Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Stress, lots happening - a dramatic incident on the river - and I sign off for a while

WARNING - blog contains some photos you might find distressing

Monday 11th August 2014 – somehow I managed to delete all my blog notes off Word – sigh! Oh well, what’s been happening...... I will have to try and remember. Yesterday we caught the tail end of Hurricane Bertha and rained lashed against the windows all morning, so there was no point putting the homies, Cloud and Cissie out. They stayed in the conservatory and I put Gulliver, my rescue Stock Dove squab in with them – in his own box of course but with a little cage as an ‘outside’. He seemed pleased and started squeaking – but Cloud and Cissie weren’t that delighted to have him sharing their space.

 Above, Gulliver is introduced to the homies, and below, they all settle down and rest together

Today I weighed him and he was approx 245g, which is not bad.  I also ringed him with a pale pink ring on his right foot. He struggled and the ring went on the floor – then he went on the floor! What a palaver!

 But eventually he was ringed. I used the pale pink as the other young stock dove, Stockie, that I helped earlier in the year was ringed with a purple ring, and you never know at some time one or the other may came back. But of course Gulliver is not ready to be released yet.

I haven’t seen Lucky and Loveday’s squabs, Desiree and Chance, for a while, as it looked like the parents were sitting on eggs again so I didn’t want to disturb – but today when Lucky was supposed to be on the nest, and I couldn’t see him anywhere – I crept up to peep in the nestbox. If he had been there, he wouldn’t have minded me peeping as he is more tolerant than young Loveday, but as it was there was no parent at all. The big squabs were keeping the eggs warm, but I wonder if L and L have abandoned them? – the eggs I mean, not the squabs, I know they are getting fed because I can hear them at feeding time! Later however, Loveday was back on the eggs so obviously she was just having a break – it’s handy to have teenagers to babysit isn’t it? (Like my parents, when me and my nearest sister were little, our two eldest sisters were just the right age for babysitting – as they continually remind us. My eldest sister is 18 years older than me, and the second eldest 16 years).

The white dove I call Banana – that I think I ringed (one black, one yellow) but I can’t remember under what circumstances, is limping badly. I managed to pick him or her at the afternoon feed, out of the scrum, and took him into the house, to remove the yellow ring on the bad foot – as it can only weigh it down and make the matter worse. I fed him a few peanuts, then released him, as a bad foot is not great, but if a bird can fly, then it’ll be ok.

Tuesday 12th Aug 14 – The morning started off very ordinary, but nearly ended in disaster. I usually feed Gulliver, then take Cissie and Cloud in to the garden for breakfast and a quick run round with the flock, before taking them back to the conservatory for an hour or so, before they are put in the hutch or the run for the day. While I fed the flock – which is enormous – so it's hard to keep an eye on any one bird -  I did notice Cissie doing her little hovering type flying which she does sometimes, but today was a bit higher than usual – say about my waist height. So it’s flap flap, hover, then down to the ground again..... but suddenly she was right up into the air, and then she flew, or more likely the wind blew her, backwards and over the fence, where she plummeted down..... and of course the river is beyond the fence. I rushed to look over, and there I could see her, frantically flapping about in the river. Even from the distance I could see the surprise and shock on her face! Oh God! I grabbed the net, and ran out of the garden gate to the yard, and scrambled down the bank – thinking thank goodness my back is ok now – and then, wearing my dressing gown, (over nothing at all!) – and my garden clogs – I looked down along the swiftly flowing water. At first I couldn’t see Cissie again, but then I could see her little grey bobbing head – she had been swirled over to where the water froths and bubbles as it comes down over the little weir, and was whirling round and round. In a minute I knew she would catch the current and come sailing fast down the river. I have no great opinion of river water, and thought of Weils disease.... but our neighbour’s teenagers splash about in it, so I knew it wasn’t that deep and started wading in. I don’t think I even registered how cold it probably was. I reached half way across and could see Cissie had started to come down with the current, so I stretched out my big net – knowing I had one chance – and thankfully scooped her up in it! Then lifting the net out of the water, and holding her body in it, I somehow scrambled up the bank again. Whew! A lucky escape! My camera was on the garden table so I took a quick photo of my poor drowned-rat pigeon, and then brought her into the house.

