Thursday, 30 June 2016

Happy News!

June 2016

Sunday 26.6.16 - I had been car-booting and when I got back I opened up the aviary to make sure all was well but it was a minute or two before I noticed an egg shell on the floor.

At first, for a distressing second, I thought that a squirrel had been in and stolen and destroyed an egg from under Chino, but then I realised, silly me! - the eggs must've hatched!! Because Chino laid them before our return from holiday the sitting time has seemed very short and I wasn't sure when they would hatch. I had a little peep inside the nestbox but Chino was sitting tight and I couldn't see anything.

Chino above, Pan below 

Later, when it was Pan's turn to babysit, he left the box and I had the chance to see the babies - and even pick them up! They are actually quite tiny but look larger than they are, in my hand.

The parents will not desert them if they are handled - they don't have a very good sense of smell. Anyway, Pan trusts me - and Chino tolerates me! So, Pan and Chino have become parents for the third time this year with the first babies to be hatched in the aviary. I thought I'd have a little play on words so the biggest baby (which is probably the male and the first hatched) will be Avery and the other one will be Evangeline (or Angel for short). Their older brothers and sisters are Pascal and Primrose, now 13 weeks, and Bronte and Darcy now 8 weeks. Their little neighbours in the dovecote are Perelle and Appoline, now 2 weeks old.

Baby white doves - 2 weeks old - Perelle nd Apolline

Apolline is named after this tiny restored 14th century chapel, dedicated to St. Apolline, situated near Perelle bay, Guernsey.

St. Apolline chapel, Guernsey

14th century painting of the last supper, St. Apolline, Guernsey
Since I am mentioning Guernsey, I will show you the photos I took of a white dove collecting nest material from a window box high up above the shops in St. Peter Port. I wonder if I was the only one who noticed him that day? Maybe my blog reader, Guernsey Girl, could have a look sometime and see if that pair are still there? I think it was the windows over Boots. I'd love to know if they raised babies in their flowery abode

White male dove looking for nest material in a window box, St. Peter Port, Guernsey

 He jumps in to have a better look!
 And below, he has taken it to another window box next window down -
can you see his mate just peeping out?
 And he emerges again, to go and look for more!

Back to Sunday 26th - Another thing that made my dovie day was that my Autumn turned up again, after a month away. She is nearly four years old - my oldest 'baby' hatched in my dovecote at the end of July '12. I always think I may never see her again..... and then she appears, and I am so pleased!

Tuesday 28.6.16 - this evening, about 6.45pm just as I was getting ready to serve supper, I noticed Robin by the water bath and threw him some peanuts. He seemed to be struggling to jump up to the raised bed, and then I realised that he couldn't fly again! Robin, as my Purplecoo friends will remember, is a male pigeon that I ringed with two pink rings probably a couple of summers ago. His original name was Robber because he was always stealing grain from the hutch, but when he was found, unable to fly, in my back kitchen on 24th April this year, and I took him in, I changed it to Robin! This was before I had the aviary, so Robin was smuggled in past hubbie and I cared for him for two weeks, bringing him in every night, before he became able to fly again. But now he's back.....I suppose he has a weakness in his wing, or something. Anyway, this evening it was very easy, I just popped him in the hutch, with food and water, and he dived into the nestbox part, glad to have shelter for the night. I will be assessing him tomorrow properly.

Wednesday 29.6.16 – Robin has an injury to the underside of his wing. It looks like it could be a glancing shot wound…… or it may not be of course.

 It seems that it is not related to the reason he couldn’t fly the last time. It didn’t look nasty but having got him there, I anointed it with the veterinus gel anyway.

Veterinus gel - excellent for wounds on pigeons
I was sure that it was just the injury and he didn’t have anything else wrong with him, so I tried him in the aviary with the others (while Pan was with the new babies) but he didn’t seem to like it/them much and escaped as soon as possible to go back to hiding under the hutch. I will look after him, obviously putting him safely in the hutch at night, and hope he gets better like he did the last time. I wouldn't put an unknown poorly bird in the aviary - obviously - in case it brought in disease.

