I have a very soft spot for woodpigeons.     They’re like clumsy teenagers really the way they crash about in such a seemingly disjointed and uncoordinated fashion.  They scrap incessantly, which involves much wing flapping, and seem capable of being quite stroppy!   They look vaguely prehistoric, their heads being disproportionately small for the size of their bodies, and they are also incredibly noisy!    But as a redeeming feature paired birds do seem to be capable of immense care and affection towards each other.   I was called into the kitchen by my husband this afternoon where he had been watching two woodpigeons perched on the fence which runs between our garden and our neighbours.    One was, very gently, grooming the other.   The recipient of all the attention seemed to be enjoying it!     

When we first moved into our cottage it didnt take long for us to realise that a pair of woodpigeons were nesting in the copper tree at the front of the house.    We call it the copper tree because it is the colour of a copper beech and because we dont have a clue as to what type of tree it actually is.    It isnt a beech, it’s more of a maple, acer type with big purple paw print leaves.    It looks beautiful and the colour of it reminds me of my grandmother’s auburn hair.

The parent birds, taking it in turns, would come crashing through the dense canopy of the copper tree and flop onto the nest.   Having watched their comings and goings over a period of time I was convinced that all they could possibly be  incubating at this point was an omelette!   Nothing, I felt, could have survived their insane landings!    I thought they might be first timers, new to woodpigeon parenthood and, therefore, didnt realise that a certain amount of delicacy was required around something as fragile as an egg!    

It was also quite unnerving as, having been used to hearing them chanting uninhibitedly away when elsewhere in the garden, when insitu on the nest they were eerily quiet and very still.     This makes perfect sense when sitting on a nest which is hidden away in order to avoid predation but what didnt make sense in this case was the fact that mummy or daddy woodpigeon, whichever it was on nest sitting duty, was completely visible!  I could see them and they could see me!   Things seemed to progress best when we each pretended  the other party wasnt there.  

As time passed I began to think that either my omelette theory had been correct or that I was wrong about their beginner’s status and this was in fact a second brood.    It seemed very late in the year to be sitting on a first brood.  It was now August and with no sign of junior I even began to wonder if it was possible for woodpigeons to have phantom pregnancies!       There was much debate in our household as to exactly what was going on inside that nest.    As it was, we were soon to find out.

One day in mid August, when my husband was out in the garden, I heard his sudden cry of suprise.    I went out to investigate.  I found him staring down at two sad little woodpigeon nestlings who had apparently fallen out of the nest and landed at his feet.    They were large but threadbare looking with very few  feathers to speak of.   I didnt think they were very old.    We stood and watched as they both twitched a little and died.   The fall had been too great for them.       

It is very sad to watch anything die, especially something so small which really hasnt had a life at all.     I wondered if perhaps there was a bigger chick still in the nest who had decided simply to get rid of his two younger siblings but when my husband climbed up to have a look there was nothing there.      The parent bird came back later on in the day and sat for a while on the empty nest.    It’s wrong, I know, to project human emotions on to animals and birds but frankly it did look quite folorn.

I find myself wondering if they will nest there again next year.    The nest is still there in the tree, it’s a sort of crazy wickerwork affair which may be the reason why the young fell out.    With a little renovation they might succeed this time in raising a family there.   Personally,  I hope they do come back.  I’m sure the copper tree would be pleased.