Thursday, 6 February 2014

The hawk reigns....

Friday 31st Jan 14 -  After the main morning flock had gone, guess who turned up on the roof? See the little white dab? That’s Sugar!

 Well done darling you made it back – so clever!
She was soon joined by a few pigeons, and I was glad because a lone dove or pigeon really does look alone, and is vulnerable but she didn’t come down to eat til nearly midday. She can eat well, and keep up with the flock, more or less, so I am pleased that a warm night’s rest chez nous helped her. There’s another little white dove about and I am wondering if it is her sibling?

The hawk brought down a pigeon, just on the patio in front of the cottage door - when I opened the door they both flew off, so that was a lucky pidgie that day!

I see my parent doves for the morning feed, Lucky and Charm, and Snow White and Rose Red, but they don’t stay round the cote. RR seems to be showing some PMV symptoms..... it’s endemic in feral flocks I’m afraid.
Saturday 1st Feb 14 – Sugar and her possible sibling were here with the morning flock. I’m glad I was able to ring her as now I can recognise her and she will become one of my little favourites! I’d recognise her anyway at the moment as she is smaller, and still a bit babyish looking and muddy, but soon I hope she will grow up to be a big strong pure white bird.

I have had Big Boy now for a week - Though he doesn’t particularly like being in the hutch – he doesn’t flap about too much but I can sense it – he has accepted the situation and I hope the rest and hand given food is helping his beak to heal. I have been told that if I do not hear from the owner by Tuesday next then I can contact local pigeon clubs, and have been given two numbers. I feel that if the owner doesn’t get in touch, and obviously doesn’t care, then I am not sure if I want to give him back to someone else. I may see how he can cope if set free – if he couldn’t eat then I am sure I could recapture him again. And if he can’t eat alone, what pigeon fancier is going to want him anyway? And if he does manage then he has the option of flying back to his original owner, or staying with the feral flock (much more fun!)

I had got BB up, fed him and put him in the hutch by 8.30am – and typed up the above – but by 10am it was beautifully sunny, there were 3 or 4 pigeons on the roof, and I looked at him sitting hunched in here and just thought sod it! I approached the hutch and asked him’ Do you want to go Big Boy?’

I felt he spoke to my heart that he did, and I opened the door. He waited for a few seconds then flew straight up to the roof. 

 There he goes!

 It didn't take Robs long to see if there were any pickings!

A few minutes later I couldn’t tell him from the others so threw a few peanuts down, and when all the pigeons came down I realised he wasn’t there at all – he’d gone!  I hadn’t intended to set him free today, but he has sat for a week in that hutch with every day being either very wet, or very grey. In fact it’s been so wet and boring for him, that every afternoon I have brought him in to the kitchen for a couple of hours before pigeon bedtime. You may think I did wrong – or right! – but I just felt it was the right time though I acted on impulse. His beak is so much better than it was, and he’d had a good morning feed. I hope, like Pandora, he will cope.... or come back. Pandora was there with the very next group of pigeons down on the lawn – I took that to be a good omen for BB’s  successful progress. An hour after he’d gone I had a letter delivered..... from the RPRA  - nice stamp! -

giving the owner’s name and address, but no telephone number and saying the owner would be in touch. Oh dear, I must admit I didn’t really expect to hear from them. But a letter is just a letter, and the owner may well not contact me after all.
Echo is moulting which I suppose is normal, but messy! I brought her in on 19th Dec 13 and guessed she was about 6 weeks old, so now she is about 12 weeks and I actually think she is male, so I’ll call her him from now on! He is continually star-gazing which he wasn’t when first brought in, but I hope he will make a recovery as he is a cheeky, noisy thing – still relating to me as a ‘parent’ and flapping his wings to get my attention. He likes emptying all the grains out of his pot, trying to eat them, ripping up the newspaper covering the floor, having a big drink and generally scrambling about. The trouble with bringing a young bird in is that I think he may get institutionalised but I obviously had no choice in Echo’s case.

Narcissus seems more female to me now – she is far quieter and calmer than Echo, though that may be the progress of the illness. I looked back on my blog and strangely enough I brought her in exactly a month after I took in Echo – 19th Jan 13. I have no idea how old she was then. She has head tremors, and can’t fly, and also zonks out, all symptoms of PMV, but she doesn’t star-gaze. I have also never seen her drink by herself so I have to offer her a drink at least twice a day. She likes to mainly just sit on her hot water bottle. I am concerned about her eyes as they seem to have a violet hue and look weak somehow, but they are not weeping and I am sure she can see.
Cloud must be two years old at least. While I had Big Boy in the hutch she has been spending her days on the conservatory table and seems to like being with the two little pigeons. Now he has gone I will put her back outside, at least for part of the day, but only if the weather seems reasonable. The hutch is a rather damp miserable place in the winter. She pretends she is grumpy with me and makes funny grumbling noises, but is quite content when I carry her about in the crook of my arm, or let her walk about on the grass when the flock is there.

