Monday, August 1, 2011

From Nuisance to Miracle (Part I)

The first couple of years I lived in this third floor apartment (designated for seniors), I was frequented with visits from Blackie and Grey...cute little squirrels who would climb the yellow brick wall, then to proceed under the divider to “invade” my balcony space. Initially, they were alarmed to see me...sitting on their haunches and with dark beady eyes, assessed me..bushy tails at attention! Soon they found a large empty planting pot ...with soil in the play in...or was it for nest-building?

My hibiscus plants loved the fresh balcony summer garden was not complete without boxes loaded with petunias, geraniums, trailing ivies and blue lobelia...together with a pair of wall-hung baskets with continuing blooms throughout the breezy, golden-sun summer days. Sadly, my gorgeous hibiscus plants were more double pink nor yellow blooms...leaves were pulled off, then the remaining twigs broken...even the colourful baskets were experiencing a “slow death.” Blackie and Grey further vented their energies fully, by assembling leaves, twigs, cord, tape and small rags to transform the planter pot into a “squirrel nest”. Imagine them hauling their building materials up three floors...claws adhering to the brick and mortar walls! After two playful summers here, they discovered there were “no more goodies at this address.”!

You know how it is...”when no money, you rob a bank”! So Blackie tore a hole first in my bedroom window screen to search and retrieve food. Very boldly, he sat on my Living Room rug while I was online with a Bridge game. Admonishing him for being there, I opened both the balcony and front doors to chase him out! He retreated to the balcony and madly clamoured down the wall to Terra Firma. About one week later, he attempted another Break and Enter! I discovered him between the Living Room sheer drape and window. With flat hands firmly against his body, I manoeuvred him sufficiently, forcing him through his clawed screen hole. Promptly, I closed the window...and chased him off the balcony. He made a flying leap from this third floor level to the tarmac below, fleeing into the undergrowth and trees. I longed to charge him with unlawful Break and Enter. Neither squirrel has returned.

The last week of July this summer, I surprisingly discovered that someone (?) was building a nest on one of my black wrought iron chairs...straw, small twigs, grasses both long and short...raggedly circular in shape and very shallow. Who can this be? Not squirrels...not their type of construction!

The following are my observations detailing activity over the next several days.

July 31 (Saturday) A beautiful summer morning to enjoy breakfast and the daily Spectator on the balcony...selecting a chair on the far side of the table to savour  the morning cool breeze and to observe the street activity. Returning for a coffee refill, I glanced back before opening the door...SURPRISE! A Bird on the Nest!

I had been sitting about 2 feet from this nest! Her colouring was totally camouflaged with the earth browns. Why didn't she fly when I opened the door? Why didn't she fly when I sat so close to her? She must be protecting eggs! Who is she? First impression...a dove(?)...light tan to light beige...darker wings with black spots...a long pointy-tail of dark brown that could possibly flash some white feathers...head is smoothly rounded with large black polka-dot eyes...approximately 8 inches long from her beak to tip of tail feathers...she sits with her neck scrunched down into her body (extended she could be 10 to 12 inches). I name her “Rosie” and observe that she is always there, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I describe her to Sherrie, a long time friend of bird interest who e-mailed me links to Wild Bird sites. “Does Rosie look like this?”, she asks. Then viewing another site,”Is this her?” YES...I located a picture similar to my Rosie complete with black spots on her wings. She is a Mourning Dove (strange how I always considered it spelled Morning). I've taken a few photos of Rosie who permits me to come close, seated on the nearby “coffee chair”. She steadily watches me with cautious eyes. Sol recommends that I place on the table for her nourishment, a small dish of fresh water daily plus some edible seeds.

Since I am her “neighbour” for the next several days, I decided to investigate her.

Doves, like pigeons, mate for Life. They may mate 3 to 4 times each season, usually returning to the same nest location.

Doves are used as a symbol of fidelity as they sit closely together in Love Birds.

Henrick wrote, “Oh have I heard both youth and virgins say,
                           Birds choose their mates and couple too, this day;
                           But by their flight, I can now derive
                           When I shall couple with my Valentine.”

Doves were the favourite birds of Venus...they define Loyalty, Love and Peace.

Remember, that Noah used a bird to scout out dry land...”And the dove that descended.....”

Mourning Doves are 1 of 12 species who live and breed in Southern Canada and United States.

Adult birds, male and female, are of equal size and colouring...grayish, possibly blue tinged (especially on the head area) or grayish brown. Their breasts are beige or rosy-beige, finely feathered.

The dove's song is its most distinctive feature...a mournful “whoo-ah, whoo, whoo, whoo, which could be interpreted as “coo-ah, coo, coo, coo”.

