Saturday, 7 June 2014

Busy busy doves!

Tue 27th May 14 – Fern and Fleur my squabs are approx 30 days old, and having had 3 parents, seem advanced for their age. Yesterday Fleur fell off the ledge of the nestbox and as they are very close to fledging I decided I better get up very early to make sure they were safe – especially if Bertie decided to visit. I was pretty sure the squabs would stay in the nestbox till their two daddies arrived. I got up at 5.15am and the first doves/pigeons arrived at 5.20am – these were Lucky (daddy no.2), Fletch, a white dove with a black fleck, 3 unringed white doves and 4 pigeons. Shortly afterwards Snow White (daddy no. 1) and Bandit arrived. Bandit and his mate had been making a play for a room in the cote recently, but it seems they won’t be allowed and are probably looking elsewhere – shame!
At this stage in a squab’s life, the daddy under-feeds it to encourage it out of the nest to find food for itself. I didn’t see either Lucky or SW feed the squabs in the early morning. At around 7am ish, Fern fell off the ledge and into the hedge, and I went to rescue. I decided to bring him in for weighing – it’s easiest to put the bird in a bowl (having first weighed the bowl).... so Fern, minus the bowl! – weighed a whopping 353g. I gave him his first ever ‘top-up’ of just a few peanuts and took him back to the garden. I wanted to take a photo but only managed this one as he kept walking up my arm to my shoulder.

Later, when the main flock had gone, Charm was settled on the eggs, and Lucky, Snow White and co were hanging out on the wire, I thought maybe I could get Fleur out of the cote, without disturbing Charm too much, so I could weigh her too. It was not a pleasant surprise to find little Fleur was not in the nestbox! The hedge and flowerbeds are very overgrown so it was possible she had landed anywhere and was covered with the growth – but before panicking I checked the roof. And there she was.... Little Fleur, the smaller of the siblings, had fledged her little baby self and was calmly joining in with the big boys and girls!

Shortly afterwards, I saw Lucky caressing and preening ‘his’ baby..... while SW sat on the ledge to try to encourage Fern out.... and eventually went in and fed him. It was not raining as heavily as yesterday, but still mizzling steadily so I hope Fleur doesn’t get too chilled. Her feathers will not yet have built up the powder that helps keep them waterproof.
Then Fleur flew back towards the cote, fluttered near the entrances but fell to the ground. I went to collect her, but she flew up to the steps – well done baby! – but I easily picked her up from there, and brought her in to weigh. She weighs 275g.....Fern weighs 78g more! (353g) But 275g is a perfectly acceptable weight for a just fledged squab. I gave her a few peanuts too, then put her back in with Fern. These next few days are critical while the babies learn to fly properly. For interest sake, I weighed Cloud – 365g and Cissie – 325g – but these two are not normal birds and probably don’t have the same amount of muscle weight as pigeons and doves that can fly, though their weights seem pretty average to me.
Then I had a dilemma – I had my Pilates class and a bit of shopping to do – I didn’t dare leave the babies alone in case they fell or flew out of the cote and left themselves vulnerable on the ground, so I blocked them in, judging that the worst that could happen would be that Snow White got annoyed.... but I knew he’d being going to do his duty on the eggs very soon, so hoped it wouldn’t be a problem. Last year, I didn’t have this worry – I would’ve just picked up the babies up when I got home if they were on the ground, but now we have Bertie with a capital B....I put a little dish of grains in with the squabs to give them something to concentrate on while I was gone!
I unblocked the babies as soon as I got back – very gently and going up the steps from the other side, so as not to disturb SW. All was well!

 Above, Fleur sitting under the cote (vulnerable!) and below Fern peeking out but not brave enough to come out!

 Close up of Fleur and stretching her wings - such a pretty little dove.

