Saturday, 13 June 2015

Cloud surprises me!

Wed. 10.6.15 – I came home in the late afternoon and allowed Sultan in with Cloud – they spent time cuddling up in the night section, but I also made sure Cloud had some time down in the garden. I brought Cissie and Chino in at about 6pm, but let Cloud stay in with Sultan – though keeping an eye on the hutch in case he wanted to leave or anything happened. At 7.30pm Cloud appeared where I could see her so I nipped out and brought her in to the conservatory, as would be usual for her at that time. I left the door of the hutch open, so Sultan could come out and fifteen minutes later he was up on the roof – and I shut the hutch up. I don’t like birds staying the night in the hutch unless absolutely necessary as I don’t want to attract foxes.
I don’t know how Cloud and Sultan’s love affair will continue. I have no idea if having the PMV virus has left Cloud infertile and if she was to lay a fertile egg or two would she be able to cope with the sitting on them routine, and feeding babies. I have now had her in as a homie for two and a half years and she is probably institutionalized.
11.6.15 – Sultan was there with the others on the island to be fed, and when I brought Cloud out to feed her I had opened the hutch and he was already in there, waiting for her. Normally after the morning feed at 7am she would go into her crate in the conservatory for an hour or so, the same as the others, but I put her straight into the hutch. Sultan immediately went to the night box – which no doubt he sees as the nest – and started cooing. As I sat and ate breakfast I saw Cloud pop out to the front part a few times. I’m not sure she’s that bothered. Sultan is reasonably ‘tame’ – obviously he, as a racer, is somewhat institutionalized too. I doubt he has ever built a nest in his life, as I believe racing pigeons are provided with little lined nesting bowls. I will probably leave things as they are for now, but if Cloud did happen to lay an egg then I would add some straw to the little piece of carpet they are sitting on!

 Sultan and Cloud cuddling up

The situation is interesting, but eggs would make things awkward. When I had Jose, my flightless dove (that I ‘stole’ from Claremont National Trust lakeside as she was just sitting there, unable to fly and get food.....and dying) eventually she teamed up with a white dove I called Happy, and they started a nest in the old hutch, and reared one baby, Pearl. It was great fun seeing a baby reared at close quarters, but awkward for me as I had to be around to let Happy in and out for nest duty. But there was nothing wrong with Jose, except she couldn’t fly and Cloud as a recovered PMV sufferer, though stable, is somewhat disabled in the fact that she can’t always hold her head in the right position. Well. we shall see.....
I took Cloud out of the hutch to feed and was able to see from Sultan’s ring that he is a 2014 bird – I was pretty sure he was too big and confident to be a this year’s bird. While I sat on the edge of the raised bed, feeding Cloud, he jumped out of the hutch, found and picked up a small stick. Blimey! I thought....he does know how to build a nest. Sultan arranged a few sticks, then got bored and when I put Cloud back in the hutch again, they had more snuggle time. I do want her to have time down in the garden though, so later on, I took her out and put her down. I’m afraid Sultan will have to work round me – he seems a calm bird.
Again I left Cloud in the garden, but in the hutch with Sultan, later than usual, but brought her in at 7.15pm. If she is going to lay an egg I hope it won’t be in the next few days as I have to sleep over with my grandchildren on Sunday night and can’t see much alternative but to take the homies with me – or at least Cloud and Cissie who can’t feed themselves.
Friday 12th June 15 – Sultan was waiting this morning near the hutch when I got up. He seems to be fine with the unusual arrangements. I fed the flock, fed Cissie, then collected Cloud who was scrambling about the garden – fed her, and put her into the now open hutch – Sultan had already gone in. I wonder how many ringed racers like him decide to turn feral?
I went out for a long morning and when I came back at 1pm, Sultan was keen for the hutch to be opened. As I was staying in, I let all the homies out. Currently they are having as much as five free hours in the garden which is lovely – as opposed to often only half an hour on a wet cold day in the winter. Sultan continued his stick bringing..... Here he is showing his offering to Cloud, with Chino and Cissie in the lower part of the hutch.

Cloud seemed pleased, sometimes staying in the rather scrappy nest and sometimes hovering around in the hutch, except when I put her down in the garden. I decided that she needed a ladder!  I looked around the junk at the back of the house, and found a bit of old guttering – it was grotty and dusty but I decided that would give footholds so didn’t sluice it down. I fixed it to my satisfaction, picked Cloud up, put her on it and she immediately jumped off! But almost straight away, Cissie walked determinedly over to it – and look.....I was impressed!

So then I picked Cloud up and this time she walked up it too – though I didn’t see either of them use it again during the afternoon, and Chino certainly didn’t.
While Cloud was having one of her ‘sitting in the night-box’ sessions, Cissie made eyes at Sultan and they ended up mating.  Dear oh dear! It was a warm sunny afternoon so just right for taking flirting a bit further! But then, at some point, I was checking the whereabouts of the homies – Chino – tick! Cloud -tick! But where was Cissie? And guess where I found her –  yes, in with Sultan!

Later on, at about 6pm I brought Cissie and Chino in, and left Cloud in the hutch to do as she pleased, while Sultan searched around for more sticks.
This was the nest as I saw it when I brought Cissie and Chino in.....

And then at about 7.15pm, it had become a little gloomier and was raining a little, and as Cloud was in the main part of the hutch I went and collected her to bring in to the conservatory. I do feel a little bad about Sultan as he probably can’t understand why she disappears and reappears, but to be honest I am not sure what to do about this rather strange situation. Sultan stayed around for a while, then I saw him on the roof and went to shut up the hutch. Just in case it wasn’t him on the roof, and not wishing to shut him in all night if a mistake had been made, I checked the nightbox – and WOW! What a surprise! You could’ve knocked me down with a feather! There was an egg in the nest! I went to get my camera so I could show you.

