Thursday, 17 April 2014

We have eggs...... which brings concerns....

Wed 9.4.14 –  In the mid afternoon, there was no-one on the nest, and as I had placed the steps back in front of the cote a few days ago, I was able to grab the camera nip up and see.....yes, one lovely egg!

I’m not sure when Snow White left tonight, but Charm was again staying the night with her egg, and I expect will lay again tonight. She always seems to stay with the eggs ok, it’s the babies she leaves too early and has done with every single brood she’s had (with Lucky as the father). 
Mr. Strong was here alone at 6.50pm this evening.....maybe his mate Frances in on a nest, like Charm? I saw him flutter down out of the corner of my eye as I sat it the sitting room and went out to feed him. Mr. S and his wife are a favourite pair of mine, both ringed by me.

Thurs 10.4.14 – Bertie ran down the path just as I started the morning feed – I shut him in the house and drove him straight home afterwards at about 7.30am. Since I got back from Butlins last Friday this must be the fourth time I’ve driven him home! Charm left the nest briefly to relieve herself and I again nipped up the steps......still only one egg. They usually lay one 24 hours after the other, so maybe she laid the first yesterday afternoon and will lay again this afternoon – I hope so.

Here Charm's in the nestbox and Snow White is having a bath - prior to his turn at nest duty

 Making himself even more beautiful and snow white-ier than he is ....
 Then alone on the roof to dry off....

 and preen himself

10am – It looks like Charm’s still in the nestbox, but who is this kissing on the roof?

I identified Snow White.....

 Then Charm......
Who’s in the nestbox then? ......(and the dove was sitting right inside just before I took the photo)

It's Lucky!!!

Oh poor Lucky, he just doesn't understand that he's not the daddy, that Charm has thrown him over for Snow White and that he has no right to sit on the eggs in the front nest box!

 11.45am Lucky and Charm are on the roof together - he's chasing his former wife -  and now Snow White’s in the nest box
I hope we have a calmer afternoon. Keep Calm Charm and Lay Eggs!

3.45pm – A chance for a peek – and we have two eggs now! I know Charm’s the mummy, and SW think’s he’s the daddy, but he may not be..... Charm is so flighty!

Did I mention the racer with the bad leg in the last blog? He's still around with his ringed foot going black, withered and useless. Probably he will be left with just a stump - so I feel sorry for him and he gets peanuts, and grain thrown right down in front of him as he can't run around with the others. But otherwise he is fine.

 This is either Dolly - I think it's Dolly - or Frances, looking pretty in the daisies

 And another pretty ringed (not be me) female
 Snow White, having taken Charm off Lucky, still courts other females while she is tied to nest duty. Miss Green Ring is quite a favourite..... here he is with her..... up on the wire

Below, Grace and Dolly share a snack

Sat 12th April 14  – Grace gets chased by two pigeons ....

Sunday 13.4.14 – Hubbie decided that today he really must strim and mow the lawn plus cut back the pampas grass just under the dove cote. It was lovely and sunny so the ideal morning, but I do tend to hate these days as I worry about the eggs being left too long if the doves are frightened by the noise of the strimmer/mower. In the past I have sometimes blocked the sitting dove in, so decided to do that today..... but the doves were in and out, in and out.....including Lucky! My first attempt at blocking in failed – Snow White flew out of the cote before I could get the grille over. Damn! I decided to wait a few minutes before trying again. A white dove went in.....I didn’t know which one of the three it was....but Hubbie was borrowing someone else’s mower as it is more heavy duty for the first cut of the season, and I heard him coming back over the yard with it. Now or never! I managed to put up one of the little grilles he made for me, plus the half brick – and whoever was in the cote had to stay there for an hour while the work was done. I hoped it wasn’t Lucky but didn’t think he would harm the eggs....I think he considers he has a third share in them anyway!

 Hubbie cuts the lawn, above, while a white dove waits on the roof, below
 and whoever is in the cote, is blocked in!

The white dove stayed on the roof throughout. When I removed the block the dove inside was calmly sitting, but after a few minutes the swap was made. Charm out, SW in - all well. Hubbie fusses over the state of the grass, where the doves water baths are placed etc..... I soothe, and carry on regardless! To me the birds are more important than the lawn.

My concern now is about when/how I am going to be doing the blocking in at night. I can see no other way than this to keep Charm with the babies (when they hatch) so they don’t get cold and die like the January babies.
This is what has happened, briefly, to Lucky and Charm’s newly hatched babies so far (and having SW as the daddy changes nothing, as Charm is the one on the nest at night).

