Thursday, 1 May 2014

Hatching Day

Sunday 27th April 2014 - The last blog ended with Charm blocked in, alone, with her eggs on Saturday evening, and Hatching Day due on Monday. I unblocked her at 6.00am but she sat tight and all seemed well. But, a Big Surprise was in store for me! - at 8.00am I happened to observe Charm emerge from the nest with something in her beak .... an egg shell! Oh my goodness, has one baby or both hatched already? I must have got my calculations wrong.... Charm flew up to the roof to drop the egg, and I shinned up the steps. Two lovely gorgeous adorable yellow tiny babies, moving, alive and well! They must've hatched over-night, and thank goodness this wasn't the night when Lucky had stayed over!

At about 8.30am Lucky flew to the nestbox, and Charm swapped with him! He settled down on the babies and seemed quite content. I was a little perturbed.....but Snow White was nowhere to be seen, and better that Uncle Lucky stayed to keep the babies warm, than no-one! But what was I to do?  I kept watch, and fifteen minutes later Snow White flew to the entrance of the nestbox, and Lucky came out with no fuss. I didnt feel that I could block SW in now the babies were hatched, as I didnt know exactly when Charm would want to go back, and now my concern for the eggs to be kept warm, turned into my concern for the babies to be looked after properly - and the worst of it was that I was going to be out for the whole day, having been booked into a photography one-day workshop by my daughter for an early birthday present. Obviously I was looking forward to the workshop but didnt want to be absent from the garden in case Charm decided to neglect the babies, or Lucky caused more trouble somehow. All I could do was prime up hubbie and he promised that he would do his best - and I also gave him the box containing the electric hen to set up! (and here it is after he'd done so - legs can be raised or lowered - electric hen purchased from Home Farm Fowls  It cost about £30 which may seem to you to be a lot for something I hope never to have to use, but it has given me peace of mind. Of course it is for hen chicks so I don't know how it would work out if used for squabs.

Hubbie texted me several times throughout the day telling me that all was calm, and someone was with the babies, so that was reassuring but when I arrived back home about 4.45pm Lucky and Snow White were popping in and out of all the rooms in the cote, and ended up having a tussle on the hedge. I wouldnt call it a fight as I have seen doves really fight, beak and claw...... eventually they settled down, each in a compartment, with Charm in alone with the babies, and I bided my time. Just after 6pm SW flew off with a loud clap of wings - the doves always do this when leaving, the noise is loud enough for me to hear in the I immediately went out and carefully approached the cote, watched by Lucky who was still there and peeking out. As I raised the feeder tray that I am using to block in with, he flew away and for a split second I panicked that Charm would follow him.... then the block was up and I could relax for the evening. Until I feel the babies are big enough to be left at night, then I must either block Charm in with them, or if that fails, then bring them into the house. These babies are very precious to me, and I will do whatever it takes to give them the best start.

Monday 28th April 14 - All went well this morning and I got another peep of the babies when Charm relieved herself but it was only seconds. Then when Charm swapped with SW at 9.00am I blocked him in while I went shopping. He doesnt seem to care, and it gives me peace of mind!

Below, Lucky, left and Charm, right

 I am dreading the start of the fence removal and the new one going up tomorrow - we havent had any further word that the work is actually going to start, but then again we havent had word that it isn't going to be on the day planned either. I wish it was 2 weeks later when the babies were bigger - having men traipsing in and out of the garden, noisily, all day (for 2 days!) is going to upset the doves I know it!

I was pleased to see a goldfinch in the garden - I see them on the farm but have never seen one in the garden before. At one time I tried to tempt them in with niger seed but it didnt work.

Later - Charm came in to let SW out at 3.15pm. You may wonder why I seem obsessed with times, but it is helpful for me, any time I have a problem, to look back at past blogs and see timings - so I know what's right and proper! SW flew to the roof, but soon came back to sit in another opening and guard the cote, mainly from Lucky - who is allowed in the back and sides, if he's good and quiet! But at 3.45pm I realised that both SW and Charm were eating on the ground and saw Lucky enter the nestbox. I didn't think he'd hurt the babies but I got the camera/steps so I could see what was going on.
You can definitely see it's Lucky from the tiny black marks on his neck
 Below, you can just about see Lucky bend towards the yellow baby
 And here you can see him feeding it - by allowing the tiny squab to place it's beak into his mouth to get the crop milk.