The new babies are now three days old - it is hard to twist round with the camera and get a picture of them inside the nest, especially as they are not left for long. You can just see two fluffy bundles...

 And here they are - Avery and Evangeline. I am a very proud Grandma Dove!

Tonight, Darcy didn’t come back to the aviary and was still missing by dark. I hope she manages to make it back tomorrow.

Thursday 30.6.16 - Darcy came back with the flock in the morning. I was pleased of course but not too surprised, as this pair - Bronte and Darcy - have always been grown-up for their age which I was truly thankful about when I had to leave them at only four weeks old to go on holiday. Bronte, I am pretty sure, is male - he has been displayed male dominant behaviour these last couple of weeks - which seems surprisingly early. Sometimes he even dominates his mother, Chino - and she has to sit where he says, not where she wants to! Below, sorry a not very clear photo of Darcy and Bronte on top of the aviary.

When I caught up with my neighbour, I found out more details about the rescue of  Darcy who had fallen down the chimney while we were on holiday. This very kind young man found her in the back bedroom, took her outside and put her in the aviary. I hadn't expected that - I thought he would've just thrown her out. He said he could see she was a young one. He told me a funny story - apparently when he goes on night fishing trips, his girl friend doesn't like staying in the house alone so goes to her parents'. One time she came back in the morning to find an egg on the kitchen floor! Most odd! Eventually she found a female mandarin duck in one of the little back rooms - she must have come down the chimney to the back of their old unused Rayburn - and was able to get through the broken mesh or whatever it was that was there. You wouldn't have thought after that experience she would've felt like laying an egg! But, when an egg's coming, it's coming, I suppose and must be laid!

When I open the hatch window on the aviary the birds fly out in the current 'pecking order' - which is age order - Pan first, then Primrose, then Bronte and last Darcy. Pan, Bronte and Darcy seem to like to go flying in the mornings, but Primrose is a home bird and usually comes back first.

Darcy, left, and Primrose inside the aviary. 
They are probably both females - same parents but not siblings

Lucky and Lottie's babies, Perelle and Apolline, are adorable. Perelle has some dark feathers on his wing, but Apolline seems to be pure white. Last year, Lucky had one baby Solo with his third wifey, Loretta - and then later on his first baby with Lottie, Selfie. They were the only babies hatched last year in the cote. Selfie died at fledging time, for no reason I could fathom, so I am hoping that all will be well with these two. So far, I haven't had to worry about them as they seem well cared for. Lottie started leaving them at night at two weeks old, which is usual, but I still don't like it. How could anyone want to leave this tiny little thing......?

Two week old white baby dove
Therefore, every night since they have been left, I have been tucking them up with an old cashmere glove stuffed with feathers, and a handful of hay, then blocking them in with a little grille and a half brick. This keeps them safe and warm, without mummy, til morning. I get up at 5am before Lucky and Lottie come back to unblock them, then I go back to bed til 6.15am when I get up to feed the flock and open the aviary. This routine is a bit tiring but I will continue til they are three weeks old and more feathered up. They should be fine, after all it is late June - though a miserable wet one!

Here's their beautiful mother, Lottie. She seems to have bonded well with Lucky, and I hope they will stay together.

Lucky was first with Charm - who left him for Snow White (both now dead in the cull), then he was with Loveday for a while - not sure what happened to her, probably the cull as well - then with flighty little young Loretta, and now with a hopefully more steady mate, Lottie. Below, Lucky, coming to eat peanuts from my hand.

Here's Chino having a bath - this was before the babies hatched. The pigeons like to get their feathers wet so as to moisten the eggs to aid the hatching process. There is a bath in the aviary but so far I have only see Pan and Cloud use it.

Chino, enjoying the sun, but near enough to dive back inside. She's is a bit of a nervous bird, and a good mother, wanting to be near the babies.

I made a little flower bed next to the aviary as there was a patch of bare ground after the aviary had gone up. It looks prettier than the photo! - with purple, pink and lilac flowers. I call it Pan's Garden, and I had the little statue of Pan in the garden already but moved it here.

