could no longer see it.....but when I went out again, there it was, not making any attempt to fly away, so I picked it up and popped it into the hutch with a fat ball, crushed peanuts and water, until I had time to deal with it. I then prepared Poppet for her release, making sure she had a drink, and managing to hand-feed her a few peanuts for energy - which she resisted as always. The flock didn’t seem jumpy, so I hoped the hawk wasn’t about and they settled down on the roof, just as I released Poppet. She is the pigeon lower on the roof than the rest.

Within half an hour as the flock was feeding on the ground, I was suddenly aware that the hawk had brought a pigeon down to the flower bed.....oh no, I couldn’t see the ring in the flapping tussling pair but I knew it would be Poppet. Unerringly the hawk had picked out the smallest, weakest bird... I was holding Cloud but I quickly thrust her into the doorway of the shed kitchen and rushed over....the hawk dropped the pigeon, but picked it up again and flew down over the hedge to the yard.....I followed and it flew off, with the victim flapping weakly on the ground. It was too late this time, the shock and the hawk’s claws had done their worst, and Poppet died in my bloodstained hands before we reached the house. I felt dreadful – why oh why hadn’t I waited and released her at lunchtime.....but when she was caught before it was the afternoon.....I’m afraid Poppet’s destiny was to be caught by the hawk. I felt so guilty that I nearly didn’t put this episode into my blog, but what is the point of writing it at all, if I am not honest? The flock of course had scattered, not to be seen again for hours.... 

After a while I put Poppet’s body on the low roof of the shed kitchen for the hawk to find. She was dead now so he might as well. Poppet and I hadn’t bonded, but I didn’t want it to end like this.....though somehow it seemed like I had always known it would.... RIP little thing, fly again in heaven.  I checked on the nuthatch – it was now crouched in the darker part of the hutch, and not looking good, then I had to leave for my dentist appointment. I obsessed all the drive about how I’d let Poppet down, until a Beatles song came on the radio and I decided to ‘Let it Be’.
The dentist has an upstairs room with a big circular window on the landing, and as I passed, the cutest tiniest bird was peeping in and popping about – I didn’t know if it could see me, or maybe just it’s own reflection, but it was a bird I didn’t recognise.  When I looked it up later I found it was a Goldcrest – Britain’s smallest bird. Such a little bundle of fun, seeing it cheered me up! Apparently it’s widespread but in all my nearly 57 years I don’t think I ever saw one before.
When I came home, the nuthatch was dead. Maybe it was just at the end of it’s natural life – or maybe it had banged against the window, but there wasn’t a mark on it. Another little life ended. The rest of the day passed uneventfully, thank goodness.
Sat. 8.2.14 – So unfair to the unlucky Poppet that the hawk didn’t put in an appearance at this morning’s early feed – why couldn’t that have happened yesterday? Why couldn’t Poppet have had at least one day of freedom and flying? Big Boy arrived and seems to have difficulty eating again. Possibly the damaged beak is growing out in such a way that makes eating awkward – like a damaged nail that grows bent. He flew off with the others, but hopefully if he really can’t eat I will be able to capture him again.

I have had a revival of interest in my little feather shop on Groovycart with a few orders coming in recently - if you'd like to have a look then go to  and find me at Real Birds Feathers (but sorry I don't post feathers outside the UK) and if by any chance you want to open your own Groovycart shop, selling crafts or whatever, then see the link to click at the top of my blog - underneath the header photo.

The hawk had returned to Poppet’s body yesterday but today I removed it from the roof, and had two little funerals, with flowers – one for her and one for the nuthatch. It doesnt matter how damaged or soggy the body, they still get a respectable funeral. The nuthatch looked sweet, wrapped in a white piece of kitchen paper with it's head peeking out, not looking dead at all - what a shame!

I weighed the pidgies – Cissy 324g – down 1g – and Echo 351g – down 4g – but I think they are both reasonable weights now and will fluctuate a little, and  I don’t think I need to keep weighing birds that are over 300g.