Habits of the Mourning Doves

When mating, they perform a courtship “coo” on a display perch with a series of manoeuvres. They remain together for a few days before starting to build their nests. After finding his mate, the male selects a nest site. The construction takes over 10 hours and covers a span of about 3 to 4 days. It may be used for 3 or 4 sets of eggs...the pair returning frequently to the same nest within the same season. Of interest: Mourning Doves have the longest breeding season of all North American birds.

The nest is built about 5 to 25 feet above the ground in the crotch of a tree or shrub. (A friend related that mourning doves built their nests atop her light fixture outside the kitchen door...her neighbour, with a good view, would telephone to advise her of bird activity.)

Their food consists of seeds and grains which, when ground up creates “pigeon milk” or “crop milk” which either parent can feed to their young...this nourishing food contains protein and fat.

The female lays 2 small oval eggs in an open shallow nest. These are incubated for 14 to 15 days continually...the male bird takes the “day shift” and the female the “night shift”. The parents will care for the young until they reach 25 to 27 days of age...when they are more accomplished at flying. The young are able to breed by 85 days old.

The fledglings, in 14 to 15 days, may leave the nest occasionally, returning “home” frequently until mature enough to venture out.

The 1 1/2 inch babies, one might find ugly and fragile...leather-like-looking hair, eyes still closed. The parents sit over their little family continually night and day. Their heads are bald and black spotted or streaked, their bodies multi-coloured of beige, gray and charcoal. They transform into fledglings as their feathers grow. The mortality rate in their first year is about 60%....(sad, for the devoted parents!)

It is my pleasure to follow the progress of Rosie and Mate. She trusts me even when sitting close to her...I talk and coo to her. Once, after about 7 days of incubation, I slowly moved my hand to the arm of her chair...she cautiously watched me...then to the seat, and gradually was able to touch her silky tail feathers...viewing the bit of white feather flashes among the dark browns. I have never since approached her intimately...wanting her to completely TRUST me!

August 1 (Sunday) I observe that Rosie is facing a different direction on this shallow nest...perhaps that Papa has replaced her.

One afternoon, the sun shone brightly on her body, displaying iridescent shades of pinkish-sand on her head and upper neck...another day the iridescent shades were of bluish gray in the same body area. One must be Papa...the other Mama.

August 7 (Saturday) In the morning I saw that the shallow container of seeds was spilled onto the balcony floor and had rolled under her chair.

August 9 (Monday) Thunder and heavy rain pelted down continuously for about 2 hours...I was concerned about Rosie in this “downpour” since the nest is exposed to the elements...she was totally unflinching and was steadfast in “mothering her nest”. When the rain ceased, the table was fully splattered, all contents on the balcony drenched, her nest's outer edges Rosie dutifully “incubated her eggs.” Her body, with feathers stretched and extended covered the whole interior of the nest.

August 12 (Thursday) I sat close to her again in the afternoon with my novel and lemonade. I believe she (he) was confident enough to stand and partially move about 90 degrees, being very careful with the placement of her pink feet...visible , was a beautiful white egg... at least 1 inch in length and possibly 5/8 inch in width. How Wonderful! As Rosie resettled on her eggs, her full length was revealed....probably close to 11 inches.

August 14 (Saturday) By this date I have discovered, from further research that it is Papa on the Day Shift...and Rosie on the Night Shift.

Papa is on the nest as I enjoy breakfast, coffee and the Spec. I glance as he moves about 90 degrees...undisturbed by me...sitting very still, fluffing his feathers to cover the nest's interior. During the afternoon, the sun's warm rays radiate a bluish haze from the upper neck area to his head. be continued...Part II

Merle Baird-Kerr
August 30, 2010


  1. Oh Merle... I remember this wonderful experience you had last year with your Doves of Love...
    They certainly deserve to be on your wonderful Kal Blog for all to see.Looking forward to seeing all the other installments.... you were and are so Lucky In Love ... you little Goddess !
    They chose you as their Earth Mother !
    Sherrie xo

  2. Are we not all Earth Mothers? A Great Compliment!

  3. What a surprise to find your experience with the wonders of nature revealed to you by these admirable creatures so alive in today's posting.
    Never associated the squirrels having anything
    to do with the Birds but you made it very clear.
    Will wait patiently for the next Chapter in this Epic Saga..

  4. I believe we are "one with nature" if we observe, relate and understand. As a dog "senses" our friendship, so do the birds and most animals. You will discover that Rosie and Papa trusted me, thereby enabling me to chronicle their daily activity and devotion to their task. Thank You Sol.