And last but not least, here is my little tortoise, Orlando, who is just about a year old. I have had him for 5 months now and his shell measures approx 3 inches. He's in his vivarium, having a munch! The oldest recorded tortoise in the world is Jonathan, Seychelles giant tortoise - they reckon about 184 years old, hatched in 1832 -amazing! Have a read!

One year old tortoise

To be cont......

Friday, 17 June 2016

My new aviary - June 2016

Well…… where do I start? My last blog was written at the end of December 2015 and the months without blogging have whizzed by, and now it is 17th June 2016.

Hubbie and I have just returned from the beautiful island of Guernsey, and maybe that’s why I feel refreshed enough to blog!

Baby seagull on Lihou Island, off Guernsey
Or maybe it is because a new chapter in my dove/pigeon life has started.

I now have my much wanted aviary in the garden. The main reason I bought it was because it occurred to me at some point that my young male pigeon, Pan, was ‘homed’ to our conservatory and that when we went away on holiday the house would be shut up and he would find himself homeless and confused. I adore Pan, having brought him up from very young, and he is tame, so I needed to get organised and create him a new home! But back to the beginning…..

First, if there are any new readers – welcome to my blog about the doves and pigeons that live in and visit my garden. All my previous blogs can be found by scrolling down the blog history dates at the side. Sometime, I must go back to the beginning myself and read them all again! I live in Surrey, right near the river, in a little cottagey-bungalow with my third husband. I have two daughters, and two grandchildren.

I currently have the following birds I call my ‘homies’ – Pan, Chino, Cloud, Primrose, Pascal, Bronte and Darcy – these live in the aviary, but are free to go outside. (Previous readers will remember my Cissie, who was killed by the sparrowhawk on Monday 18th April – RIP my funny crazy bird) Then I have Lucky and Lottie living in the dovecote, with their new babies, Perelle and Apolline.

Pan – Grey pigeon - My male daddy bird. 

Pan - male pigeon less than a year old

 He has had an eventful life and is not even a year old yet! He was hatched (in my old hutch) on 28th July 2015 with his sibling Tink. Parents – Cissie, a paramyxovirus recoverer who couldn’t fly and Sultan, a racing pigeon and a bit of a ‘player’! Tink never grew up properly and eventually died, though I did my best, but when Sultan never returned when Pan and Tink were 17 days old, I took over their care and feeding (Cissie due to her previous illness was unable to feed them properly and had totally lost interest). So Pan has been ‘mine’ since he was very little and by bringing him into the conservatory every night, he thought our cottage was his rightful home. By the beginning of Feb 16  Pan was over 6 months old and considered himself sexually mature, strutting and bowing to my females – Cissie, Cloud and Chino. Cloud would have nothing to do with him – the cheeky young upstart! – and Cissie was of course his mother – so I put him with Chino (in the old hutch) and on 23rd February they mated for the first time! Then he started collecting sticks for a nest and on 24th March 16, three days before Easter,  Pan and Chino became parents to Pascal and Primrose.

Chino – pretty pale brown female. 

Chino, left, after a bath
 I’m not quite sure how long I have had Chino, I suppose it must be eighteen months to couple of years now. She is a very nervous bird who arrived in my garden with one wing damaged, and unable to fly properly (she still can’t). Like Cloud and Cissie, Chino was in love with Sultan (Pan’s daddy) but he eventually settled down with Cissie (briefly!) – now Chino is very content with Sultan’s son. She has come out of herself a bit, is more confident, has raised two lots of babies (Pascal & Primrose, and Bronte & Darcy) and is now sitting on new eggs in the new aviary nest – due to hatch towards the end of June.

Cloud – a white female dove.

Part of the old arrangements, sitting under the old hutch - left to right - Pascal, Cissie, Chino, Pan, Cloud at the front with Bronte and Darcy at the back.