Wed 28.5.14 -  I was up and out early again and gave the babies some small grains in a pot - breakfast in bed! Later, when the flock was there, Fleur again came out of the nestbox - somehow managing to push past the enormous Fern who tends to block the entrance. I didnt see her come out but found her on the ground where she seemed perfectly at home, and even hopped up onto the water bath and got herself a drink - she is only approx 31 days old, and though squabs can fledge from 28 days old, mine so far have usually been nearer 33-35 days, and then often are still very babyish. After a while she flew to the top of the cote, where Lucky joined her, and started preening and caressing her.....

and then mated with her, twice! Nooooooo... Lucky! That's not on! (I won't be calling him Uncle Lucky any longer!!!) I have to turn a blind eye..... birds will be birds..... (mating will not hurt her as no penetration takes place of course, but she will not be sexually mature til she's about 5 months old I think). While Lucky was with Fleur, Snow White sat on the ledge with Fern who still has not ventured out. 

I do find this surprising as he is so enormous - when I went to give them their brekkie, I could see the whole of Fleur, but Fern next to her was so tall that his head was lost in the darkness of the inside roof of the nestbox - very disconcerting!

After a while, SW chased Lucky to the wire and himself sat with Fleur, and fed her - but when he returned to Fern and the ledge, Lucky came back to his little sweetheart. I am totally thankful that now Fleur can fly well enough to get up off the ground and to the top of the cote, well away from predators. Now we just have to get Fern flying!

Later again - but still all before 7.30am! - I observed SW trying to mate with Fleur.....what is wrong with these males.... I have read about other male parents doing this, but havent seen it before in my own birds. Not long after this, Fleur was alone in the raised bed so I very gently netted her and popped her back into the nestbox with big, warm brother Fern. (I didnt know the sex of the babies when I named them of course, but was right about Fleur being female and hopefully will be correct with Fern too). I put Fleur back into the nest myself as though she can fly well, she probably wouldnt be able to negotiate flying into the entrance to the cote. I hope both babies will stay in the nestbox while SW is on the eggs, and I have to go out! Again, it is a very wet morning. not suitable to little ones to be out in!

9am - and luckily before I'd gone out - there was an unpleasant little incident at the cote. There were plenty of pigeons and doves still about - probably hungry .....when a white dove intruder entered Charm's nestbox. I could see it wasnt SW because he was defending the squabs nestbox, and I knew it wasnt Lucky because he has a black feather in his white tail.... and when the interloper didnt come out straight away, but was fighting with Charm - I went up the steps, SW flew away (thanks SW and Lucky! why aren't you defending your lady?) and put my hand in. I tried to pull the naughty one out but it was Charm I got hold of, so I held her, hoping to pop her back when the other flew away - which it did - but she got out of my hand and flew to the roof. I don't think she'd been out at all this morning as she did her big morning 'hen poop' and thankfully flew immediaely back to the cote to straighten her messy straw nest and attend to her eggs. Although obviously I am concerned about these new eggs and the babies within, I feel the 'spell' of the January dead babies has been broken by Fleur and Fern's survival, and am not as stressed as I was about it all.... but I do still worry about Bertie!

In the late afternoon, Fleur flew to the entrance of the nestbox from the lawn, and alighted on the ledge successfully. Fern graciously allowed her to squeeze past his huge self, and come back in. I am relieved at least one of my babies looks like she knows what's what! But by the early evening when Fern fell-flopped to the ground, after a few minutes, he flew straight back up to the nestbox too! Wonderful! Both squabs are properly fledged - aged 31 days.

Early evening and my wounded female white dove arrived. To remind you, she first turned up on Saturday, I didnt see her Sunday, then here again Monday, not yesterday, and here again today, Wednesday, and she has always come at roughly the same time. Obviously the food she eats sustains her for two days - I do throw loads of peanuts and grains down when she is there to help support her recovery.The wound is drying up and thankfully doesn't look infected - she is one brave lady, and should certainly now totally recover.

 Below, Snow White tries to court the wounded hungry female - waste of time, mate!

She may still have a dark patch on her wing in 6 months time, but eventually I won't be able to tell her from any other white female. When she left I swept the table with my hand into a bowl, so as not to waste all the good peanuts and grains on the jackdaws that descend the minute my back is turned.

 Above, Fleur with wings outstretched, and below, Fern - fledged at last!
 Together, here there doesnt seem much size difference between them, but Fern is way way bigger than Fleur.

At the end of the day there were a few pigeon stragglers left on the roof. I try not to feed after Snow White has left, but I threw some grain and the sweetest little thing came down with the pidgies....