I cut and pasted this to explain - Some birds actually produce a substance similar to mammal milk. Pigeons are the best known producers of “crop milk” and both sexes produce it. Crop milk is produced by a sloughing of special cells in the crop and is very nutritious. Pigeon “milk” contains more protein and fat than either cow or human milk. It is the only food provided to the nestlings for the first several days after hatching. Crop “milk” is fed by both parents for a couple of weeks. As the babies get older, seed is included with the milk. Gradually, more and more seed and less and less “milk” is provided until the babies are receiving just the seed and liquid that the parents have consumed.
With pigeons and doves, the baby does not gape to be fed. Rather, it squeaks and taps its beak against the parent’s beak which stimulates the parent to “open wide.” the baby sticks its beak down the parent’s throat and literally sucks up to contents of the crop. Most of our songbirds do not have a true crop, which is essentially a sack capable of holding a large amount of food. Baby birds without a crop can only hold a small amount of food at a time and must be fed as often as every 20 minutes from sunup to sundown. Pigeons and doves, on the other hand, can hold a large amount of food which passes slowly through the digestive system. Even the youngest baby pigeon or dove can be fed no more than every couple of hours. 


The interesting thing about this is of course that Charm doesn't think that Lucky is the daddy of these babies, and she and Snow White have done all the sitting on the eggs, but Lucky is obviously producing crop milk the same as the two parents (more on this below). Technically Lucky could be the true father of both or just one of the squabs I suppose.

Tuesday 29.4.14 – Our wedding anniversary – we have been married 8 years and that time has gone by very quickly indeed. The cote was a present from my mother and my late father – my mother’s gone now too but I think of them every day. Two of my first 4 doves were named after them – John and Irene (and the other two were Pax and Persephone). Lots of doves were interested in the cote this early morning, fluttering around, causing SW to be defensive.

In the first photo below you can see a dove with a black fleck on it's back - I call that one Fletch and he is really cute, quite small (possibly female) and has a small black pointed beak.

Here's Big Boy below, still coping excellently well - I target him with peanuts and corn as he finds it hard to pick up small grain or the slippery round peas. All the horrible mess round his beak has healed up, but it's still fore-shortened and not pointy which is what makes it difficult for him to pin-point small grains.

I managed to get a photo of my lovely fuzzy little babies!

 Below Charm and Lucky alone on the lawn
 Charm with the green ring
 And Lucky with beady eye outwards (he has mis-matched eyes)

This morning Lucky flew up to the cote at 9.10am, thinking he would changeover with Charm, but Snow White saw him and sent him off (but in a nice way!) By 9.15am I had blocked SW in and was getting ready to go out, but by half nine I realised I had blocked in Charm when SW and Lucky appeared back on the cote’s ledges (how did that happen??) So I unblocked Charm who held no grudge, and by 9.40am definitely SW was in the nest and blocked in and Lucky and Charm had come down to eat, then gone off together to enjoy flying or perhaps picking around on the farmland here.  A while ago I met someone who told me the doves were often on a particular spot in a certain field making me wonder if there were some sort of minerals there that they like.  I had hoped and prayed that the men wouldn’t turn up to do the fence today, and they didn’t! (thank you God!)- so the doves had a peaceful day  and I was spared the worry.
At this stage of development, the male dove should stay in the nest with the babies for most of the day but I unblocked SW when Charm came back to the garden about 1.30pm. She had no intention of taking over nest duty, and just enjoyed herself for a couple more hours or so.

 One of my robins - I have three I think and recognise this one by his 'white bits'. He will come into the kitchen if he doesnt get his soaked mealworms on time!

 I jot down notes when I see something happening, and my next ‘happening’ was 4.22pm when Charm swapped with Lucky. Poor Lucky, he only had seconds with the babies he considers his before SW came back to the cote –but he always gives in graciously and flies out, and SW doesn’t seem to make a fuss about it.

Next jotting was 4.50pm when Charm snuck Lucky in with her .....

and they had a snuggle with the babies for a long 7 minutes this time before SW noticed. Here’s Charm at the entrance of the nestbox, blocking the view, so that SW doesn’t spot Lucky in behind her with the babies – and possibly feeding them.

 In the bigger view of the garden you can see Snow White on the roof. The babies should grow up very big and strong with 3 parents looking after them ! – 4 if you count me!
The males left the garden fairly early today and Charm was blocked in by 5.45pm. The block is a square metal mesh feeder tray which just happens to fit under the lip of the top of the cote, making an effective barrier that still allows air in – but there is still some room at the sides and tonight it occurred to me that possibly there was enough room for a determined bird to squeeze through. Charm has always left her babies when they are about 4 days old and this time I am taking no chances. I got one of the metal grilles that hubbie made for me that I haven’t used so far, and slipped that behind the mesh tray, but it still fell forward leaving gaps, so I made two wedges from old flannels in roughly fat sausage shapes, held by rubber bands, and pushed them in at the sides. I checked my arrangements before I went to bed, and am hoping all will be ok in the morning.

