A loud crash came from the direction of the mango fruit tree. A House Crow (Corvus splendens) had just launched a predatory assault on Lucky Dicky. He was left perched alone while parents were on foraging hunts.
Lucky Dicky’s response was a quick release catapult flight, twenty feet away and he landed with a loud ‘thud’. I searched and found him motionless on the balcony worktop table (left).
I stared at the predator in disbelief. The gang leader retracted and flew away to join three more cohorts who were waiting on the cable lines.
I found myself entrusted to deal with the safety of this chick. I could not leave him alone for I knew the crows were all out waiting to get him, once my back turned. I was drawn in to play the role of defender and rescuer reluctantly.
In defence, I changed quickly into a bright, red shirt and returned to the balcony. This time, I stood and leaned out to the edge of the balcony rails and brazened myself at the crows, while holding the rails with both hands, wide opened and stood on a flowerpot, making myself appeared bigger.
I was in time to see the kooi tow (Chinese Hokkien dialect to mean, ‘Devil’s Head’) stealthily cruised pass the road like a black bomber, iron bird levitating in mid-air, taxiing on flight, landed, turned around, stopped and ready for a speedy targeted take off.
I could not believe myself embroiled in this situation. At a distance, I saw the black bird heading towards my direction for an assault on the chick, while his compradors strategically waited in defence on the wire lines in opposite direction.
The minute the House Crow saw Red Dragon bracingly awaiting him, he applied his airbrakes, squawked, switched direction and flew off in cool pretence playing, ‘don’t know’.
‘Don’t you dare!’ bellowed the Red Dragon.
Operation Assault Dicky aborted. His compradors flew away.
Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’ strategy style worked.
Now I had to deal with lucky, Lucky Dicky. Traumatised and probably concussed, having flown and hit against the wall and landed, I had to engage a gentle approach. My successful rescue plan dramatised the use of camouflage netting and a gentle throw over to prevent him from flight.
A cotton glove was used to pick up Lucky Dicky (above left)
Now, the trick was to return Lucky Dicky to his nest and get him to stay put.
Was that possible?
With chick held in my gloved hand, I lowered Lucky Dicky down slowly to re bond with the nest, whispered some words of comfort, cupped my palm over him, released the chick and gradually lifted my hand (above right).
To my relief, Lucky Dicky took to his nest. My rescue and supporting role accomplished It was time to leave the rest to the parents.
This was observed when Silva returned and found her chick miraculously waiting in the nest and was quick to teach Lucky Dicky a lesson.
Silva stood on the back of her chick and held Lucky Dicky down. Was she disciplining her chick to stay put (above left)?
The following images would suggest a great moment it must have been for parent and chick to be reunited. It has to be one of the best, satisfying moments in bird watching; to have this opportunity to witness such a touching scene- just by a simple one hand job that made it happened, so to speak (above right, below).
Within half an hour, the fury of nature sent Stripy’s return, chased by dark, heavy clouds and a bursting sky. After several days of heavy rainfall, the residential area became one soggy giant sponge. It turned into a flood zone disaster area when heaven released her stopcock and copiously poured out three days and two nights of rainfall (below left).
That afternoon, Stripy paid penance by taking shelter under the canopy of the mango fruit tree. He watched Silva as she tucked in Lucky Dicky He perched solemnly and took the drench as well (below right).
By late evening, I could not stand it anymore. Under such unusual circumstance, I waited for the first opportunity for Silva to be away for that short respite. I waddled in my boots into the flooded driveway, held an umbrella over the skylight and attached it to the tree. At least if there was to be no food, a canopy shade will at least keep mom and chick dry.
It was a restless night for the neighbourhood as motor vehicles were heard roaring their engines to higher grounds and baling of water was heard in neighbouring kitchens past midnight.
I shone a torch from the balcony to check the nest at 10pm.
7th September dawn came with a heavy drizzle and a gloomy sky. It also came with an empty nest ….
Yes, an empty nest! The only remnant of Lucky Dicky was a fresh, dry plume of down feather, hung on a horizontal branch of the Christmas tree, like being reminded of a dearly departed headstone, beside Little Jo’s weathered down feathers (right).
What am I to conclude about this observation?
The same predator struck again?
Silva’s return was even more heart breaking for now having made a dash to get supplies that became scarce, could not find Lucky Dicky. The sky was full of many hungry flying objects following the continuous rainfall (below).
Silva’s ‘Kroo… kroo…cooooo’ call yielded no chick. Stripy finally turned up and joined in the search. I too joined in the hopeless search in between chores of getting the Aqua vac to work dry the patio and soaking up tears of water sprouting from neighbouring walls!
Over the next few days and into the weeks, Silva returned and cooed, looking and hoping to find her chick with no avail. Initially it was like three times a day, gradually decreasing to two and eventually daily visitations.
Down feathers left stuck behind on flowerpot as headstones for Lucky Dicky and Little Jo were gradually rain washed and blown into oblivion. It was time to move on….
Lucky Dicky got his wish to fly, but it was a death wish.
This was a painful lesson to learn for the young inexperienced pair of probably first time breeders. My analysis for this unfortunate incident suggested-
Their choice of nesting site was poor -it was too exposed.
The male strayed and lack of vigilance caused chicks to fall easy victim to predators.
The relentless bad weather was unkind and disrupted feeding routines gave cause to hungry and opportunistic predators to be more vigilant in surveillance.
Have Stripy and Silva learnt?
Do you believe if I were to say that Silva was seen again with nesting material on 5th October, just 28 days after Lucky Dicky went missing?
To me, it was unfinished business and this time, the same pair of Peaceful Doves (Geopelia striata), Stripy and Silva have returned to show their resilience, to try again and make things right.
Join me in the next final episode to see if this pair have learnt and learnt well and readers perhaps, too may emulate a thing or two from them….next time around.
AVIAN WRITER DAISY O’NEILL PENANG MALAYSIA
© NESTING SAGA OF PEACEFUL DOVES part 5 of 6
Photographic images handheld & by Digiscopy method
Optics used: Fieldscope ED82 +30x +Coolpix P4