Summer treasure 13: Grandchicks

Winnie30/9/2018 Many of you know the story of Winston the Wood Pigeon. But you may not know the latest developments. Beginning with the fact that Winston is now Winnie. And no, she is not confused about her gender.

Winnie and her sibling came to live with me aged approximately two weeks. Becoming a pigeon parent was a steep learning curve, and sadly Winnie’s sibling didn’t make it. But Winnie was a tough old bird, and when she took her maiden flight on the day I visited Winston church in August last year, her name was decided.

Since then she has stayed at Crossways Farm, regularly landing on my head when she fancies company, and sometimes turning up inside the house when the windows are open. I leave food out for her on the shelf by the back door, which Ilo of course thinks is for him, leading to his ringing the doorbell by accident on many an occasion (much to the confusion of any visitors I happen to have in the house).

This summer, soon after bringing a friend to dinner – which caused speculation as to whether it was a boyfriend or girlfriend – Winston became, definitively, Winnie. I saw her being danced to, and fought over, by two larger pigeons on the chicken shed roof, and, as far as I know, girl pigeons don’t fight over boy pigeons. Clearly she was a beautiful lady in demand.

Shortly after Winnie chose her husband, I saw them busily carrying birch twigs to the shed next to the chickens. Perhaps the free meals were the only reason Winnie’s husband’s tolerated my proximity. Perhaps Winnie had tried and failed to persuade him to build a nest IN the house.

Winnie posing proudly with her nest

Before long they were sitting on eggs, and a good while after I thought they should have hatched but there was no longer any noticeable pigeon activity in the area, I went to check, and found two long-dead chicks in the nest. I was sad, but I followed Winnie’s example and tried to look forward to the next nest.

The second nest location was in the goat shed. I was pleased by this development, as it meant I could keep a closer eye on pigeon goings-on. I soon learnt to recognise when it was Winnie sitting on the eggs, and when it was her husband (pigeons believe in equal parenting), so that I could conduct goat-related business without frightening anyone away.

When I found an egg shell and no sign of any movement or noise coming from beneath the parents, I feared that a predator had been about. Eventually, the nest was left unattended, so I was able to get a step ladder and take a look.

WinletsIt was a moment of great excitement and pride. Two ugly little squabs, my grandchicks, were sitting quietly in their nest. They were probably about a week or ten days old. It’s funny how I don’t really see them as ugly any more. I use the word as a term of endearment, and because I expect everyone else would find them ugly. Beauty is certainly in the eye of the grandma…

They grew steadily and quietly, but the last time I checked on them before I went on holiday, I noticed how much larger one of them was than the other. I wondered whether the little one would survive.

A couple of days later, Charlotte, who was looking after my animals in my absence, told me that she had found the smaller pigeon dead on the ground. I was sad but not surprised. The following day she told me the nest was empty and there was no sign of the other baby – and no feathers to indicate any misfortune had befallen it. Winnie was still around and landing on her head.

I have to hope the larger Winlet has fledged. Charlotte was confident, but I think it was a bit early. However, it is not impossible; and I guess I may find out in the next few weeks, when, if it has survived, its parents will stop feeding it. Perhaps Winnie will bring her baby round for dinner. And if not, I am still as proud as ever that my baby pigeon has grown up, integrated with the pigeon race despite being half human, and is making valiant efforts to start her own family. Even getting that far must be well against the odds.