May 13 –  Lucky and Charm’s first nest in the cote. Sky and Summer allowed them a room at the back of the cote, as they had their own, further forward, nest at the front. L and C’s first babies were Fennie and Dolly. I wasn’t quite sure when they hatched, but when they were 2-4 days old, Charm left in the late afternoon/early evening and didn’t come back. This was my first experience with Charm as a mother dove and then I had no idea how it would end. If you want to, read back on the blog from about 13th May ’13 but in a nutshell I tucked the babies in with various things to keep them warm, like a feather-stuffed cashmere glove (mini duvet!) and then half-blocked the entrance which would prevent predators getting in. Next morning I got up extremely early to un-block and thankfully the babies survived. After that, Charm stayed with them at night until she left them again at about 7 days old (still too young as they should be brooded at night til 14 days old at least). At the time, I considered her leaving them that one night as a 'blip'. These babies survived though  Fennie died at the beginning of this year due to PMV, but Dolly is still around and a beautiful white female.

June ‘13 – Lucky and Charm’s second nest – 2 eggs that didn’t hatch - When opened there were undeveloped embryos inside. By this time L and C were in the front most favoured nestbox having taken it over after Sky disappeared (Summer fought for it, but lost)

July ‘13 – 3rd nest. Harlequin and Columbine. Charm left them late aft/eve when they were about 4 days old. Without reading back every blog, I am not sure what happened but presume I tucked and blocked them in every night til I felt they were old enough to cope. This pair survived for a while, but eventually stopped coming, so I don’t expect they lasted that long.

August ‘13 – 4th nest – which turned out to be the last nest of the year. Alpha and Omega. Charm followed her usual pattern and left the babies at about 4 days old. I did the usual tucking and blocking thing, but regular readers will remember that in the morning the babies were stone cold....but survived. One of my worst dovie moments and Alf and Meg were always peaky, and Alf died young, and Meg flew off, never to return - missing presumed dead.

January ’14 – 5th nest – By this time, Snow White and his first love, Rose Red had a nest in the side of the cote, a day or two behind Lucky and Charm’s. L and C’s eggs hatched and I was on the watch out for Charm possibly flying off late aft/eve, as she had done previously – but on that night both she and Rose Red were on their nests at dark – I checked with a quick flicker of the torch – and it certainly didn’t occur to me that Charm would leave the nest during the night – but unfortunately she did.....taking RR with her – and when hubbie and I got up (and it was still not really light!) I found the nests unattended and all babies and one unhatched egg dead. Absolutely dreadful. I have no idea why the mothers left the babies/egg

So..... now you can see why Charm is such a bad mother, and why I am so very worried and don’t know what to do. With the first 4 nests, Charm left and I knew she had gone – the last nest being left at night brought a new dimension to the problem. I either sit up all night watching her!!! Or I have to block her in.  One good thing is, this time, there is only L and C’s nest in the cote, so only one lot to worry about – and if I have to block in it will be a darn sight easier to just do one. I say easier, but the doing of it is fraught with difficulties. The eggs are currently only 3 and 4 days old, and just eggs.... but as they develop and we get nearer to hatching time I will have to have made a plan of action. So far, Charm has never left the eggs, only the hatched babies. It’s possible she would leave the eggs, but I think I will just have to hope she doesn’t but I can’t ‘wait and see’ with the babies. The death of the January babies was extremely upsetting and I can’t risk it happening again.  The hatching day is calculated 18 days from the day the 2nd egg is laid I think, so 28th May should be hatching day.  If anyone has any thoughts on this problem, especially those of you who have or have had doves/pigeons, then I will be pleased to hear them. It’s at times like this I wish I had a loft – you just shut the door and they are all safe. If I block Charm in, I will have to creep out in the dark with only one chance to get it right, Heart hammering, trying to go up the steps without being seen or heard.... it’s making my stomach turn somersaults just thinking about it. But what alternative do I have? I can think of none.

Monday 14.4.14 – Despite me taking him home yesterday Bertie was here again this morning. Once hubbie had gone out, I took him home making it a round trip with shopping etc. Hubbie will ask ‘Where’s the boy?’ when he comes back and I will say, partially truthfully ‘I don’t know’ – well I don’t know what he does or where he goes when I drop him outside his ‘owners’ door, but I do know for sure he will back at ours before long!

Three white doves were on the roof..... I was sure one was Snow White, waiting until it was his turn to do nest duty. I am always stunned how beautiful the sparkling white doves are against a blue sky.

 See how the doves and pigeons separate themselves out

 The other two turned out to be Star Light (right on the photo and Snow White’s second little wifey, for a very short time, and now ‘divorced’) and a white male. I am so glad that she seems to have found a new love interest.

Yesterday Cloud seemed to be having a ‘pecking Cissie’ day – poor little Cissie she is getting a tiny baldie patch on her head due to this!

