The black wizard number ‘13’ seems to hold truth to those who believe it to be an unlucky number. They would attest the day of reckoning to be of ‘bad luck.’
Thunder roared the night before, followed by another long night rainfall. Finally rains abated in the wee hours of the morning. A casually inspection through the Fieldscope at the nesting site was what I normally did from the balcony bedroom, before breakfast.
I could not comprehend what I saw and looked harder again.
‘What…! No chicks in the nest (below left)?’
It was 7.30am. 6th September, the 13th day of post fledgling.
I descended promptly downstairs and approached the nesting site for a closer scrutiny. It was my first approach for this nesting observation. I was not tall enough. As the brown flowerpot was a good two feet higher than me, I stepped onto a miniature version of Hadrian’s Wall, built around the Christmas tree to peek in. I was met by a tiny snail clinging to a drenched fern foliage (above right).
A wide search for Lucky Dicky and Little Jo began. Perhaps the fury of overnight rain had caused the chicks to abandon their nest. Or, they got washed out and had fallen safely into the crevices of the giant Asplenium nidus.
Well…. that was my hope anyway. It wasn’t an Easter egg hunt that I used to enjoy creative playing with cousins during our childhood days. We were then looking for red shelled, hard boiled eggs hidden amongst mountains of tobacco gunny sacks in a quaint factory, hidden in one of the oldest, charming and sleepy towns in Malaysia.
Who was to know that several decades later, I was looking for life chicks in a nest of ferns oystered in my own home!
The loose down feathers that clang to the wet flowerpot was not a good sign but evidence that showed there had been a very recent scuffle of sorts.
What it was and who was it who paid an uninvited visit to the nest when parent was away?
Was it a predawn bird predator raid? Silva must have exhausted her food resource to be out foraging the first opportunity that arose to sedate her hunger.
I was disappointed that my observation had to come to an abrupt end, quite overwhelmed by the loss and reluctant to concede how it could have happened when the chicks were growing and looking great.
Owls have been heard hooting at night. Bandit faced Black-Naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis) and scavenging House crows (Corvus splendens) roosted in rows of huge, matured Angsana trees growing parallel to the river bund.
These birds were everywhere during the day time.
My Sherlock Holmes’s search continued only to have Silva returning at 7.51am to an empty nest. She looked bewildered as to where her chicks were before receiving this quick blurry hand shot (left)
Silva staggered around the nest looking restless and began cooing. She flew to another branch for a better search view and continued to, ‘Kroo…kroo…kroo’ intensely for a response.
I left her to it. The cooing stopped. My turn to be wondering and I took to a ‘CSI’ walk.
I stared into an eye level branch and saw Silva. She was not alone. Lucky Dicky was with her, perched in stoic pose. Where he was hiding earlier, I had no idea or perhaps he was there all along, just a foot away from the nest and so well camouflaged and remained still that I did not see him.
I made a dash for and returned with my camera. With much surprise and excitement, I reached out and delivered a Parkinson’s tremor shot. I could hear my own heartbeat knocking faster than my pulsating finger clicking the shutter. I was just about five feet away and both parent and chick stirred not (right).
As with all parents having found their lost child, the first thing that came into mind was to satisfy the hungry chick. This was followed by a quick round of buccal feeding before Silva had to leave the chick to get more food, but… not before cooing for the sentry –on- duty.
But…. Stripy the male parent was no where near to be heard.
Lucky Dicky was considered to be prematurely fledged, being forced by certain circumstances to be evicted from the nest. Being the older chick, his inborn response to predatory instincts perhaps were more nippy than Little Jo, and the former got away lucky.
Lucky Dicky needed just another three more days or so before he was ready to leave the nest or ‘to fledge’ as it is called in birding language. The tail feathers were not fully developed enough to propel flight and bodice still with substantial downy feathers – not waterproof. Without constant supervision and feeding, he would stand little chance of survival (above).
I was left with this situation- alone with Lucky Dicky. With no feathered parental supervision, my nesting observation was turning into something else- that of a babysitter, which I was not prepared for or to do.
Having lost a chick, I simply could not turn my back and leave a premature alone exposed. So, I made a reluctant attempt to put Lucky Dicky back into the nest but failed as he flew before my hand could reach him. He landed on a hanging plant seven feet away (below left).
‘That’s it!’ I said. ‘Let Nature takes its own course and not human interceding’ was my decision.
At 8.57am, Lucky Dicky was still hanging on the plant when Silva showed up. A crisis was at hand and she cooed hard for reinforcement.
Finally, Stripy appeared and was apparently admonished for dereliction of parental sentry duties after they managed to talk the chick to safety (above right).
He showed remorse by staying put and re-bonded with lovey- dovey -behaviour. Ooh… I love this half censored image with three pairs of feet and naïve Lucky Dicky leaning on Dad, wondering what all the fuss was about and wished he could just fly… fly away (below left).
Silva resumed foraging duties. Stripy stayed behind but only for a short while and flew off leaving their only chick alone… (above right).
Mmm… not a good idea, I thought.
Observing from the balcony, my intuition sensed something amidst, approaching and came it did when suddenly, I heard a loud crash coming from… that turned bird observation into a rescue operation!
To be continued …..
AVIAN WRITER DAISY O’NEILL PENANG MALAYSIA
© NESTING SAGA OF PEACEFUL DOVES part 4 of 6
Photographed images hand held and by digiscopy method.
Optics used: Fieldscope ED82 +30x + Coolpix P4