Ranger and I were out foraging while the wife was doing some yard work (do I know what I’m doing or what? ). Anyway, she started pulling out garden hose from the South side reel when a mourning dove exploded like a grouse, giving her quite a start. Upon investigation she saw what appeared at first, to be an unfinished nest right in a spare flower pot, on the shelf on top of the hose reel.
As the days passed, we came to realize the “unfinished” nest wasn’t unfinished at all, as evidenced by this :
The wife and I have a particularly soft spot in our hearts for blinky birds ( mourning doves). We call them “blinkys” because, if you get upclose to one you’ll notice they blink constantly. And get up close, we have … often. They have a most relaxed attitude, especially in Sanctuary (our back garden). Many are the times I’ve had to step over one on our deck while trying to carry a water can or something because they won’t move! As well, they love to find the most difficult things in the garden to land on. On occassion, the toe of my shoe (resting on a footstool) is the accepted challenge. They’ll just sit there blinking at us while we talk to, and laugh at, them.
We enjoy watching them walking across the yard doing their apatosaur impression. From a distance they look just like a scene from Jurassic Park. The mating ritual is also funnier’n hell. The male all puffed up, cooing, and hopping after the female like a feather-bearing Pepe Le Pew (and about as successful too). But, after she swats him a coupla dozen times while she’s trying to feed, eventually, she relents and gives in. The entire act lasts about 2 seconds, so I gotta figure it’s strictly for preservation of the species, ’cause there’s no pleasure in it. They are remarkably affectionate toward each other afterward though. There’s lotsa mutual preening and fussin’ going on. Alot more than the act justifies in my humble opinion, ‘course I’m hardly qualified to judge.
It’s a good thing they do mate alot too (some 6 times/year in more temperate climates). That would be because they’re classed a gamebird in the USA and are killed to the tune of 20 million/year. And NO, we can’t turn our noses up at the Americans for it ’cause the prime minister of Canada and the premier of Ontario approved a hunting season on them here in 2013.
We looked up the incubation period to be prepared to photograph the hatchlings. 14 days and she was still sitting on the nest. After 18 days we began to worry that her eggs were not gonna yield. There’s not much opportunity to watch feeding blinkys as they don’t need to go chase up food for their young. They produce something called “crop milk” a nutrient similar to mammalian Mother’s milk and they can feed the young without leaving the nest. This is a way in which the blinkys thwart cowbirds (unwittingly I’m sure). If the cowbird lays an egg in the blinkys nest, the cowbird young can’t survive on “crop milk”.
Finally, one morning, the wife saw a tiny head looking out from under “Momma” as we’d come to call her.
One night I thought I heard something around the South side of the house, and later still I heard a cat howling. The next morning we checked the nest, and they were gone. The nest was abandonned but showed no sign of being disturbed. So we didn’t know if they left it voluntarily in the evening, or where chased off in the night by whatever. However, we found remains of one of the young in the garden later that day. But Momma and the other seemed to have made it.
I still catch myself taking detours around that hose reel or looking behind me before opening the shed door, so as not to disturb the nest. I’m hoping someday this Summer, a young blinky will “squeaky-wing” its way onto the deck, land on my shoe, and give me a familiar blink or two.