I’ve had Cloud about three and a half years. She also caught paramyxovirus – a horrible disease for pigeons from which they are unlikely to recover in the wild, and although perfectly happy with all her wits about her, she can’t fly and can’t feed herself. When Sultan arrived last summer, he chose her for his first love, but although she laid eggs, it didn’t work out and he swapped to Cissie. Cloud now spends time cooing in her pretend nest in the aviary, hoping to attract a Romeo.

Primrose – dark grey pigeon now about 12 weeks old. I don’t know her sex yet but guess she is female. Feisty little thing with nothing wrong with her.

Pascal – pale brown pigeon and Primrose’s sibling. He developed wing flight feathers but they all dropped out ages ago, weirdly, and he has only a fluffy stump for a tail, so can’t fly. I really don’t know why this happened to him, but a genetic defect I suppose. He (or she) is very lovable.

Young pigeon siblings, Pascal, left (can't fly due to lack of wing feathers) and Primrose
 Bronte and Darcy – nearly 7 weeks old -  quite bright sandy-brown young birds – both can fly and have developed normally.

Darcy, left, and Bronte in the new aviary
Lucky – white male dove in the cote, with black smudge on his breast and odd eyes – one is a light amber-brown and you can see the pupil, the other is very dark brown (what pigeon fanciers call ‘bull eye). This is his fourth season nesting in the cote, and he is with his fourth mate, Lottie. He has had an eventful history – all in the previous blogs – the most important being having survived a cull when someone unknown (probably a local farmer) must have killed hundreds of my feral flock at the end of Jan 15, including Lucky’s ‘frenemy’ Snow White who enticed away Lucky’s former mate, Charm.  Lucky got away with only a shot wound under his wing so really was Lucky that time. 

Lucky feeding new babies in the cote
 Lottie – white female dove. She and Lucky had only one baby last season, Selfie – who died around fledging time. Now they are proud parents to fluffy yellow babies,  Perelle and Apolline – now about 4 days old. Perelle is named after the location of where we stayed in Guernsey, and Apolline, after the charming little restored 14th century chapel there, dedicated to St. Apolline, patron saint of dentists.
I also feed the feral flock of pigeons and a few white doves that visit the garden daily. Some of these birds I have known for a long time, including my white dove Dolly, hatched in my cote three years ago and Autumn, my oldest white dove, four years old – but so many of my special ringed birds were wiped out in that dreadful cull.

I have a cat called Loopy (I didn’t name her) who we adopted from neighbours who had to relocate abroad about four years ago – she  is extremely nervous but gradually getting more used to us - it has taken all this time! Mostly she stays in her little igloo house at the back of the cottage. My tortoise is called Orlando, and is not a year old yet. He has a vivarium inside and a run in the garden for sunny days – which don’t seem too many at the moment.

Orlando, baby tortoise, less than one year old

So now you know who’s who…. I will continue!

Hubbie didn’t take much persuading to have an aviary in the garden as he hated having the birds in the conservatory, and some, at night-time, in our little back bedroom so I started frantically saving, and looking at aviaries on the internet – so many to choose from! My aviary needed to accommodate flightless birds so had to be just right, and probably customised too. The one I bought was from an ebay seller – brand new - and described as suitable for birds of prey and chipmunks, so I knew it would be strong. He customised it for me – putting in a wide shelf in the night time area, and a little window at the side, with sliding door to close. It will be easier for you to look at the photos, as I go along, than me describe anyway. It cost about £600 delivered, but not erected – but hubbie and a mate put it up easily.

 Aviary won't fit in the old space. I managed to block Lucky into the cote just before work commenced, so thankfully his eggs were not abandoned even for a short while.
 The homies wait in the conservatory for their new home to be finished
 It was decided the aviary would go against the river fence
 Brand new home for Pan's People!

 Pan, left, Bronte or Darcy middle, and Chino right - getting used to the new arrangements

Another main reason for having the aviary was that when the birds were nesting, in the old hutch, I had to be around all the time, to let birds in and out – or leave the hutch open and at risk of predators. With the aviary, I can, if I want to, shut the whole thing up, with my homies inside, and they have access to what is called the ‘flight’ area so can have light and air, but be totally safe – and this is very important for Cloud and Pascal, and Chino of course – and means I can go out for the whole day without feeling terrible about shutting them into a confined space.