Obviously Cloud laid the egg in the time between 6pm and 7.15pm and if I’d realised I might have left her in the hutch, but the first egg is commonly left until the second egg is laid so it will actually be ok, and at first I was going to leave it in the hutch, but then I thought I didn’t want a rat or something breaking in and taking it, so I removed it and will put it back early tomorrow morning. It is not ideal at all because I have to spend Sunday night away and won’t probably get back til midday on Monday so it looks like I will have to try and persuade hubby to get involved. I will take it all one step at a time, and one egg doesn’t mean we will have babies. Sultan, as a racer, would’ve been vaccinated against PMV so I am not worried about him, but does Cloud carry it – or having had it, is she now immune?  I found on the internet that pigeons vaccinated regularly for PMV pass this immunity on to the young in the nest so hopefully if there are any babies, they WILL be immune. But will Cloud be able to cope, will she be able to feed them? Cloud is actually a bit of an older mother! She was known to me for eight months before she became ill, and was already sexually mature as she was first seen with a partner so probably at least six months old then – and now I have had her in for two and a half years approx so she must be at least 3 years 8 months old. As I’ve said before, from what I’ve read, feral pigeons don’t  usually live longer than 5 years or so in the wild but probably this is more down to all the dangers they encounter – disease, predators, lack of food etc..... anyway, we’ll see what happens.
It says in my pigeon ‘bible’ – Feral Pigeons by Richard E. Johnston and Marian Janiga that ‘three hours after the first egg is laid, the second is ovulated and it then spends about 41 hours in the oviduct prior to being laid’. If this proves to be the case with Cloud, then I would expect her to lay a second egg on Sunday.... .but I am not counting on anything.
Sat. 13.6.15 – I was out in the garden by 6.30am and Sultan was waiting. I laid an old muslin nappy with a small towel over it in the uncarpeted bit of the night box (now the nest) to make it more comfortable if both birds want to sit in there – then I added hay to the nest and replaced the egg. Cloud was hand-fed of course, then put in the hutch. She seemed quite pleased to go and sit on her egg, and Sultan started wanting to bring more sticks, so I had to leave the hutch door open. At 10am I needed to go out, and wondered what to do – should I leave Sultan in or out? I decided on ‘in’ but he decided ‘out’ and flew to the roof, so he had to stay out til I got back at 11.30am. When allowed back in he went straight to sit on the egg, and Cloud came into the day part to sit, as would be usual for her at this time of day anyway.
My vibe told me that Cissie might like to go into the hutch too, and might well lay also. Although this wouldn’t be a problem in some ways, it is obvious that the male, Sultan, couldn’t do nest duty on two nests. I will open up the hutch in the afternoon, when I can keep one eye on the happenings, and put up the ‘ladder’. If Cissie does lay an egg, then so be it.....I will leave Sultan and Cloud to sort it out. Sultan’s a very big boy, and Cloud is quite feisty so they may not be having any of it – and of course Cissie might not want to lay anyway!!!

As you remember, Cissie and Cloud had formed a girlie relationship and this is discussed in my book. This can happen in the absence of males, and though a nest may be built and eggs may be laid, they are of course infertile and abandoned after a while. According to my source, individuals in a uni-sexual relationship abandon one another when one of the females is attracted to an unmated male BUT in some cases, both females appear interested in forming a pair with the male – and this might be the case with Cissie, Cloud and Sultan (poor Chino seems to be left out in the cold, though technically, as just a flightless pigeon, she would be the best one to become a mother as she has no other disability).
As soon as the piece of gutter ladder went up, Cissie was in there - causing an altercation with Cloud. Come on girls, you like each other really!
Cissie and Cloud settled down and Cissie did a bit of sitting in the nestbox, and tried to get Sultan interested in her again, but he was more concerned about bringing bits of straw and stick into the hutch. At one point I went to see if anyone was in the nestbox and at first couldnt see the egg, but it was tucked away at the side, and had been covered with nesting material - a bit like hidden treasure! I took it out and put it central in the nest but later on one of the birds had moved it away and covered it again, so that's the way they want it. Maybe something is wrong with it - which wouldnt surprise me.

Cloud and Cissie both use the 'ladder'. It is obvious that though these birds have physical disabilities resulting from the PMV illness, their minds are perfectly sharp!

Sultan spent some time 'driving' Cloud round the garden - though this behaviour usual precedes the laying of eggs.

 Above, you can just see the pair of them up near the conservatory door, and below, Sultan looks pretty determined but Cloud can run fast!

I brought Cissie and Chino into the house about 6.15pm but left Cloud as I have done the last couple of days. When I went to see her about 7.45pm she was sitting in the nestbox - though not on the egg - and flapped her wing up at me, crossly, saying Go Away! I really don't like leaving her outside, though this new hutch is very strongly made, but what can I do? She thinks she's got a nest, she may want to lay again and she wants to be there..... so I left her, and before dark draped the hutch with blue plastic sheeting, as I've done in the past, held down by bricks. I just hope she'll be ok. Just in case a fox is prowling around later, I put down some cat biscuits under the hedge at the other side of the yard though I doubt a few biccies would keep hunger pangs at bay for long!

My camera is playing up - it's very old, so it looks as though I might have to get a new one as I don't want to miss out on taking important dovie photos!

To be cont....


Fennie said...

Well well. We await the next instalment of this fascinating saga.

hopeinparis said...

LOVE this blog and these interesting developments! Your statements that Sultan "seems to be fine with the unusual arrangements" and "have to work around you" made me chuckle. Thanks for a great post! xx Jane