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.
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.
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…..