Thursday, 12 February 2015

Taking the cote down..... or not. And, after the cull, life has to go on

 Thursday 4th Feb – Today I remembered another bird was has gone – Fletch. A sweet little white dove with one black fleck on her back and an unusual black beak. I am not coping well and spent the afternoon in tears for my lost birds.

Above, left is Frances, Mr. Strong's mate and right is Blackie
Unknown brown pidgie with them

 Chino and Cloud choose to have a bath together

 The next two photos are Pandora - if you look closely you can see her crossed over beak - which has grown that way since being damaged about 18 months ago

Friday 5th Feb – Having discussed it with hubbie, I have made the decision to take the cote down. Then over the next while – long while I expect – I will attempt to reduce the pigeon flock. Eventually, in a couple of years, maybe, I will have the cote put up again, and re-start with new white doves under a homing net – like I did originally. This was not such a hard decision as you might think. Hubbie suggested that we just leave the cote where it is and block the entrances. He said he likes the look of the cote in the garden. I said that I wouldn’t be able to stand it – seeing Lucky and other potential parent doves, trying to get in and not understanding why they can’t. I do feel sorry for Lucky – but realistically he is the only one who is going to be put out by this, as the other parent doves are all gone – Snow White and Charm, Mr. Moon and Star Light, and even Lucky’s mate, Loveday. If it’s going to be done, it’s got to be done quickly before Lucky recovers and finds another mate – so it’s coming down this weekend. The pole will stay up as it is too awkward to remove, sunk into the ground as it is. To be honest, I don’t know if I will ever want the cote up again – but I might I suppose.

The main reason for having the cote down is that if I don’t have cote doves, with babies, then I can feed less, and won’t have to worry about ‘my’ birds and the babies. At the moment, I still have my favourites and can’t not feed them – though hubbie would rather I stopped feeding altogether (so as to get rid of the pigeons). It is all so difficult – our lawn has been wrecked – partly due to the all the mole hills and partly due to the pigeons, and me walking around on it twice a day feeding them. He cares about the lawn – I don’t particularly, I have to say.

I am sorry for Lucky – and Clara has an interest in the cote too – I saw him go into one nestbox today and Lucky was already in and routed him out! Lucky has had a pretty rough deal, and now has to be the one upset by the cote coming down. He might fly away, I don’t know.

My daddy doves have always had a rough deal – here they are from the beginning and in the order they came:

Pax – flew away soon after his mate, Persephone died.
John – After his mate Lily died, he came home later and later, and one night didn’t come back at all.
(There was a long gap..... and then one day, out of the blue sky, two white doves came to the cote....Hope and Glory, a white feral pair)
Glory – killed by the hawk.
Flash – killed by the hawk.
Sky – went missing, came back, seemed ‘funny’ and then just didn’t turn up one day. I think he flew away because he was sick of nest-sitting the whole time!
Lucky – still here!
Snow White – probably culled with others en masse by a barn owner
Mr. Moon – disappeared before the cull, but may have been involved in it

There was another very special daddy dove – but he never nested in the cote. He mated with my rescued Jose, and nested with her in the hutch. I called him Happy, and he flew away  after she was killed by the neighbour’s dog. I hoped he would settle with Cloud (who was well and free at that time) as he had a dalliance with her – but he didn’t.

My first cote doves – Pax, Persephone, John and Irene arrived by special carrier on 15th June 2006 – so I have been keeping doves for nearly 9 years – wow, I didn’t think it was as long as that. Pax and Persephone turned out to be a true bonded pair, and had babies, Lily and Columba, while they were all still under the homing net. I thought they were so clever! I didn’t know at the time how pigeons/doves have babies after babies after babies!!! Pax was the dominant male, and not very nice to John! The other pair, John and Irene, were named after my parents but were not bonded, and it wasn’t that long before Irene disappeared. Eventually John bonded with Pax and Persephone’s daughter, Lily, and they had babies too.

Saturday 7th Feb – Lucky was very keen on the cote today – popping in and out of the nestboxes and settling in the front favoured one for quite a long time. Oh Lucky.... the cote is coming down tomorrow.... Then Clara turned up and was keen on the cote too! I think I will have to change his name. I’ve discovered that the Latin is Clarus – meaning ‘clear, bright’ but I don’t like the way Clarus sounds, so he will be Claro – if I remember!

I sat in the sitting room looking out occasionally at the cote – I wondered how many times over the near nine years I have done that. It is automatic for me to glance at the cote every so often to make sure nothing untoward is happening. How will I feel when it is no longer there...