 She was obviously shocked and had curled up her toes – but I dried her with small towels, then got the hair-dryer and used that on a low setting. While I had a shower, I put her in her usual crate in the conservatory, and she sat hunched with one eye closed for a while.

If pigeons have the same 9 lives as cats, then Cissie has now used up  3 of them. The first was when she was newly fledged, had paramyxovirus and would’ve died if I had picked her up from the lawn, to hand feed and keep inside. That was at the beginning of the year, and the second was more recent when she did the same flying thing, and landed on the roof, but ended up coming down on the little wooden bridge on the offices side where there is an old mill wheel but that time she missed landing in the water! Being able to fly a little bit is more dangerous that not being able to fly at all – so I will ask the guy at the Poultry Farm if he will clip her wings for me. Another dip in the river and she might not be so lucky!

I took this next lot of photos later so you could get a feel of what happened....

Here's the garden... Cissie was near the chairs before she blew backwards over the fence...

 And this is what I saw when I looked over.... if you look at the island wall, near the water line is a pipe hole and then take an eye-line out into the middle of the river, and that's where poor Cissie was, flapping about, near drowning....
 This is where I scrambled down
 And stood at the edge looking up the river...
 And Cissie came sailing down, to where the leaves of the trees touch the water to the left/centre of the photo....
 And then I scrambled back up, with Cissie in the net.....

13th August - Gulliver, getting used to the garden, and the other birds.

14th August 14 - A nice surprise for me on the patio...... Charm and Snow White's birth announcement!

 And when I peeked in the nestbox, Snow White had the other egg shell beside him - we have two new babies he told me!

 Blackie, my very tame juvenile blackbird - adorable isn't he?
 Loveday, at the back on her eggs, with Chance, left, and Desiree, her two large squabs, still in the nestbox.....will they ever leave home?
 Below, Gulliver, on the ramp, gets used to the big outdoors in a safe environment
 And Whitewings, a bird with a crippled foot and a sore eye, sit is the gutter in the spot that the first Fennie used to like
 John, at the Poultry Farm, cuts Cissie's wings for me, as I can't risk her fluttering up and over the fence again. If she had died that way, I would've felt dreadful.

Since the river incident Cissie has been subdued in the garden. The first day she just shivered in fright, and I had to take her in immediately, poor little thing. Without her long wing feathers she looks much smaller.

15th Aug -
 Poor little Cissie
 Above, Snow White, always a proud daddy with just a tiny new baby beak peeking out of his breast, and below Loveday's got a nestfull with two big babies and two eggs that are getting very dirty!
 And Gulliver's getting bigger
17th Aug - I only took one pidgie photo today - of Whitewings, in her nook - she flies down twice a day for food and water, and seems content enough.

Mon 18th August - Desiree and Chance both fledged this morning and both can fly pretty well. This is good as I’m out all day tomorrow at the zoo with my grand-children so I’m glad the babies won’t be sitting on the ground, vulnerable. I now recognise their mother, Loveday, easily as she is absolutely filthy down her front, due to being in and out of the nestbox, and sharing with her two big squabs all this time. I hope now they have fledged she can settle on her eggs quietly, and they will hatch.

Later – Desiree is back in the nestbox with Loveday, but Chance is still on the roof. I fear he will be like Dusty – rejected once fledged as a grey pigeon and not a white dove like the parents – and therefore, to them, an interloper trying to get in! I will have to to do my best by him and Dusty has survived and is here every day, while I don’t know what happened to the white one, Daisy.

No I was wrong, Lucky, that conscientious father, was feeding Chance on the roof.

