Saturday, 28 June 2008

Home and Dry!

I am thrilled to say that the homing process has worked. From day one the Doos were returning home at dusk and settling back onto the cote. Lily still goes straight into the nest hole and remains there while the other three prefer to sit on the wooden homing run surround. This is going to be removed today but Herb is going to put up another perching area for them as they seem to like to perch.

During the day they spend most of the time just sitting about on the roof of the house, they should really be called Doo Nothings not Doos! More accurately I should say they spend their time in the roof guttering as can be seen in the picture. They venture to the ground now and again and enjoy foraging with the wood pigeons and collared doves who have discovered rich pickings around the base of the dove cote.

It really is lovely to watch them, I had real worries that this was not all going to work but at last I have my white doves dotted around the place, they are relaxing and beautiful to look at and all the worry has been worth it.

A couple of days ago Sam and I were amazed to see Huffy and Hindoo, strutting around, bowing and necking like the amorous wood pigeons, hopefully this is a good sign that we have at least one pair for breeding though knowing my luck they could be gay! They should not mature until around 6 to 10 months so watch this space.

This week we have had guests from Germany, America, Canada and New Zealand via Turkey. They all loved the livestock and I have even been almost persuaded that I should have some ducks around the place. We had ducks here 20 years ago and they were no bother so may well consider that, If we get some they are already named as Heinz and Barb in honour of our recent visitors!

Last week my new wooden hen house arrived, Sam built it and the girls love it, so much more space for them. I am hoping to sell the Eglu to retrospectively finance the new upgraded living quarters. There is enough room in the new house for four more birds and I am toying with getting a few more pretty hens to add to the family. I quite fancy the sort that lay the blue eggs so will be looking out for some Auraucanas for sale. Either that or a couple of Black Rock hens that are reputed to 'dreep eggs' according to Wully Duncan.

The veg plot continues to grow and still not a blemish or a slug on the brassicas, we have harvested the first of the calabrese and it was delicious, the courgettes are also ready and the Italian Mixed Lettuce leaves are delicious.

Today is a lovely sunny day and after the hectic time we have had all week with visitors plan to sit in the summer house and do little or nothing at all, just like the doos do.

Monday, 23 June 2008

The Eagles Have Landed

Just a quick update. The doves spent a lot of yesterday sitting in trees or on the roof but eventually after a few practise flights they seemed to get the hang of this flying lark and were even able to land quite well. By yesterday evening all had returned to the dove cote where they stayed until after breakfast this morning and today has been a mixture of formation flying or sitting around the chimney stack looking bored. I have to admit I have breathed a huge sigh of relief, after the earlier disaster I had visions of letting them out and then never seeing them again, but not so.

Sunday, 22 June 2008


Hopefully not too much freedom. At last release day arrived, we had delayed it by a day due to the impending noise from two simultaneous Moonzie Do's, however the Midsummer Monsoon put paid to one and drenched the other into a tactical withdrawal into the byre. After having six dry weeks it was sods law that the heavens should open on the night of the longest day and the day we had decided to celebrate the Summer Solstice.

We have just been away on holiday for a week on the West Coast where the weather was also in the main dry and sunny and it gave Herb a good chance to get out on the boat with old mates and me to get a paintbrush into my hand and do some serious ( ly bad ) painting. We got back to a garden in which everything had grown huge. It looks like I am going to have at least a thousand tomatoes and a similar number of courgettes! The brassicas are looking even more amazing an still not a slug, cabbage white or thrip in sight.

Anyway back to Doo Release Day. In an operation planned with some precision, we carefully loosened the netting and once the doves were settled again slowly lifted it off the cote. We had been advised to release one dove at a time but this was impossible due to our set up but in the end they did that themselves as some were a little reluctant to leave the safety of what had been home for 7 weeks.

The first to leave was Bully , followed by Hindoo. They both made ever widening circles over the house and garden and Bully is now sitting in a large tree about 200 yards from home. Hindoo flew to the power lines and stayed another for half an hour but has now flown off someplace else. Huffy flew out and off and has not been seen since! Lily took a long time to pluck up the courage to leave and was alone in the cote for about half an hour, she eventually ventured to the finial on top of the cote and sat and posed while Sam took some nice pictures. She then flew to the roof and after a couple of aborted landing approaches is still there now.