Later on in the morning, I saw Lucky at the cote with ‘someone else’. Lucky was allowing the other bird to investigate the cote, making me wonder if this was a female. I went out to look.... the bird was a dovey-pigeon, very pretty – white, with touches of grey and pale coffee and a dark beak. Oh Lucky, have you found a new possible mate? 

Claro turned up again, and all three were in the cote.... In the photo above, it's Lucky in the cote, Claro on top and the new one on the side.

But I still couldn’t be sure that the pretty one was a female, brought here by Lucky, until I saw them together on the roof....

‘Oh Lucky’ I said, as I watched them billing and cooing, looking incredibly sweet ‘How can I take the cote down? ....... ‘You can’t’ he said........

At lunchtime, when Hubby came home, I said to him ‘Can I change my mind about the cote and leave it up? – ‘Of course you can, darling’ he said ‘Start a new dynasty!’

Lucky has had a bad time. I can’t make it worse for him by taking down his nesting place. It was ok in the beginning when he and Charm rented a room at the back of the cote from Sky and Summer in 2013, I suppose it was, and then when Sky left, Lucky and Charm fought Summer for the right to the cote, and won. So Lucky was top bird  for quite a while. Snow White came along and had that fated nest with Rose Red in Jan ‘14 But when Rose Red was killed by the hawk, he was with Star Light for a very short while, before taking Charm away from Lucky. This was Lucky’s worst time – he just could NOT adjust to the idea that Charm was not his mate any more, and when she hatched her babies, he thought they were his, and fed them too! Eventually he rather half-heartedly set up a nest with a new female, Loveday – but it looks like she was killed in the cull as he has been alone for the last week. But I’ve noticed before that the birds recover quite quickly from disaster – a day or so ago he was hunched, alone on the roof,  today he had found new love. And I am so glad, and so hope it works out for him. I have been noticing him particularly today and suddenly as he flew down to the raised bed where I had thrown grain, I thought I saw something under his wing. I have never had occasion to pick him up before, and he is not ringed, as he has distinguishing marks, so doesn’t need to be, but I just swooped down and picked him up – and carried him in to hubby. This is what we saw.....

Hubby said it was a pellet wound, and felt it confirmed my suspicions of the birds being shot. The wound was healing up and didn’t smell and Lucky is obviously managing very well, so I didn’t anoint it and just released him. Oh Lucky, I hope you don’t go back to that place.....

Sunday 8th Feb 15 – Quite a mild sunny day. Lucky didn’t bring his female to breakfast – oh dear, did she find the cote lacking? The birds flew off and I decided to scrub the cote. It desperately needs repainting, but never gets done because the doves always need it or the weather is bad. But at least I can scrub some of the green off. It is not an appealing job cos the water splashes down all over me. I’d only done about an eighth before Lucky came back with his girl..... so I stopped. I don’t want to put them off! Frances, Mr. Strong’s mate, was around so I gave her some grain – and of course the inevitable few pigeons were there too..... but then I saw another white dove on the roof and it looks like..... could it be.... Tommy! I so hoped so and went to get the camera because I couldn’t see his ring properly but when I take a photo I can often tell from that when it’s enlarged. When I returned seconds later the dove had gone – but was found again in Mr. Moon and Star Light’s old nestbox, which Tommy had always favoured. Lucky zoomed in there and the two started fighting..... oh for goodness sake Lucky, can’t you let him have it? Sky and Summer let you have a nest box when you first turned up. I let them tussle for a short while, then I gently removed Lucky. I am ecstatic to have Tommy back – he has been gone for a week and a day, according to my notes.  But he is not a miracle back from the dead, surviving the cull, as I saw him on what was probably the day after – or the one after that..... anyway I last saw him on Friday 30th January. He is such a wonderful big strong, partly tame, young male – I am so thankful that he wasn’t killed. Hopefully, Snow White and Charm’s genes will live again through him. He is now 178 days old approximately.

There has been an injured racer visiting since the cull – whether he was caught up in it or not, I don’t know. He only has one good leg, and uses his wings to balance. I have targeted him for food so he doesn’t have to fight with the others and can stay in one place to eat, and he’s been getting a bit tamer, coming close to me on the table. Today I picked him up, quite easily, just plucked him up from the table. His bad foot is curled up, and I found underneath his body he had a wound which is drying up. Both his feet were a bit clogged up, so I washed them in the water bath. His metal racing ring is on his good leg, but on his bad he had a coloured plastic ring and a strange sort of rubbery, sticking plaster type thing which I have since discovered is probably a race ring. I removed both as they certainly weren’t helping his bad leg and would be weighing it down. I also felt the rubbery thing was dangerous to him; liable to get caught up in something. I didn’t bother to note his ring number or keep him in as he is probably perfectly capable of flying back to his owner if he wants to.