For some reason, Fern – who must be about 12 weeks old now and having her first moult – wants to get back into the cote. She spends long minutes standing on the hedge waiting for an opportunity to slip past SW or Lucky and get in there, somewhere!

Below, Clara comes to visit Cloud....... Can I come in?

 Oh well, I'll just talk to you through the wire then!
 Loveday, with her dirty front, comes out of the nestbox
 Desiree, newly fledged, and on the hedge for the first time
 Below, I think that's Clover, left with Chance

Later, Desiree put herself back to bed with Loveday at a reasonable hour, but Chance was still swinging on the wire with the last two pigeons at 7.30pm and I was getting worried. I’d already separated Clover and Clara who always try to go to bed together but scrap as soon as they are in the nestbox, and there was only one totally empty nestbox left in the cote. Chance tried to get in with Clover but was routed out, but then he popped round to the back and went into his old nest with mummy, the eggs and Desiree. Peace at last!

Tuesday 19th Aug 14 – I was out all day at the zoo from before 9am to after 6pm and had to leave the bird feeding to hubby. He picked me up from the station and warned me that there had been a hawk strike – we rarely get hawks around at this time of year, and I felt if I’d been home it wouldn’t have happened. Hubby saw the hawk fly off with ‘a grey pigeon’ and all I saw of course were the feathers on the path. I thought it might’ve been Whitewings who was caught, but soon saw her in her hidey-place, so not her..... but Chance, my newly fledged grey pigeon baby was missing, so I fear it may have been him. If so, that is a terrible shame. I was very late for Cloud, Cissie’s and Gulliver’s feeds so had to do them very quickly and bring them in for the night. All else seemed ok.
Btw, I can't say that London Zoo is good value for money - even with special rail vouchers it cost us (Grandma, Grandpa, Mum, 4 and (free 2 year old) about £52 to get in!) - and not even many beautiful birds to take photos of!

Wednesday 20th – I was out again til mid afternoon, and on my return, it seemed to me that the birds were spooked. Snow White or Charm, whoever was on the nest, was crouched to the side of the nestbox.....Cloud was hiding right inside the hutch, and Cissie in the night part of the run. Innocent Gulliver was just sitting outside in the run..... I can’t remember if there were any birds on the roof or not, but I certainly felt that the hawk had probably been visiting again. After a while, the flock returned and I got Cloud out of the hutch and put her on the lawn for her little perambulations.... then went to get Cissie who I knew was still in the upstairs/night part of the run. I couldn’t see Gulliver but presumed he was in the downstairs/outside part..... but no he was crouched next to Cissie and before I could blink he flew up and out.... and that was that....bye bye Gulliver! Oh dear, I hadn’t planned to release him until at least the weekend and maybe not til next week. I calculated that he was about 3 weeks old when he came, so he’s 5 weeks now and still a bit immature but has a chance now of survival, which he didn’t have when he was first picked up by my friend in her garden. I thought he might’ve flown to the roof, but as you can see there was no chance of picking him out amongst this lot.....

I was more annoyed with myself than sad – 
let’s hope he can find enough to eat....or comes back tomorrow. 

Here's little Desiree
 and Snow White with the babies

Desiree, and the two older young birds, Clover and Clara are putting themselves to bed in the cote, so at least they are safe. I thought Charm was with her babies, and was thinking it was time to block her in for the night when Snow White emerged from the nextbox – he had obviously waited and waited for Charm but she had failed to come home – was in fact probably an hour late, so Snow White came down to the lawn, had something to eat... then off he went, and the poor little babies, aged only about 6 days, were left alone. The nights are getting chilly, and certainly this morning was very cold, I thought, so it is certain that these babies would die if I didn’t bring them in and keep them warm - you can see from the above how unfeathered they are. Of course, now I am all geared up to Charm and was expecting her to leave them any evening now, so I was not surprised and had everything ready.