Sun 9.2.14 – All through yesterday – when it rained incessantly – I could see that BB couldn’t eat again and I was getting worried about him. Today he kept turning up, oblviously very hungry and puzzled why he couldn’t eat, and after several tries, I determined that the next time he was there I would only throw the food, including lots of tempting peanuts, at my feet – and did so, and thankfully caught him about 2.30pm – so a week and a day after release, I had got him back again. It seemed strange that although I had seen him daily in the garden and on the roof, I had no idea where else he’d been, how far he’d flown or where he had roosted at night. Wrapped firmly in a cloth so he wouldn’t flap, I had a look and the swelling that my blog reader Fennie had noticed had got bigger and was obviously making it impossible for him to pick up any type of food.

There was a palpable feeling of relief surrounding him and me as I fed him peanuts and grains dipped in water – poor Big Boy! Thank you for trusting me again. Then I removed Cloud from the hutch and brought her into the conservatory, so I had somewhere to put him til bedtime – and now Poppet is so unfortunately dead, he can go back in his usual night box. The Royal Pigeon Racing Association – RPRA – had said in their letter that if BB’s owner failed to contact me, then to contact them again so that they could make alternative arrangements. At the bottom of the letter they gave the name and number for my nearest pigeon fancier – I thought about it for a while, as I am unsure about how I feel about giving BB up to anyone other than a concerned owner – but I decided I could at least phone...... the number proved to be ‘not recognized’ .....back to square one! then I went back to my emails from the RPRA strays team where I’d been given an email address for a local club. Do I email or not? What are my options? – BB obviously needs help, maybe antibiotics – I may well contact the vet tomorrow and deal with it myself because this will mean when he gets better he can be released back again to the wild (which I would prefer) as opposed to being given to a pigeon fancier who may well decide in the end to destroy him or keep him forever shut up in a loft. After I’d fed him, I weighed him – should’ve been the other way round really – and he was 491g – down from 493g the first time I weighed him on 26th January, but that’s not too bad at all really.
Monday 10th Feb 14 – The hawk dive-bombed us during the morning feed – if it caught a bird it wasn’t in the garden or yard outside. I saw a few favourites briefly – Grace, Bandit, Mr. Strong....but the hungry birds hardly got a few mouthfuls before the hawk scattered them. I was pleased to see plenty of poops in Big Boy’s night box – a bit dry though. I rang the vets and got an appointment for him tomorrow morning. I won’t be contacting any pigeon fanciers until I have seen what I can do – I can’t see that they would do more for him than I would. Last year when I took Patience to the vet, I very quickly received 2 x £25 from the premium bonds – almost the exact amount I’d paid out! So I am hoping that the Universe will be generous again this year to help to cover BB’s costs! He is a magnificent pigeon and trusting of me so I have to do what I can for him.
Later – The inside of BB’s beak is pretty swollen and feels slightly heated – there is just enough room for me to gently push defrosted warm peas, grains and peanuts down. I’m not really sure how well he is able to drink, but I am doing my best til we see the vet. I am determined he will get better. If I could remove his ring I would do so as I don’t feel his owner deserves to have him if he ever returned there, but obviously they are not made to come off easily (will speak to hubbie about this)
Tues 11.2.14 – Big Boy was very calm even when the vet manipulated his beak. He confirmed that he has an infection and prescribed him antibiotics for 10 days. He also said that the damage was probably due to a trauma but couldn’t rule out the possibility of a tumour. He hopes if the infection is brought under control then the beak might heal well enough for BB to be able to adapt to eating alone somehow – unless it is a tumour of course. The antibios are given with a little syringe and I gave it to him as soon as we got home. Cost of visit £33.82. I talked to the young lady assistant when I paid the bill about racing pigeon owner's. She said she found a racer that couldnt fly at her boyfriend's and contacted the RPRA, being given the owner's number. He told her to 'just release it' ....'but you don't understand' she said 'it can't fly'.... 'Oh just release it' said the owner 'it will be ok'.....'but don't you think I should look after it for a few days?'....'if you like' said the owner, obviously not caring. So she did, and it died within a couple of days. The people up at the poultry farm say they have given up reporting stray racers to the RPRA for this reason - they have a huge barn there and obviously there is grain around for the poultry, so there is food and shelter, and sometimes a pigeon will stay awhile but they can't do any more for them.

Racing pigeon with damaged beak

The afternoon was sunny so he was in the hutch, and I opened the door so he could go into the outside part for the first time. He investigated it but soon realised he wouldn’t be able to get out, so preferred to sit inside At least he gets some fresh air and sun (when there is some sun!)