Below, Lucky peeks out of the nestbox at his pretty new girlfriend

 What a charming little female!

Mon 9.2.15 – I saw Lucky morning and afternoon but was out for the mid part of the day, so don’t know if he brought his female back then – I didn’t see her with him. I do hope she likes him and will settle down in the cote with him. I remember, years ago, when my poor dove John was left alone when his mate Lily died, he became such a grumpy old man, sitting in the cote, day after day, with nothing to live for.... but one time he managed to persuade a female home, but it ended up just a one night stand, as she didn’t stay and eventually, as I said above, he just flew away, never to be seen again. I saw Tommy again today too, but not Claro.

Tue 10th – I am watching Lucky and his girl flitting around the cote this morning. Fingers crossed! Later on – The female went in the cote with Lucky, but at the end of the dovie day, he had left her in the cote and flown away! She seemed a bit confused..... where’s he gone?

And soon flew off.

During the day I caught a poorly pigeon and put it in the hutch while I was can see the runny poop, not a good sign – it also smells a bit sour.

Later,  I secretly put it in the back bedroom where the birds spend the night- don’t want hubbie to know I’ve got another bird!  I will see how it is in the morning, but I am out for much of the day, so will probably leave it in the conservatory, in Cissie’s crate, with food and water so it is safe, until I can assess it properly tomorrow afternoon. It may be that it just needs a rest and feeding up – or it could be really ill or dying. You may wonder why I would allow a possibly ill bird in Cissie’s crate etc but I will clean it out afterwards and I just don’t have enough room and ‘hospital space’ for every casualty or poorly pidg to get their own little nook.

Poorly pidgie

11th Feb – The poorly one had died in the night. It was sitting quite comfortably facing the front and looked like it had just passed away in its sleep. I much prefer finding them like that, rather than looking as if they have been flapping about.

I am calling Lucky’s new girl, Loretta. Today I saw her come down to feed with the others for the first time. She seems rather apprehensive and when Lucky left her behind, the same as yesterday, she eventually flew off. Lucky came back later and was the last  bird in the garden – Oh Lucky, you silly boy, you will have to stay with her, if you want her to settle! Methinks this might be a long courtship I have not had the heart to empty Snow White’s sticks out of the front nestbox, and Lucky will probably just take it over anyway. The doves are not that great at making nests – any scrappy old thing will do.

 Above and below, Lucky alone

12th Feb – Lucky and Loretta are spending time in the cote this morning – and so is another white dove in Mr. Moon’s old nestbox. It may be Tommy. Now I have seen him again since the cull I am not worried about him – he’s big and strong and can probably look after himself. Lucky is not fussed by him being there today, thank goodness.

A white dove arrived with PMV this morning, but I had no opportunity to catch it. Poor little thing, it’s so sad to see them. I had hoped that the illness was 'over' for the season.

To be cont...

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Tragedy - terrible loss


Today I was going to see Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket, London with my eldest daughter. It was her Christmas present to me and we were both looking forward to it. It’s always awkward with the homies if I go out, as their routine is disrupted, which I hate but I’d never do anything if I stuck to their routine the whole time – so Cloud and Cissie were fed, and all three, with Chino,  were put out in the garden at about 8.15am and then fed again about 10.30am, instead of the usual current winter afternoon feed time of 1-2pm. Chino of course feeds herself. Then they had to go back in the conservatory as I wouldn’t be back til after dark. They probably don’t mind much, it’s me who minds! 

The worst thing was that I didn’t see any of the cote birds at the morning feed, or before I left – no Snow White, no Charm, no Lucky.... and other birds were missing too. I sprinkled the lawn with grain before I left, and left a bowl for hubbie to feed them later.

We came out of Phantom (which was an amazing production and well worth seeing if you get the chance) to find an inch or two of snow, and my car back at the station car park was quite thick with it. When I drove up into our yard, I saw a white dove in Lucky’s back nestbox – obviously staying the night, maybe laying? I hate the birds laying so early in the year, when the worst of the weather could still be to come but eggs are only eggs – it’s when the hatchlings are in the nest that I really start to worry.  I asked hubbie if he’d seen the cote birds but he just said ‘Oh darling, I don’t know, I just chucked the food down and came in again!’ – as you can tell he doesn’t have the interest I have, and in fact hates all the pigeons, though doesn’t mind the white doves.