Thurs 21st – The babies were fine with me for the night. Charm fiddled and faddled about on the lawn, flew away again, and eventually went to her babies at 6.50am. Desiree had spent the night in the side of the cote – blocked in by me, and when I unblocked her I gave her a top up feed. Later on, I heard squeaking on the roof and saw Lucky feeding Chance which made me very happy as it means obviously that Chance wasn’t the poor unfortunate pigeon that copped it with the hawk. And then a while later, I was even happier when Gulliver appeared near the run! He ate a few small grains and seem to want to get into the run, so I opened up the top, he flew in, walked around a bit and flew out again! I hope he stays local so that he can find food, but was very pleased he survived the night out on his own and luckily it’s another nice sunny day, now the chill’s gone.

One of Lucky and Loveday's eggs was rejected, soggy and split and when I opened it out I could see the undeveloped embryo. I'm hoping the other will be ok, but I don't have a good feeling about these eggs. They've been trampled on, and Loveday's left them too many times.....

Later – The garden seems to be full of poorly ones! There’s Whitewings in her nook on the roof, and she seems stable but is limping badly and has a sticky eye. Then a female pigeon arrived, obviously old or sick, and when one male jumped on top of her, I immediately removed her to the run for the rest of the afternoon. Not long after that I noticed a badly limping pigeon, and realised it had only one leg – I knew immediately it wasn’t Tufty but a new arrival. I threw it extra food, but when the others eventually flew away, he didn’t seem to be able to fly, and was easily caught in the net. The stump of his leg was healed though it looks nasty in the photo and he didn’t seem to mind me examining and holding it.

It was late in the afternoon by then, so I thought it best to shut him up in the hutch overnight and see how he was in the morning. I don’t like leaving birds in the hutch at night, but with the cote full and 3 birds in the house plus the two little babies, I didn’t have much choice. I shut it all up carefully, then drape it with a cloth which I secure down with bricks. Also Banana arrived, with now only the black ring, and still limping – but I haven’t seen him for a few days so glad he’s still coping.

At the end of the day, when most of the other birds had gone, Gulliver came down to the lawn with the last few pigeons, and had a feed. The pidgies were lucky because if Gulliver hadn’t been there they wouldn’t have had anything, as I have to be as careful as possible with the grain so it lasts the week.

Friday 22.8.14 – I was up early to attend to the little babies and do all the unblocking. I unblocked Clara and she stayed in the cote, then I unblocked Desiree and gave her a top up feed. She is a sweet soft little thing but I’m not sure she’s doing so well as she doesn’t seem to follow Lucky and get fed, like Chance. After I’d fed her I put her back in the cote, but with the door unblocked of course. I uncovered the hutch, gave the one-legged one, Tommy, a little drink, then left the door open for him. He flew to the roof, so obviously perked up after a night’s rest, but the one in the conservatory box was dead.

At the early feed which is about 6.30am now, the huge flock was there – with Charm and Snow White and I am always glad to see them both for the babies’ sake. It wasn’t as cold as yesterday so I popped the babies back in their nestbox and carried on feeding, until there was a whirl of wings round me, wild panic and the hawk was there on the lawn, having brought down a bird. I don’t normally have a hawk problem at this time of year and wondered if she’s got a second brood – but I find the whole thing very difficult, as I realise the hawk must eat but hate the slow lingering death that the prey must suffer, as they don’t just kill them with a swipe of beak or claw. But this bird got away and I recognised it as one of the usual flock as it has a distinctive grey patch on its dark back.