Some white doves turned up bringing a blue ringed one with them –  for a silly second my heart stopped and I thought it was Santa, until I remembered that he had two blue rings (and almost definitely didn’t make it) so I have to assume it is Bianca who I haven’t seen for ages, but she has gone before for periods of time and then come back. Excellent!

I gave Cloud a bath - here she is drying off in the kitchen. She has a dirty wing, probably from fitting in the garden when I take her out in the mornings. It didnt wash off, and you can't scrub a dove!

Bedtime for all the homies is around 4.30-5pm, with Cissy going to bed first, as she tends to zonk out earliest. I like Big Boy to be in bed before Echo and Cloud as they usually make a noise and I feel this is reassuring to him – to know he is with his own kind. Cloud and the pidgies have their boxes in a row on the shelf, but Big Boy is high up in a box on top of an upturned bed frame (that we need to burn when the weather is better)

 Left to right - Narcissus, Cloud and Echo - with Big Boy below
 Bertie the cat is currently visiting but is not allowed near the birds of course

Wed. 12.2.14 – Dreadful gusty rainy day and I kept all the homies inside in the conservatory.

Thurs.13.2.14 – Sunny and bright so BB went in the hutch today, though it’s lonesome for him, and he watched the flock wanting so much to be with them. I say to him ‘Big Boy as soon as you have finished your antiobiotics then you can go!’ (a week today that will be!) – and that is true.... even if his beak/swelling is not better I will release him so he gets some freedom at least for a while. Then if he can’t eat he will come back, and I will just stuff him full of peanuts and let him go again. Better to live that way for however long, than sitting in the hutch. There is a damaged piece just hanging on by a thread now, like a child’s wobbly tooth but I will leave it to come off naturally. After his meds and his food/drink, I am still anointing his sore beak with honey as that contains a little bit of magic! Sometimes when I collect him for feeding, he has a mouthful of feathers because he has been trying to preen – poor old thing, I must give him a bath in a day or so.

Big Boy with feathers caught up in his poorly beak

Cloud and Cissy seem happy in each other's company - making me feel that I am right in thinking that Cissy is another female. When Cloud is in the conservatory she often chooses to sit near Cissy, and definitely not near Echo!

Below Bertie enjoys the real fire - but I am planning to take him back home tomorrow morning early as his other mummy gets in such a state if he is away too long.

Fri 14.2.14 – Valentine’s Day is supposed to be the day the birds pair off, but though a few brave pigeons were billing and cooing on the roof, most of them sat hunched up in the rain as it lashed down. I brought Big Boy in from the hutch at 10am to spend the rest of the day in the conservatory. I think his beak is a little better – or am I imagining it? Below he is up on the drying rack above the aga and I climbed on a chair to take the photo. His facial feathers are wet as I had just given him a drink.

The hawk and the weather keep the birds away, and they arrive only in small groups. I haven’t seen Sugar or Lucky for a few days now, though I have seen Charm. We will just have to see who has survived at the end of this difficult time. I am very much thinking about all the homies futures. Cloud's is assured - I will keep her for her lifetime. Big Boy is being released as I said above, and I hope he will be able to manage. Echo doesnt look like he will ever recover enough to be released a - he is more unco-ordinated than Cloud and shows no sign of improvement. I've had him nearly two months now. He is appealing, has quite a cheeky personality, still flaps his wings in a babyish way when he sees me and I talk to him, tries to feed himself, drinks alone and moves about his crate a lot, making the most of the day. The trouble is - having 'another Cloud' means double the work, though it would be easier if they would agree to live together in the hutch. This is Echo - just before bedtime one day.

Narcissus doesnt star gaze and have fits like Echo and Cloud, but she is very very quiet - I have never heard her make one single little sound. She doesnt 'speak' when I get her out of the box, pick her up, feed her - ever! Mostly she stands or sits on her microwave hotwater bottle (snugglesafe) - occasionally I have seen her try to feed herself, but I have never seen her attempt to drink. She is 'other wordly' and I worry about her eyes, but I do feel that maybe she will recover enough to be released eventually - I've had her for about a month. I can't really cope with 4 homies, time wise....but what are my options for Echo and Cissy.