30.1.14 -  Again I didn’t see Snow White or Charm at the morning feed, though Lucky was back. I also saw Dusty and a few other favourites...... but where are SW and Charm? What has happened to them?

At the afternoon feed, I suddenly saw white doves at the cote – they’re back! I thought, but no, it was Lucky in SW’s nestbox, looking like he knew he shouldn’t be in there! And Clara (proving to be male) who was hatched in the cote last year, and has an interest in it.

I did a quick recce – who was here, or who had I seen this morning? – YES to Dolly, Mr. Strong, Frances (his mate), Clara, Grace, Sausage, Tommy, Blackie, Lucky, Tufty, Charity, Pandora, Dusty, Felicity (the green-ringed paramyxo recoverer) and Silver Shadow, but a very sad NO to Snow White, Charm, Star Light, Mercedes, Autumn, Fleur – and Mercy and Mr. Moon were already missing some while ago. All these are white doves...... and little Devvy, young pigeon, was missing too.

Something has happened to some of my birds..... why would they fly away in this cold weather when there is regular food here?  Why would SW and Charm abandon the nest they had started to build and where they had a successful breeding season last year? I just don’t know..... I have to say that I would not be that sorry if Charm, that faithless mate and careless mother, had moved on but my Snow White is such a special bird, and such a good daddy. I really didn’t want to lose him. What is so awful is that there are no goodbyes – one day a bird is there, and the next, maybe not.

Lucky’s mate, or the white dove that spent the night last night in the back nest box left the cote in the morning, and I checked – no egg, thank goodness. She or he didn’t go back to the cote, or spend the night again.

31st Jan 15 – Still no Snow White or Charm – or Star Light, Mercedes and Autumn. First thing this morning, in the light snow, all I saw was a roof full of pigeons.....

Not a single white dove. How depressing.... I like pigeons, but this wasn’t what I wanted when I started dove-keeping. On looking around, I found Fleur on the porch roof....

My beautiful little Fleur with her flutey tail – I wonder if she lives with these pigeons, or some of them? Fleur was hatched last April, with her sibling Fern, who was much bigger than she was and disappeared ages ago.

Much later on a few white doves struggled back – Mr. Strong, Lucky, Dolly, Grace, Clara – but none of these were on the missing list. I am seriously concerned and feel something must have happened to the others. Lucky looked a bit tousled – the roughly horseshoe shaped dark mark on his breast (the reason he is so named) was sort of rucked up. Has there been trouble somewhere, Lucky, I asked him – where are the others? I feel that he would’ve been roosting in the same place as Charm, as they were mates before she went off with Snow White – and even last summer when SW had taken his place, Lucky and Charm were often the first two to arrive in the garden – making me feel they had come together – but this of course may not be the case now. I do not know where any of the pigeons and doves go at night as none are currently sleeping in the cote, and it is perfectly possible that a fed-up farmer or barn owner, has done them in. I haven’t forgotten the massacre of 2010 when practically my whole flock was wiped out by a farmer who didn’t want them roosting in the barn he used for an indoor riding school.

To give me a little hope, a white dove with a bright green ring (one of my newer rings) turned up. I ringed this bird a good long while ago, and haven’t seen it for weeks and weeks. I called it Milkshake and can’t now remember the circumstances under which I caught and ringed it – but it’s fine, and has obviously been managing to feed itself, or get fed, somewhere. This ‘little hope’ is not for SW and the others, but just a knowing that birds can survive without the food in my garden is good. I send SW, Charm and the other missing birds good vibes – whether they are dead or alive.

Sunday 1st Feb 15 – A new month starts and I am convinced my birds are dead and have been deliberately destroyed en masse.

In Memorium

Snow White – a big handsome calm pure white male dove who allowed me to take him out of the cote recently to anoint the wound in his neck. He was magnificent, always trusting of me, a great character and a great daddy bird.

Charm – his mate, and previously Lucky’s – faithless and not a very careful mother – but she gave me some beautiful babies over two breeding seasons.

Autumn – my oldest ‘baby’ – hatched in my cote two and a half years ago. Sometimes she went away for a weeks at a time, but always came back – but I fear she was with the others and has perished with them.

Mercedes – a pretty white dove. The hawk brought her crashing into the flower bed in the summer, and I rescued her. I sat holding her, both of us with beating hearts, near the frightened homies, under the hutch until danger had past.