I was pretty sure it was a baby stock dove. I do see the stock doves occasionally in the garden but they are usually very shy and why this one was with the feral pigeons I don't know. It didnt seem able to pick up the big grains, so I went to get some of the pigeon conditioner (very small nutritious grains) The others gobbled up some food and then left..... the baby pottered about the lawn. It was nearly time for me to dish up supper, and hubbie was hungry, I had to do something quick..... the baby wandered into the small strip of lawn between the side of the raised bed and the border. I knew I would worry about it if I didnt get it in for the night, so I gently netted it and put it in the hutch - with grains and water - and in the morning of course I will release it, but will probably hand feed it first to give it a boost. Better look up what they eat!

Thursday 29.5.14 - And a busy dovie morning for me - this all happened before 7.30am. I got up a little later at 5.30am - quite a few doves and pigeons already here, but I got the baby stock dove out of the hutch first. Find out more about STOCK DOVES here with this link. The charming little grey fluffy thing was perfectly ok and feisty, but I wrapped it in a cloth, hand fed it some seeds, a few peas (the hard peas that come with my grains) and a couple of peanuts then offered a drink of water, which it accepted. I ringed it with a purple ring in case it should come back but it wouldnt stay still enough for a photo - it's difficult to photograph a bird while holding it in one hand and the camera in the other, so I didnt get one...... then I released it and it flew into the woods beyond the river.

My squabs, Fern and Fleur, aged 32 days, and just fledged, were still in the cote, but at some point that I didnt see Fleur took herself off to the roof. Maybe she is the older of the two and enormous Fern is just the big baby! Anyway Fern stayed in the cote, but later was seen on the lawn with Snow White. But when daddy flew to the roof, Fern flew straight back to the nestbox! He does look funny on the lawn because he is as big or bigger than many of the adult pigeons but still has that very baby look. Snow White came back to the cote and fed him but I couldnt see Fleur anywhere and was concerned SW had forgotten her. I won't now give the babies grains in the mornings as they have to be encouraged to feed themselves, or beg for food from SW - as is right and proper! (but I will still give them the dish of small grains at bedtime (after SW has left the garden) then an hour later I collect the dish. Last night they had eaten every single grain).

Brownie Mo struggled as always to pick up food. The only thing he can pick up is the yellow maize (corn). Every piece he manages to eat seems like a personal victory for me! I follow him round throwing small quantities near him but it is a slow painful business for both of us. Sometimes it takes him 15 stabs to pick up a piece - though other times he can do it in one! Mostly another bird will snatch the one he is trying to pick up!  Somehow, and I don't really know how, I managed to grab him today - and brought him in to feed. This is exactly a week since I hand-fed him last (and ringed him). He doesnt like it and his breathing tells me he is stressed, but I gave him a big feed of at least 30 grains and peanuts, and not a single piece of corn amongst them - he must be so sick of it, poor poppet! I had thought if I ever caught him again I would keep him in..... but that's not fair as he can fly and is otherwise well, and coping, so I let him go.

Fleur eventually came to the top of the cote where Snow White found her and fed her. Here they are together.....

32 day old white dove squab with her daddy

Lucky did try to join them, but SW sent him away. No funny business went on that I saw thankfully (another white dove mated or tried to mate with her yesterday and I was beginning to worry why they were all doing this. She was squeaking with that male, and I got the net and waved it up at the cote to frighten him off).

While Fleur was with Daddy, Fern stayed in the nestbox....

And here's the whole family, Fleur and daddy Snow White on the top, Fern in the top nestbox and Mummy Charm sitting on the eggs in the lower nestbox

SW went off to the roof and Fleur then tried to get in the nestbox with Charm and the eggs. First I thought Charm wouldnt let her.... then she did and Fleur settled with her for about a minute or two, but very soon Charm was pecking at her trying to get her out. Mummy's busy, dear, can't you see, she's got two eggs which will be lovely baby sisters and brothers for you!..... Fleur was not impressed.

I managed to grab her from the entrance and put her in with Fern. Charm was huffing and puffing crossly, so I gave her a tiny dish with some choice grains and peanuts to make up for it. Again all her straw nest was disarrayed and had to be tidied (by her, not me!)