All of the homies preen themselves, and Big Boy was preening himself too after the first few days, despite the injured beak.
Sunday 2nd Feb 14 – Big Boy was there with the morning flock and flew straight to my feet. He can eat alone, thank goodness, but can’t pick up everything. I observed what he could pick up and targeted him with lots of those kinds of grains. I am so relieved, and so glad he was telling the truth about being ready for release! My little Sugar-plum was there too, bobbing here and there, mopping up all the little grains – she seems absolutely fine! The one I think is her sibling was there too, and next to her at one point – much smaller! But also seems fine. Excellent! Cloud was able to go back into her hutch as it was a bright morning. It felt quite a luxury to just have just 3 homies to feed instead of 4!

I weighed Cissy in at 325g (up from 307g on Thurs) and Echo at 356g (up from 345g on Thurs)
Later,  mid afternoon – I was cleaning my car in the yard, inside and out, and after a while decided I needed the little hand vacuum cleaner so went back towards the house. The garden was deserted of birds and there was a little pile of feathers on the lawn – I know exactly how the lawn looks and which feathers have been shed naturally – so I immediately thought ‘hawk’ and scanned the garden. Suddenly it rose from the flower bed abandoning its prey, and I went to have a look. The victim this time was a tiny pigeon – poor little bubs – crouching under a tangle of shrubs. I picked it up very gently in a cloth and brought it into the house to examine. As you can see from the photos, the back of its head has been stripped of feathers and there was blood under one wing. 

Pigeon with head stripped of feathers by hawk

I very gently washed its head with a lightly salted warm water solution and dabbed under the wing. It accepted a sip of ordinary tepid water, then I felt it best to leave it in a box, in a quiet room, with a well wrapped hot water bottle, to try to recover after the terrible ordeal. I peeped at it a couple of times, and only took it out of the box again once, when it peeped pitifully, just before dark, to offer another drink, and settle it down for the night. My little precious, will it survive the shock?

3.2.14 – Poppet did survive the night and was alert and feisty, though wary of me, very understandably. I dealt with her first as I have to be so careful not to transmit the PMV virus to her. I uncovered her box and moved it near the window for the light, and put food and water inside the box. I will see if she eats before I decide to hand-feed her. She is to be kept in the other spare room, away from the conservatory and the little bedroom where the others spend the night.
I was just about to go out to feed the flock when something caught my eye and I thought ‘It’s snowing!’ but of course it was feathers drifting past as the hawk had probably swooped into the waiting flock on the roof – and it was ages before they dared to come back to eat. Sugar was with them, but not BB this morning.

Halfway through the morning I checked on Poppet, and didn’t think she had moved, let alone eaten or drunk. She doesn’t like being handled by me, but I don’t think she is injured – just had feathers stripped, and possibly bruised – which is bad enough. I weighed her – only 253g tiny little mite! And then I hand-fed her 20 grains and peanuts, and dipped her beak in water so she would drink. Obviously I left food and water with her again, but I will try to increase her weight and probably will keep her about a week so I know she has recovered from the trauma. If you remember, last year I picked up Patience from the path after a hawk attack and she had a big hole in her chest, but she recovered well though I had to keep her for a full month before she was healed enough to be released.

 Pictures of Poppet today

 Big Boy had turned up by 11.30am – and so had the hawk. While I was inside the house, the fearsome bird had caught, killed, decapitated and eaten my mummy dove, Rose Red. What can I say? The hawk has to eat...... I reckon we will have attack after attack until it’s babies are reared. The mess was incredible, bloodied white feathers everywhere. When I first realised it had got a dove, I could already see the victim was dead, so I let it get on with it.

It stayed for ages, dragging the poor dead thing around the flower bed. The other birds can sense when it’s there and they kept away. When it eventually left, I was able to discover who was the victim, ..... I was dreading to find it was sweet little Sugar, but finding it was Rose Red was sad and unpleasant – poor little mummy bird, and now my lovely Snow White is left without a mate.If there is any consolation at all, then I did think RR was showing signs of PMV. Then the small group of pigeons came down for a feed, including Big Boy – and two hours later the hawk was back, and eventually dragged the body through the gate – when I just happened to be looking out of the window – and then flew off with it. At least it was going to eat it all up - once when the hawk killed my daddy dove, Glory, he died for nothing as the hawk didnt eat a scrap.