Star Light – Mr. Moon’s mate last summer, and mother of poor little tragic Twinkle. Mr. Moon is also missing but he had gone before.

Devvy – a sweet young pied pigeon who was just finding his feet.

Tommy – gorgeous boy, hatched in my cote last summer. Sibling to Mercy who disappeared a while ago. He was tame enough to eat from my hand and was interested in the cote, probably hoping to make a nest there this year. He was here one day after the others, with Dusty, so I fear the 'killing' went on over two days or more.

Pigeons – there are less birds around so I have to assume that many pigeons have died also.

They say it’s a beautiful journey,
From the old world to the new,
Someday I’ll make that journey,
Which will lead me straight to you,
And when I reach that garden,
In which there is no pain,
I’ll put my hands out to you,
And never leave again.


So where do I go from here......I am still in some sort of shock, I think. It is such a huge loss. If there is anything to be grateful about it is only that Snow White and Charm hadn’t already started a nest – though I feel if they had, then Charm would’ve been spared and Lucky may well have taken over as daddy. I have plenty of birds, but something has changed and I think the birds feel it too, particularly Lucky. He seems ‘lost’ without Charm and his ‘frenemy’ Snow White. I wonder if his mate, Loveday, has gone too. A few days ago he was billing and cooing with a white female on the roof, and now he sits alone. I am desperately hoping that the doves who are left do not return to wherever the bad place is. If the farmer is having a purge he is not going to stop until he has cleared all the birds from his barn. I hope he is haunted by what he has done for the rest of his life – but of course he won’t be  because he, like so many others, just consider pigeons, even the white doves, as just a plain nuisance or so much vermin. It was probably the same farmer who did it before, and please don't suggest I go to find out/complain - there is absolutely no point. In this rural area, the powers that be would all side with the farmer or land-owner - pigeons do not have rights.

Dusty, one of my grown-up babies – and a pigeon, born of two white doves, was missing today.... how many more?

Monday 2nd Feb 15 – Bandit..... I just remembered Bandit! Also missing. He was a cheeky one from a year or so ago – so named because he used to rob food from the hutch. Another big strong male gone.
Lucky, alone, except for pigeons

 Above, Chino sounds on a mole hill
Below, the homies - L to R - Cissie, Cloud, Chino
 Below, Chino

 This is Blackie, a smart bird, not ringed by me

Tuesday 3rd Feb – Woke up to snow. Less beautiful to me without my darling birds.

The birds came in slowly, but when I looked on the roof and roughly counted 85 birds, only 4 were white doves. I reckon that 100 birds or more have been massacred. I cleared the table and the pigeons came down....

 My Fleur below, thankfully wasn't with the others and has survived

 Above, Lucky in Snow White's nest box - where is everybody, he wonders?
And below, he goes for a drink
 Lucky in the snow - yes he was lucky, but who wants to be alone without mate or friends

 He goes back to the cote again......and peers out

Later in the day, at the afternoon feed (some birds only come in the morning or in the afternoon, though some come to both feeds!) - it suddenly became important to me to photograph my remaining white doves. Here a pigeon gets in the way of my photo of Clara ....

 Ah that's better, here's Clara (male)
 And here's Fleur - she's one of the ones who come to every feed! 
It's amazing she's so delicate as she is a little piggie!
 And here's poor Lucky
 It seems his fate to be alone...
 And my darling Dolly, thank God
 And Tufty....his leg fell off last year - he was a ringed racer
 and the big, bold, stunning Silver Shadow
 Fleur again

 Above and below, my Grace (with pigeon interloper) eats from my hand.

 Below, Dolly again
 Loopy's footprints in the snow, along with the birds!
Below - Cloud, right, watched Fleur in the bath
 She edges round to the back, hoping to join in
 But others approached and she didn't get the chance
Below, left is Frances, Mr. Strong's mate - and Blackie,
with unknown brown pidgie

I went up to the poultry farm to buy grain for the birds and eggs for us. I asked if they’d heard about anyone culling pigeons but they hadn’t. These nice people were sympathetic and understanding, as I know you, my blog readers, will be. Fennie, from Purplecoo, my tears are now added to your 'ocean of misery'.

I had thought this January was so much better than last when 3 tiny babies and a nearly hatched egg, all died. The birds were being 'good' - playing at making nests and a bit of mating, but nothing serious. They were happy and healthy, bright and beautiful - they all had characters, personalities which I knew and responded to.

The part of my heart that belongs to the doves is broken......every night I lay in bed thinking about them.....Oh Snow White, Snow White......

To be cont.....