Then just when I thought surely we are all settled, Miss Pink Ring - who I think must be Sugar that I ringed earlier in the year - or was it the end of last year.....decided that she wanted to be a cote dove. She has regularly tried to get in with the in crowd in the last few days. Here she is with SW blocking the squabs..... he is not having it! It's bad enough Lucky always in the back he says but no more! room at the inn!

Below, Fern and Fleur together

Fleur is happy to be out on the roof - quite contented with her own company, and not needing SW or Lucky to be with her. It's so much nicer out on the roof, she says, getting some fresh air and some personal space .... cos Fern takes up so much room in the nestbox! and he blocks the entrance so I can't even see out!

In the early afternoon I spotted a cute little thing on the cottage roof (not the roof where the doves sit) - had my baby come back? I had to wait for it to come down so I could see if it had the ring.....
 Yes, that's my baby stock dove...... see how different to pigeons they actually are
 One way of telling them apart is that they have black beady eyes

 Beautiful soft greys and pinky browns - what a sweet soft bundle

I didn't see that Fern had emerged out of the cote and given himself a bath, until I saw his bedraggled little figure on the lawn....

 and later on, Snow White took little Fleur to the bathroom.....
 Make sure you wash behind your ears!
 Hey, you're splashing Daddy!
 Come on now, time to get out!

 Big jump....
 and ready to hop out

 Below, Fleur learns to peck up seeds like Daddy
 After his bath, Fern went into the side nestbox and Lucky blocked him in
 Fleur made an attempt to get in the cote but failed....and sat on the wood plank seat thing under the cote. After a while, I went to pick her up and find a nice soft cloth to wrap my baby bunting in, and dry her off a bit. It doesnt do baby doves good to get chilled and it wasn't particularly warm when the sun went in. After I'd dried her, I gave her a few peanuts and put her back in her usual nestbox.... then I fished Fern out and he was still damp too, so a quick light rubbing for him too, and then back in with Fleur. These few days with my squabs when they are still easily picked up are very precious - they are so innocent and adorable .... with no knowledge of any dangers, or even any knowledge of anything at all beyond the cote, the lawn and the roof. I only hope that the parents allow them to stay as long as possible in the cote at night so they don't have to face the fly to wherever the doves roost until they are a bit older and stronger.

Early evening - the wounded dove was back again. The wound is really drying up now and she seems fine. I did toy with the idea of trying to catch her so I could ring her, and always know her...but the opportunity didn't arise.

30.5.14 -  I got up at 6.00am - what a lie in! - and the huge flock was of course already all over the lawn, the table, the roof and the raised bed. Fleur was on the roof and Fern in the cote - and by 9.00am he still hadnt got up. I saw Lucky feeding Fleur on the roof, and Lucky even chased Snow White away when he tried to interfere. I had been a little concerned about what would happen when the babies fledged. The usual thing is that the young ones follow their Daddy around, and squeak to be fed for about a week or so after fledging - while learning to pick up small grains themselves - it's the weaning process. So I had worried that who would the babies consider 'Daddy' - would they be confused and end up getting fed by no-one .... but it has been fine. Both babies can eat very well by themselves already, and could before they left the cote. And they don't mind which daddy feeds them! Fern seems to like staying in the cote but he did fly down to the lawn after SW had left the garden for a drink at the water bath - then straight up to bed again - so I am not concerned that there is anything wrong with him.

My little baby stock dove - Stockie - was there joining in with the feral pigeon flock and eating small seeds and grains perfectly well. I wonder how long she will stay around?

Later, when Charm was off the eggs, big baby Fern came to have a drink from the water bath. He jumps right in to drink, rather than dipping down from the side. Side by side with his mum, he was easily as big as her! I have never seen such a big squab!

I had given Cissie her afternoon feed, and then she escaped out of my hands onto the table, where I let her wander for a while, but then suddenly the flock was startled and she gathered her strength and ..... flew up...and up, as high as the wire....and landed plop on the low roof of the shed-kitchen.

 Sh*t, I said to myself! I took the photos, and after a while threw more grain down, but she didnt come down .....

 Above, Cissie, left, with new found friend - and below Snow White tries to re-kindle the interest of his former wife Star Light, that he dumped in favour of Charm.