The birds were then spooked for ages, circling round and Charm didn’t go to the babies til 7am. Not long after when I was feeding again, the hawk made another successful attempt and brought the bird down in the yard, just at the side of our garden gate. I had a peep and saw it was a pigeon.... I struggled with my feelings, but decided to let it have its prey, as, if I didn’t, next time it might be one of my parent birds. Also as it wasn’t in the garden, I wouldn’t have to cope with the mess on the lawn. The garden is feathery enough anyway, but after a hawk strike, the feathers and gore are a horrible sight and something I have to clear up! I didn’t like leaving the pigeon to its fate, but hubby felt that there has to be a sacrificial one every now and again, it’s nature etc etc........BUT we ate breakfast and then twenty minutes or so later, hubby wanted go out as he was going away for the weekend and he certainly wasn’t going to wait while a hawk ate! I advised him to give a wide berth, and he did so, but the hawk still flew off, and I went to look, and the poor pigeon was still alive. Shall I despatch it, asked hubby..... no, I said, I can’t bear it, I’ll have to look after it. So I brought it in. It had a minor wound on its upper wing but a terrible wound underneath.....possibly not quite as bad at Patience had, and he survived and is still seen in the garden.

I felt quite sick and very responsible...... (I really can’t understand why God made a hawk have to take so long to kill its prey). The pigeon, obviously in shock, let me examine it gently and I washed the wounds with tepid water mixed with honey (good honey from our friend who has hives), then I applied Medi-Honey which is an anti-bacterial wound gel. The pigeon accepted a little drink of water (with honey in it) and I wrapped it in a cloth and put it in a Tupperware container to support it. Then that went on a hot water bottle for warmth, and the whole thing in a carrying box on the aga (which is currently off) so I could keep an eye on it.

The hawk came back and sat on the hedge looking down into the yard....searching for it's prey

All this before 8am – and I suddenly realised I was collecting my grandson at 10am so had to leave at half nine.  I was pleased that my mother birds, Charm, Loveday and Star Light, all stayed in the cote with their babies or eggs while this was going on, and so did fragile little Desiree .....petrified probably. But I felt she was vulnerable, so before going out, I took her out of the cote, and put her in the run with Cissie – she was in an open carrying box but immediately put herself into the upstairs part of the run. It’s gloomy in there, but she’s safe til I get back.  I was sorting the grain bins, when I heard a rustle at the overgrown side of the house – I could just about see the hawk, yet again, with another pigeon – probably Whitewings or Tommy but I wouldn’t have been able to get through very easily, and both those birds were afflicted anyway. I could’ve made a noise and frightened the hawk away but it’s obviously desperate so better it kills an old/poorly one. I still feel dreadful about it, but I can’t save or help them all.

I took my grandson to Little Learners at Mercedes Benz world (brilliant place and free entry with lots to look at!) and it occurred to me that Mercedes would be the perfect name for my poor pigeon, if she lives. I presume it means Mercy or seem to remember Our Lady of Mercies from my RC school days but will look it up when I get home. Mercedes was still alive, and accepted some more sips of honey-water and a hand fed of 20 hard peas. I didn’t check under her wing but will do that again later before bed-time. After eating I put her secure box on the top of the hutch so she can get some fresh air and see the world go by, but also be safe and where I can see her easily.

Desiree had come out into the run and I opened the top and released her as there were plenty of birds about.

Then, I battled my way through the undergrowth at the side of the house to see the remains of the pigeon....

yes, it was Tommy, only one leg and white wings. Whitewings herself was in the garden so I am positive it was him. My poor old soldier, sacrificed for the others. RIP. At least the hawk had made a proper meal of him. I didn’t remove the body as there is no point and the hawk, if hungry, usually goes back to the body and strips it. I wished I'd put the body of the bird that died in the box in the conservatory out - that might've saved Mercedes and Tommy, but I didn't think of it.

Meaning of Mercedes – cut and pasted from the internet -

Means "mercies" (that is, the plural of mercy), from the Spanish title of the Virgin Mary, MarĂ­a de las Mercedes, meaning "Mary of Mercies". It is ultimately from the Latin word merces meaning "wages, reward", which in Vulgar Latin acquired the meaning "favour, pity".

In the afternoon, I started to feel nauseous and by evening it was difficult to do the basics for the birds, in between bouts of throwing up but somehow I managed it. I had caught some sort of sickness bug.