I gave Echo and Narcissus another bath this afternoon. Echo’s head is so floppy sometimes that she would drown if I wasn’t there to hold it up. They both stayed in the kitchen to dry out their feathers. For the first time today I saw Cissy trying to eat on her own but I still have not seen her drink alone. Poppet doesn’t like being hand fed, though she seems happy to drink from a little glass – but I do feel I have to feed her a bit until I am sure that she will eat on her own. She doesn’t move much unless I am trying to pick her up and I try to disturb her as little as possible.

 Above, Cissy left and Echo right, on the way to the bath tub, and below, drying out

Tuesday 4.2.14 – Today I removed the grille to the Poppet’s box and placed her on top of it, with food and water. I still haven’t seen her help herself to either. She stayed there a long time, but after I came back from being out for much of the morning, she had flown to another part of the room. This is good because it means I know she can fly, but bad because she poops in awkward places!
I am out tomorrow most of the day so not a good time to let her free (outside I mean) but I think if Thursday is not a dreadful day weather wise then I will see if she wants to go – she will have had three full days inside by then. I did hope to keep her at least a week and hand-feed her peanuts to build up her strength, but she hates being fed, and as she can fly and doesn’t have any injury then I can’t justify keeping her in. My brave little battered bird.

Wed. 5.2.14 – The weather today was very blustery indeed and lashing with rain, and I don’t think the forecast is good for tomorrow, so looks like Poppet will be staying a bit longer. Poppet is not a very good name for her actually – Plucky would be better! She is not in the least interested in making friends with me – she despises me and wants to be free again. Well as soon as we get a settled period, she will be ringed and on her way. I wondered if Rose Red’s bright yellow and pink rings attracted the hawk, so I might stick to more subdued colours in future. Mind you, Grace has bright blue and pink rings and she was hatched approx 23rd Feb ’13 so nearly a year old now. Two others hatched in my cote – Destiny and Autumn, haven’t been seen for a while now.
Thursday 6.2.14 –  
 First thing - the flock wheels round and round in the sky, before coming down to the roof ridge
 where they settle
 I was feeding them when the hawk shot like a bullet from behind me and straight on towards the river. Didnt catch anything but it will hunt til it does (obviously!)

A lighter note was when I saw this outside the bedroom window and grabbed my camera. The postbox nest box was given to me by my youngest daughter for Christmas 2012 and this was the very first time I'd seen any birds interested in it. There was a pair and one popped inside - I do so hope they nest there, that would be wonderful!

Lashing with rain all day, so I brought Cloud in from the hutch at 10.30am to spend the rest of the day with the pidgies on the conservatory table. She really seems to like this! The other two are confined but she walks around the table, peering in at them, pecking at them if they get too close and generally playing Lady Cloud. She knocked over the kitchen roll, and was teetering around on it – would’ve made a good Youtube video if I'd managed to capture it.

Poppet had the freedom of the spare room for much of the day, but put herself back inside her box early, perhaps as it was such a gloomy day. I managed to weigh her but she struggled so I don’t know if it’s accurate – 280g up from 253g when first weighed. I ringed her with an inconspicous grey ring on her right leg, and had a quick look at her poor featherless head – it’s crusted over.  It will be quite a while before they grow again, I can't possibly keep her til then - after all she has nothing else wrong with her, and though I don't like releasing any of them when the hawk is around so much, they must all take their chances.

So tomorrow will be release day - Hurrah says Poppet! I’ve seen Big Boy every day and Sugar, but haven’t heard a peep from BB’s owner – just as well as I released him.

To be cont.


Fennie said...

Oh dear! Troublesome hawk. But I wonder, have I said this before? whether you couldn't put food out for the hawk - scraps of beef or chicken wings. I am sure the hawk would prefer ready meals and without the bother of feathers.

You are an angel, really, when it comes for caring for your birds. What would they do if anything happened to you? I do hope that one day you will sit down and make a book of all your dove blogs - all the little stories and anecdotes, all the healthcare, the rearing of babies, the midwifery,
the catching and even the funerals.

It would certainly make people think differently about doves and pigeons.

Faith said...

Thanks Fennie - I think we have discussed feeding the hawk before and I don't think unless it was desperate it would recognise scraps of meat as food. Food to the hawk is live birds flying around! I tried to 'slurp' my blogs into a book (on Blurb) but it didnt work (I thought it was too good to be true)but one day maybe.... but there are so many things I want to get round day!

hopeinparis said...

I do love your blog, Faith. xo