I have every confidence that they will all be back for tea. I have counted them out and fully intend to count them back in again. Did I mention my middle name is Optimist?

Monday, 9 June 2008

My Magnificent Brassicas

We are at last over the hump and on the run down to Doo Release day, there has been an awful lot of flapping, hovering and wing stretching and I think the Clan are now ready to fly for real. There is going to be a slight delay on release day as the planned day coincides with a party next door for a whole years worth of excitable St Leonards girls ( think Scottish St Trinians!) plus a band for the night. We have also decided to hold our Summer Solstice Barbecue on the same night to benefit from the music gently wafting in our direction, hopefully we will be able to call it that!

We could have hosted Springwatch here this year. Each evening we have been privy to watching the ablutions and evening antics of Harey Potter plus his mate Harey Mary. They arrive around 8pm and usually stay for at least an hour. Young Potter is quite large and is completely at ease with the situation. He cleans himself assiduously, not missing one area including licking between his toes!

The Blue Tits in the box have fledged, I went to Dundee on Friday when I returned , found they had left, at least the seeds in the seed container don't go in a day anymore. It was comical to see them flying directly from the nest box to the seeds and back again. There would be frantic activity for a couple of hours and then a lull before it all took off again. We had a curious starling trying to get into the box one day but the intervention of a fist on the window shooed it away. Not very Springwatch I know,but having lost one batch of babies I was not prepared to sit and see another brood go the same way.

One of the Robins nesting in the barn died, we found it on the barn floor , no apparent injuries. Luckily for us Robins are fed by both parents and it was reassuring to see the other Robin in the barn feeding the babies, who are in an inaccessible hole in the barn wall.

The Swallows are still on the eggs in the barn, getting quite vocal when we go in and out. Last year they raised two clutches so we are hoping for the same again this year. We do seem to have far fewer swallows, as in previous years we would have at least 3 pairs in the barn.

The doves have started to coo, it sounds more like a burble through a glass of water at present but I think it shows how settled they are. I am still talking to them as often as I can and was lucky recently when Mum , Eric and Mary were here as they do did their bit at the socialising of the Clan.

The new veg garden is coming on a treat and we recently feasted on magnificent Ice Candle White Radishes and a mixed leaf salad, Rocket, Radicchio and Misticanza Leaves with egg mayonnaise all from my own plot. I was recently compliments on the quality of my Brassicas, hence the snap at the top of the blog. Not a Cabbage White in sight. This eating free from the land is great fun and I am looking to expand my menagerie. I am fairly keen to get a pig now but some people in the household are not so sure. The chickens are all laying although we still have one hen not pulling her weight, yesterday an egg was laid without a yoke. I have had to resort to shutting the hens in at night as with it getting light by 4am they seem to think that this is an acceptable time to get up and cluck, very loudly, for breakfast. It has not gone down too well and as an emergency measure Poppy and Daisy go into the temporary house alone otherwise there are some almighty squabbles in the night.
So now we are the countdown to the day the White Doves fly free, my friend Rosemary has a son Guy, getting married that day so we are going to make it a symbolic release for the wedding, the fact that the wedding is in the Deep South and we are in the Far North matters not a jot. It's the thought that counts and I will send her the video!
I have been looking at the history of Homing pigeons and came across this little article:
Homing Pigeons
Homing pigeons owe their name to the ability to return home from distant, unfamiliar release points in some cases, even if they've been transported, anaesthetised and deprived of all information about the journey. They were used to carry messages in both ancient Greece and China, and by the 16th century were being used in formal postal services. In 1860, Paul Reuter employed a fleet of 45 to deliver news and stock prices between Brussels and Aachen. Only in 2002 did India's police force retire its pigeon messenger service, when it was made redundant by e-mail. Homing pigeons have proved especially useful during times of war. One bird, "Cher Ami", was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his heroic service during the First World War in delivering 12 important messages, despite sustaining a bullet wound. Equally amazing, but for different reasons, is the unfortunate bird that set off from Pembrokeshire in June 1953. It returned, dead, in a box postmarked "Brazil", 11 years later.