1. Keep them forever

Like I say I haven't got the time on a daily permanent basis, and if they don't recover they only have a limited quality of life, but that of course is the same as Cloud. The conservatory is not a suitable place in the summer either as it becomes like an oven. Also, next year there would be other pigeons suffering from PMV.... and so on. I can't keep them all!

2. Try to re-home them

I don't think it would be very easy to find homes for two special needs pigeons. And I would be very concerned that they would not be looked after properly - or someone might take them with the intention of using them for something awful (let's not go there)

3. Have them euthanised

This is something I shy away from thinking about as I am fond of both of them. Obviously I have had to go down this route a few times with pets who are suffering but this is different - the birds are not suffering, but they can't live properly as birds - they can't fly and they can't feed themselves properly.

If anyone has any thoughts on all this I would be pleased to consider them! I am going away at the end of March - just for a few days, but hubby will cope with Cloud, like he did last year, but he has not got the time, inclination or patience to look after 3 of them - and if he doesnt then I will have to pay someone to do it - and hand-feeding PMV pigeons is not for the general run of the mill pet-sitter - and I have no idea how much they would charge.

To be cont...


Fennie said...

Oh dear, Faith. You are so good to your birds. I am sure they are stocking you up with Karma points so that in another life you will have the ability to fly and to be with them wheeling in the sky and perhaps going on (gentle) peace missions. But as for know what are you going to do about your homies?

I fear, Faith, that as you have taken them away from the clutches of Mother Nature you have to do what Mother Nature would have done, only in a more sympathetic way. The birds have had a good life with you but it is a caged life in which they are coping with illness. If they won't get better then you have to face up to this and put them to sleep. You could put them out in the garden but then they would be killed and eaten by the hawk: a frightening and painful death, or else they will slowly starve, again frightened, tense and alone. How much better for them to die from a swift but accurate blow to the head so that their last thoughts are of your loving hands around them and a full crop.

Even we as humans have to die and how many times do we say to each other when we see some old biddy who cannot do anything for themselves and is perhaps terminally ill with cancer - how often do we say "don't ever let me get like that. Please knock me on the head first." And so it is. So very sad. But kind, too.

hopeinparis said...

We're not exactly knocking old biddies over the head with mallets, are we? Fennie's entire argument rests on the fact that they are "just birds" and without Faith's intervention the birds would be doomed to die anyway. Well, in fact, so are we all. Handicapped birds, just like handicapped people, can still enjoy life and bring joy to others.

Faith has other choices:

• Make an official decision to run a small bird rescue and sanctuary, find volunteer helpers and fundraisers, and put the birds up for adoption whenever possible. See MickaCoo as a model:

• Send the birds to other sanctuaries. There must be one in the UK, and I know there is one in Spain. If you can get the birds to a foster home in France, they can get a ride to Spain. Visit - although it's in French, it is just an example of a non-profit organization that shelters handicapped and abandoned birds for life. The director, Myriam, speaks English so you can contact her via the website.

hopeinparis said...

Here is a video story of an amazing 2-legged dog whose own mother was going to smother it. It was rescued by a loving family and trained to walk. He is a happy dog who makes others happy, and described by the family as " a gift from God." And - this cannot be a coincidence - the dog's name is FAITH.

If the link doesn't work, try pasting it in your browser's url bar, or search YouTube for: Amazing Two Legged Dog

Faith said...

Thank you both Fennie and Hopeinparis for your comments (and for those others who commented on my post on the Purplecoo site). Fennie, although the birds do indeed have a caged life once the PMV virus has spent itself, the birds are then not 'coping with illness' as such, but are indeed handicapped and can't fly. I do feel that Echo won't recover properly, like Cloud didnt, but I hope that Cissy might (she is a month behind Echo as far as the virus goes). Fennie, you must know that there is no way in the world that I could put Echo and Cissy out in the garden to await their fate, as that would be a really cruel thing to do, and I think killing them myself with a blow to the head which may or may not be accurate would be dreadful for both them and me! I would take them to the vet if I decided that they had no quality of life at all. I do appreciate your comments and know that the Purplecooers tend to agree that I shouldnt let the birds live - but it isnt as easy as that as I am attached to them now. Hopeinparis, I couldnt set myself up as a small bird sanctuary for many reasons, but a main one would be that we rent and don't own our cottage. I am currently investigating if there are any UK sanctuaries near me, and am in touch with someone already. That was a good idea of yours! Watch this space!