I gradually I lost sight of Cissie on the roof as she is a very ordinary looking pidgie. This was the way I lost Echo..... not good. These PMV pigeons do recover some, but are not capable of looking after themselves in Cissie's condition. About an hour and a half later when hubbie came home at 5pm I said to him 'I think I've lost Cissie...' but decided to go out looking for her as I always would. So I took the net and went round the back of the old mill building next to us, and as I approached the wooden bridge (over the water) I saw a pigeon sitting there. I wouldn't have been able to use the net the position it was in, so I very carefully and quietly set it down, and approached gently making the clicking sound I make with my tongue against the roof of my mouth when I talk to Cloud and Cissie, and put them to bed. I crouched down next to her, and she looked up at me, having been there a good while and wanting to be rescued I felt, and then, knowing I had one chance to get it right, I raised my hand and brought it down on her back, curling my fingers to almost dig into her, so I'd get a good grip. If she'd moved or I'd missed she would've fallen into the water below. No luck? asked hubby as I walked through the kitchen door..... then he saw silly little Cissie cuddled in my arms!

Sat 31st May 14 - I was going to stay overnight with my grandchildren while my daughter and her husband were away, so I left Cissie in the crate in the conservatory, with food in a deep dish, so hopefully she might be able to feed herself in the morning but I took Cloud with me. The kids were pleased that a dove had come for a sleepover! - and in the morning while my granddaughter was still asleep, my grandson and I took her into the garden for her early morning poop! and a little walk on the lawn.... but when I tried to catch her to take her in again, she suddenly did what Cissie had done.... rose into the air about shoulder height!!! Good grief! but thankfully she plummeted to the ground, was caught, and brought back to her box til we set off back to my house.

Sunday 1st June 14 -  I stayed overnight with my grandchildren and took Cloud with me. Fern and Fleur are 6 weeks old.

Tuesday 3rd June 2014 – Today is hatching day and I found an egg shell in the hedge.

Trouble at cote – again! With other doves, probably Bandit, trying to ‘persuade’ SW and Lucky to allow him and his mate to move in. I noticed Charm was on the side ledge and quickly, as far as my back would allow, put the steps up to have a peep. Yes, two lovely tiny babies! I didn’t have my camera, so sorry no piccie! I wonder if Lucky will consider these babies his, like he did with Fern and Fleur, or whether he will be content to let SW do all the male part.

In the early evening, the 5 week old squabs, Fern and Fleur, kept trying to go to bed in their normal nestbox – and Snow White, doing what the daddy doves always do at this stage, kept chucking them out – obviously considering them old enough to fly off with the flock.... which I don’t! Somehow, Fern managed to get in and stay in – and I quickly transferred him to a side nestbox and blocked him in for the night. Then when Fleur managed to get past SW’s eagle eye, and went in the old nest, I blocked her in there. I got some little dishes and filled them for their suppers, and was happy that both my young birds will at least have another night safe in the cote. Of course, I am still concerned that Charm might leave the new tiny babies, so before 7pm I blocked her in too – with one of the metal grilles that hubby made for me, and a half brick. I could hear her grumbling but better safe than sorry! The squabs I unblocked when I was totally sure that SW and all predatory jackdaws had left the garden for the night but of course Charm will stay blocked in until I get up early in the morning to unblock her. She can’t be relied on to stay with her babies, as people who have been reading my blog for some while will know. I did my back in today – I don’t know how, I was doing anything really but it is incredibly painful and makes dealing with the birds, and everything else very difficult.

Wed 4th – My back was too bad to do anything more than the essentials for the birds, but anyone who has had children or pets knows that it doesn’t matter how ill one is, some things just have to be done, but I was feeling very sorry for myself! Lugging the watering cans was near impossible! Did manage to take some photos....

Parent and baby jackdaws
 Below, the squabs Fern and Fleur with Cloud

 Fleur, above, on the table and below Charm - with just one baby that you can just about see!

 Empty lawn, except for one little grey thing in the middle - and it's Stockie!

In the early evening, the sky suddenly went gloomy. I went out to block Charm in and just the second after I had placed the grille over the entrance, standing on the steps of course, there was a sharp flash of lightening and immediately an almighty clap of thunder – horrible! But I was so thankful that I had blocked Charm in as possibly the tremendous noise of the thunder might have caused her to leave the cote and the babies.... and they are only a day old!

