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.....


Fennie said...

Oh dear Faith, All this is so sad. It does sound to be as you surmise, a farmer having a go and cleaning them all out by shooting or poison - though of course the poison might have been intended for some other creatures.

Is there no way you could provide perches in your garden that were under shelter? Even short rungs that projected under the eaves might help.

But do take heart because many birds have gone and returned and there must be a chance of some birds simply getting lost - not all pigeons 'home' I believe. So they may drift back and they would all disappear together if they had been flying as a flock.

Are there shoots around you with grain put out for the pheasants and if so might the pidgies get clobbered if they helped themselves?

Let's keep our fingers crossed. They do breed quickly and I am sure the numbers will soon be back.

Big hug anyway and good luck to the birds.

CAMILLA said...

Oh Faith, how terribly sad I do feel for you , what could have happened to your lost Doves do you think and why so many all at once. I am hoping that some if not all of them will come back, I know nothing of keeping Doves but would the severe cold weather have anything to do with it, but then I know they have somewhere warm to stay in the cotes you have for them. Is there anyway maybe that you could have a cc tv camera put up outside at least then you would know any goings on.

Big Hug for you dear Faith,, xx

shirley said...

O no how sad maybee they have been poisend or shot some people are so cruel bless hope they never sufered

shirley said...

O no how sad maybee they have been poisend or shot some people are so cruel bless hope they never sufered

hopeinparis said...

Faith, I'm so sorry for your loss. I know it's devastating and overwhelming. I can't help thinking of when I thought I'd lost one of my favorite pigeon couples in December, when it got cold. These two had come to my windows to bed virtually every day like clockwork for 7 months, and after a few days missing, I wondered, like you did Faith, how could they stay away from my good peanuts? But after the 10th day I realized I had lost them forever and sent a prayer of thanks that they had ever graced my life, and blessings for wherever they may be. The next day they turned up, perfectly fine! With the cold and snow you've had, it's actually possible the little flock migrated together, perhaps just for a month or so. There are various reports that the pigeons in the UK can and do migrate, and sometimes in mid-winter. Since you haven't had actual news that a local farmer has purged the flock, I think there could be hope. I noticed my own errant birds came back only after I detached... Thinking of you and wishing you gentle days, Faith. xx Jane

Faith said...

Thank you everyone for caring. Fennie, pigeons wouldnt just perch in my garden under shelter of the eaves - and if they did, how could I make sure my special birds had the perches. I think my husband and our landlord would have something to say about that! No pigeons are flock birds that like to roost together in barns and places like that.

I am pretty sure they would've been culled by a farmer, and all I can do is fondly remember my favourites.