Wednesday 30.4.14 - Would the fencers come today? I still hoped not, but had had no word either way. I was having my grand-daughter and normally take her to an art club, but today wanted to bring her back here as quickly as possible because of the fencing and the doves. I had unblocked Charm at 6.00am but as far as I was aware she hadn't left the nestbox and as I was planning on leaving at 7.45am to try to beat the traffic I hoped she would come out (as usual) to do her morning 'hen poo' and grab a bite to eat before I went - so I could block her in again while I was out (in case the men arrived and upset her enough for her to leave the babies). Fortunately she did this just a minute or two before I left. The journey was horrendous (Laura B and Linda you both know me, and you'll know exactly how far it is) took 2 hours 10 minutes to do the journey there and get back (due to foggy condition, the tube strike and local roadworks) - a journey that should normally only take 20 mins or so each way. Anyway, I didnt get back til 9.50am and poor SW was dancing about on the ledge of the cote, with Lucky, knowing that he should be in with the babies. I immediately unblocked Charm, and in he went like a lamb. What a good daddy! I then blocked him in - in case the fencers arrived. But they didnt.....

Here's Lucky in a side compartment of the cote at about 1.30pm when he arrived back in the garden, without Charm, thinking he would do some nest duty, but SW was blocked in and wouldnt have let him anyway.

 He stayed quite a while before getting tired of it. I had a look in my book 'Feral Pigeons' by Richard F. Johnston and Marian Janiga to see if I could find anything about my 'menage a trois' - but this was the only thing mentioned, with no more detail  - 'Occasionally, two males may form a bond triangle with a female, which may be a result of neither male being strong enough to drive the other away'.

I also found that 'when the male of the pair is separated from the nest but still allowed visual contact with its mate, the behaviour and physiology of the bird is nearly normal and cropmilk forms....' 

If something was to happen to Snow White then I have no doubt that Lucky would take over the complete daddy role.

This afternoon followed yesterday's pattern - at 4.30pm I noticed both Lucky and Charm together in the nestbox ......

and then Lucky alone (and feeding a baby) for a short time before SW came back and cut short his visitation rights.

Snow White is very calm and laid back so I was able to get up close to the nestbox and take this photo. According to my book, the squabs eyes open gradually and are fully open by the 4th-6th day after hatching. Doesnt SW look superblyt proud? I am so glad he has some babies after the terrible tragedy in January - he is a very good daddy and it wasn't his fault they died.

Again this evening Charm was blocked in and the babies were safe with mummy for another night.
We have all the odd bods visiting the garden in the early evening. A jackdaw was here in the group just before I got the camera but annoyingly flew away. A pair of collared doves came afterwards too - and the Mallards.

Thursday 1st May - 9.25am - The morning flock

I am writing this in real time. I have been watching for the changeover but didnt think it had happened, and from the ground I could see who I thought was Charm feeding the babies, so put a chair at a safe distance to take some photos. She seemed ok with it so I moved the steps to get a closer look, and it was Lucky! - as you can see....

Male dove - NOT the father - feeds 4 day old squabs

There is only one other white dove around, on the roof, and I can't see the rings.  Has SW conceded that Lucky is the father? No.... by 10am ish I could see Lucky had been outed and was peeking out the side of the cote.

And when I uploaded that photo, I could see it was SW - so why had he let Uncle Lucky have a whole half-hour with the babies? That was very kind of you SW!

I blocked SW in to avoid arguments, and keep the babies safe and warm with 'daddy'. It's a rainy day and no fencers - hurrah! Every day without disruption means the babies are getting bigger and I have more chance of handling/rearing them myself if the doves get too upset by the work. I must be the only person who is happy that their workmen have NOT turned up!

I have been forgetting to my mention my feather shop in recent blogs - so if you want to buy real doves and other birds' feathers for your life-style or craft projects please go to Feather shop on Groovy Cart which is an interesting umbrella website with lots of small craft and other shops.Sorry I sell to UK only.

Dove Blog -To be cont.....


Harvey Hedges said...

Great to see them hatch
strange all 3 are feeding them they should grow up in no time

Fennie said...

All most interesting and a medal to you for caring for them so well. A fascinating story. What will happen next? The website about pigeon facts was most interesting too.

shirlw said...

I love hatching day to they grow so quick ,so glad Big Boy is doing so well and shame on his owner,keep up the good work you do