Fri 6th June 14 – It’s past 8pm and I writing this in real time -  I had to re-block Fleur and Fern in because the jackdaws were trying to get into the nestboxes to see if there was any food. I had already blocked Charm in and she stays blocked all night to ensure the babies survive, but my practice recently has been to block the squabs in while they eat their supper – say for half an hour – then unblock and remove the little dish so they can come out and get a drink if they want to. Tonight they might be staying blocked in all night – the jackdaws seem on the warpath! Of course they have young to feed too.... and I like jackdaws individually but not this many, and not in my dovecote! 

Snow White is no longer preventing Fern and Fleur getting in the cote in the evenings. He tends to sit in the top nestbox quite a bit during the day, but they are fine on the roof, or probably going for little flies out and forages with the rest of the flock, and in the evening he sets off, and they can settle in the cote, which is wonderful – as in the past I have had major probs with daddy birds not letting the young ones stay at all, which means they go off with the flock when maybe they are too young to undertake the journey and get back safely. I’ve been fortunate with Fleur and Fern, it has all gone reasonably smoothly and they fledged early and successfully without me having to worry too much about Bertie, the cat. He turned up today, the first time for a while, and even came into the house where my youngest daughter who was visiting made a huge fuss of him. I feel mean not even stroking him – and want to! – but I am trying so hard not to encourage him. If she hadn’t been there I would’ve driven him straight home.

I got a look at one of the babies today – here it is with mummy Charm.....

and as you can see it’s a little dark baby, so unless Snow White has dark genes in him somewhere then I think the daddy may be Lucky.... but fortunately Lucky doesn’t think so this time and is not trying to feed the babies or take his turn with them in any way. Though he does tend to do what SW does – e.g. sit in ‘his’ nestbox at the back of the cote, when SW is with the babies or sit on the roof if that is what SW is doing. 

Below is Star Light (yellow ring) the young female that SW 'divorced' - with her new mate. I hope it works out for her this time! 

 Here I am kneeling on the lawn, with the birds around me - those white lumps below are my knees!
 and here with the pink and purple rings is Dolly, hatched over a year ago in my cote (parents Lucky and Charm -  before Snow White came on the scene and stole Charm away from Lucky!)

 And here's Pandora, who injured her beak last summer, but is pretty well fine now.

Sat. 7.6.14 - I obviously wasn't bringing Charm her breakfast in bed quick enough, so she was standing up at the entrance to the nestbox peering crossly out. Her nest duty extends into the morning, and since the flock starts arriving at 5am, when I unblock her (and then go back to bed), and feeding doesnt start til 6.30am, by 7 or so she is ready for something to eat. As there is such a scrum at the moment, it is preferable for me to take her food so I know she - and therefore the babies - get enough nourishment. So I brought her little dish of food and at the same time caught sight of both babies - the dark one from yesterday and the blonde one - and then she settled down. They are four days old and look plump and healthy.

It's now more than a month since Brownie first appeared with blood down her front and a broken beak, and she is doing marvelously now. I still target her with food, but she can now pick up peanuts as well as maize and do it more efficiently than before. I was calling her a he, but I think she's a she now!

Here she is in the beginning....not a very good photo.....

And then about 18 days later when I managed to capture her, and ring her

and now, more than a month since she first arrived - so much better, thank goodness. Her will to live has been very strong throughout, despite in the beginning hardly being able to pick up one or two pieces of grain a day. I've only captured her twice and hand fed her up on those occasions - the rest she's done herself. Brave little thing!

See my feather shop on Groovycart if you want to  Buy real birds feathers here plus lots of other nice shops there for craft etc

To be cont.......


Harvey Hedges said...

Lovely post as usual.its great to see all the doves and pigeons enjoying the sun.silly cissie could she be recovering?

Yan21 said...

Great read as ever Faith! No idea how you keep track of them all. Amazing!

Yan21 said...
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Fennie said...

It's almost a relief that there's no great trauma this time. All best wishes to all your bird characters.Strange you have no jackdaws ringed. I would have thought that one or two would have become tame and shared the baths etc with the doves.