Pan’s People, as I call them, all live together very comfortably at the moment, but Pan is dominant and if one of the young ones prove to be male, he will no doubt not tolerate them for ever. If Pascal is male and Pan is nasty to him, I am not sure what I will do….. but cross that bridge when I come to it. Pan, Primrose, Bronte and Darcy all fly out when I open the little window in the mornings, coming back in when they feel like it. Chino sits on her eggs, and Pascal and Cloud can come out when I open the main door, and when I am around to keep an eye out for them in the garden. One day, probably, like poor Cissie, they will meet with the sparrowhawk as it is extremely difficult to allow flightless birds freedom and ensure their safety at all times – but I do my best. When Cissie died Cloud lost her companion, but now she has Pascal to be her little friend.

The squirrels and jackdaws get in to the aviary and are a total pest, but as long as they only steal the food and not the eggs, I can cope with it. This baby squirrel is quite cute!

The robin and blue-tits sometimes come in too, but little birds are not a problem. The jackdaws crash about, making a mess and knocking the food bowls off.

While I was on holiday, Pascal and Cloud went to the local poultry farm, to be looked after. Pan, Chino, Primrose, Bronte and Darcy stayed in the aviary – with access to the outside as usual, and were looked after by The Surrey Ark – I can’t thank them enough for helping to ensure that all my birds, particularly Chino, were still there to welcome me when I got back. I was particularly concerned that Chino would jump out of the little window, and of course not be able to get back. Surrey Ark were visiting twice a day and told me that several times they had to rescue her from where she was hiding under the old hutch, and return her to the aviary.

On the Friday before we were due to be home on the Sunday morning, we had a call to say that there was a pigeon in the house! The only way it could’ve got in was down the chimney! Fortunately our young neighbour was able to come in and rescue it. He couldn’t find it at first but thankfully did, and it was still alive – he said it was ‘red, with an orange ring’ – meaning the bright sandy-brown, and the ring told me it was Darcy, the smaller of the two youngest ones. I was so glad she was alive but wasn’t looking forward to the mess in the sitting room! Luckily it wasn’t too bad, but there was blood on the window pane and sill so I was relieved when I managed to catch Darcy in the aviary, and check her. I put some of the veterinus gel I keep for the pigeons’ minor injuries on her breast where there was matted bloody feathers, but I think it was just a scrape.

From that call, I also heard that Chino had an egg (or two) so I was very pleased that Pan and Chino had started again in the new aviary, and knew that that would keep Chino confined to the nest-box for longer, also a bonus! I had had to remove two lots of two eggs from the old hutch before we went – which I have never done before, always wanting to give each potential baby pigeon/dove (squab) a chance – but I had to do so at that time for various reasons, including the well being and continued feeding of Bronte and Darcy.

Left to right, Primrose on top, Darcy and Bronte, and Pascal, on the old hutch, when they were all younger.

Pan seemed exhausted went we got back. Some people claim they can hear their pets talking in their heads, but though I certainly don’t, I do feel that I understand them and know something of what they are experiencing and communicating to me. I felt Pan had had to do a lot of the policing of the aviary while I was away – keeping out intruders as best he could, and on watch at night too, due to the little window hatch having to be left open. He spent a lot of that day dozing, but the next day was very clingy to me – flying to my head or my back whenever I came into the garden.

Cloud and Pascal were pleased to be home too – they had been confined all week, and wandered delightedly in the garden, revelling in their freedom. Primrose immediately flew to her sibling, Pascal, and cuddled up. She’d missed him! Don’t say birds don’t have feelings! – and pigeons are one of the most intelligent of birds. And of course my birds specially so – ha ha!

So all is well and happy….. though I would like Cloud to find a nice understanding mate. She has attracted the attention of two different pigeons, and seemed to like one in particular, but unfortunately he didn’t seem to understand her issues, and expected her to fly off with him – which she can’t!

To be continued…..