I decided to keep them separate today. Cissie went in the run – here she is working her way up the walkway to the ‘house’.

And Cloud is content with the hutch.

And here’s Snow White on the eggs.

With Bertie taken home, all is well in my dovie world.

Shirley, one of my blog readers, sent me a photo of the cover of a recent Homing World magazine. It tells the story of a white ex-racer called Peace who is now 25 years old, and currently the world's oldest pigeon. Wow – do you think any of mine will live that long? And Shirley, thanks for saying how you look forward to reading my blog. I appreciate the compliment.

Bianca, with her blue ring, another newly-returned old favourite, is back – and being courted by a white male. Last year her mate was Dirty Ricky, a white dove that was always covered in sandy looking marks. The potential new mate is pristine, so I can’t tell if he’s Ricky, cleaned up, or someone new.

'Oh (says Bianca's male) She's off! Was it something I said?'
Cloud gets courted too.....

Sorry mate, there's no chance there!

Below, a series of photos, where I tempt Grace to eat from my hand....

Autumn is here every day too, and I saw Pandora once in the last few days.
Later in the day, I noticed a ringed white dove that I couldn’t quite place..... was it Grace with very dirty rings? (her rings are pink and blue) or could it possibly be Destiny back? (her rings are red and blue, as far as I remember). Testing to see if it was Grace, I put my hand full of peanuts on the lawn, and this bird rushed up to eat them off my hand. But though Grace will eat from my hand, she never rushes up  and I still wasn’t convinced it was her. I think it might be Destiny – desperately hungry! 
Wed. 16.4.14 – I was out most of the day, so a long day for Cloud and Cissie to be confined in the hutch together – with the grilles between them to keep them separate (due to Cloud’s nastiness to Cissie!) I can’t leave either of them in the conservatory due to the heat, and though I debated about whether to leave Cissie in the run I decided that it really isn’t safe enough. If Mr. Reynard decided to prowl round he would not only probably be able to break in and take Cissie, but would also terribly upset Charm/Snow White and maybe cause them to leave the nest, not to mention upsetting Cloud. I was glad I had done this when I came home and found a dead pigeon surrounded by feathers in the garden.

 I always approach a dead body with trepidation, wondering whether the unfortunate victim will turn out to be one of my special birds... but it wasn’t, just another pigeon who had copped it. I did wonder if it actually had been a fox, as the head was completely gone..... or even Bertie’s handiwork.... but there were puncture wounds from the hawk’s claws and the feathers had been stripped. Definitely a hawk strike.

I left the body there as not much eaten and hope it will come back to eat some more..... and spare another bird the same fate. Always, I rush to see if the my cote birds are ok, and my homies safe....and all was well.
The bird that might be Destiny was there again, but wouldn’t eat from my hand. I looked up past blogs and Destiny did have red/blue rings. So pleased if it is her – she is about 11 months old, and hatched to Sky and Summer in May 2013.

Two nice photos to end the blog - starlings on the roof, so glossy! We didn't have the starlings around last year so I am glad they have come back.
 And this is Blackie - who has 2 black rings (not ringed by me) - just another regular to the garden

Please don't forget to send a message if you have any ideas about what to do about the Charm/babies problem.

To be cont....


hopeinparis said...

Lovely blog as always, Faith - thank you - and great photos, too! Charm's current clutch is definitely a concern, I would be worried too. Unfortunately I don't have an immediately solution. Charm clearly can't be counted on. Blocking her in with the babies until they are 12-14 days old (when they auto-thermo-regulate) seems the only way, but I can imagine how stressful that is. Will think about this! xx

Harvey Hedges said...

You could build a small mesh box and attatch it to the cote at night so she connot fly off and she has a bit of room to stretch in the morning before you remove it.

Faith said...

Thank you both, Hopeinparis and Harvey Hedges for reading the blog. Harvey, yes, the box is a thought, but I still have the problem that she will fly off, startled out of the cote, while I try to attach it.

Fennie said...

What was going through my mind, Faith, was a little trap door or flap that could be controlled remotely by a string. A weighted hinged flap held up by a wooden peg at the end of the string. When you pulled the string the peg would come out and the flap would fall down. Then a little projection on the bottom over which the hinged door would just fall would stop the birds pushing it open again.
This device would take only ten minutes or so to fix - once it had been made - so maybe you wouldn't need to disturb the eggs. You could shut Charm in at night by pulling the string, even from inside the house.

Great pictures of the doves against the blue sky.

Faith said...

Fennie, this seems like a good idea, and something I had been toying with, though no idea 'how'....I will talk to hubbie. The trouble is now that either one or the other parent is on the nest means that to fix up some sort of contraption would mean upsetting one of them. But I will def be looking into this.Thanks