Sat 23.8.14 – I felt better this morning thankfully and Mercedes was still alive, but wouldn’t take water, and there was no point in feeding her as she was closing her eyes, and I don’t expect her to live. I went out for a short while and when I came back she had somehow struggled out of the box and was dead on the aga top (the aga’s not on by the way). It sort of startled me to find her like that as I didn’t think she could hardly move! The whole thing with her was very distressing for me and dreadful for her of course.

First thing I had a surprise as a white dove was in Charm’s nestbox – where the babies usually are, but of course I am taking them out at night. I thought it was Charm for a second, then realised it was crafty Clara who had nipped back late to have a roost for the night.

Gulliver was here again today, in the tree above the run – and I leave food for him on top of the hutch.

We had another attempt from the hawk this afternoon. I was sitting feeding Cloud on my lap when the birds scattered and I saw the swoosh of the hawk as it brought down a dove right into the flower bed – I heard the squeak of the poor little thing. I dropped Cloud and the bowl and rushed over, and the hawk rose from the bed and flew away (it must really hate me!). The bed’s pretty overgrown and I plucked the small white dove out of all the leaves, and felt her wildly beating heart. The homies, Cloud and Cissie had run for shelter under the hutch, and I took the dove and sat with her on my lap, on the grass next to the others for a while. She didn’t struggle to get away, hopefully realising I’m one of the good guys! The flock and the hawk didn’t return, but to be on the safe side I put the homies away and then took the dove into the kitchen.. She was not injured and I ringed her, and named her Mercedes in honour of the other one (hope it’s not an unlucky name) – then for her safety I put her into a side compartment of the cote. This was about 3pm and she stayed there all afternoon, obviously terrified of the hawk, and at 6pm I blocked her in for the night. Little Desiree also came back and was also blocked in.


Lucky and Loveday have totally abandoned their nest, and in fact I haven’t seen Lucky for a day or so. There was nothing in the nest except some bits of yucky shell – obviously those eggs were not destined to hatch. I think Star Light and Mr Moon’s eggs are due soon – they are taking turns still, but are quiet birds and I don’t have much to do with them. I hope this time their babies are ok.

Bank Holiday Monday 25th Aug 14 - The rain pelted down all day, and our local annual event on the green was washed out. The homies stayed in and got bored.... and when the rain let up for a short while I put them out in the hutch and the run at 3pm and brought them in again at 4! I was very short of grain as I'd forgotten it was Bank Hol and I usually get my grain on Monday so I really had to eke it out - and all the birds went a bit hungry, causing them to come to the kitchen door, and even into the kitchen.

 Brownie Mo is on the right - you can just see his broken beak
 And he was totally bedraggled - but such a trooper. He's been coming to the garden for about three months now, and I have to target him for food but he copes so well. I'm really proud of him!

Tuesday 26th August 14 - It still rained today but not so bad as yesterday, and I was pleased to see little pink ringed Mercedes2 back....but Desiree is missing.

There is no news from Mr. Moon and Star Light's nest, and I peeped in today, though it is so awkward to look into that nestbox. Mr. Moon sat tight, and there was no evidence of shells or babies. Maybe this pair is infertile..... maybe Snow White sensed this and that's why he dumped Star Light? oh well, they do no harm sitting there.

SW and Charm's new babies are beginning to get their white feathers and are coming up two weeks old. I will be naming them Tommy and Mercy - after Tommy and the first Mercedes. Thankfully the hawk has not been back since.

I'm afraid this will be the last blog for a while. I am very pushed with other things in my life, and don't feel I can keep up with such a detailed blog at the moment. I will come back - in a few weeks, or a couple of months or so, and definitely before Christmas, but just signing off for now. I do appreciate every single person who has been kind enough to read all or any one of my dove blogs. 

Please don't forget my two GroovyCart shops - Real Birds Feathers for all sorts of natural birds feathers and Grannys Attic for toys, especially dolls, vintage bits and Teddy Adoption - opening on 1st September 2014 (but open for browsing now)

God bless and take care of yourselves - and if you see a pigeon throw it a bit of your sandwich!!!