Mourning Doves Nesting in Fairyland
by Susan Hembree
(Pleasant Gap, Pennsylvania)
Female dove waits patiently for her mate to return with nesting materials.
I have a plant shelf unit on my back porch, in which I have placed my geode collection (I'm an Earth Science teacher), fairy figures, and a Dept 56 fairytale house (got at a garage sale for cheap).
One day, I noticed that all the fairies had been thrown off the shelf onto the ground and off the porch. A bunch of branches were thrown amongst the geodes.
I thought my husband was playing a trick and so I tossed all the branches off the geodes and onto the ground. Then I asked my husband if he was playing a joke on me with my fairyland. He said he had not idea what I was talking about.
The next morning, my husband woke me up and said, "I know who is throwing your fairy stuff off the shelf!" I said, "Who?" And he said he noticed a couple of mourning doves on the shelf. I got up and took a look and sure enough, the doves were there.
They had already replaced the branches I had thrown away and you could start to see the formation of a nest. I was delighted, as I am a photographer and this looked like a great photo opportunity.
So, though my husband and I knew we would probably have to be careful about using the porch, we decided it would be fun to watch the doves nest on the shelf.
For the next few days, after the doves got started, we noticed that the male would go out and leave the female alone. He would come back periodically with a large twig, give the twig to the female, who would carefully search and then place the twig within the nest.
He often would stand on the female's back to do this. Later, when both doves were gone, I would go up and take a look at the nest. I saw that not all of the material ended up as part of the nest, but on the ground, and I threw this material off the porch.
When they were building the nest, the male often would fly off, for longer and longer periods. During his away times, the female would often get up and then sit down again, cozying into the nest to shape it.
In the first few days, the nest look like it was made up of stiff branches of pine and other local wood materials; the bottom was very flimsy. I couldn't see it holding any eggs at that point.
The next days, though, saw the addition of softer materials, filling in the nest and making it more cushioned. Some of the softer material had tiny white dried flowers, which made the nest look very lovely.
By day 4, I could see that the bottom had a fairly well developed layer and I was thinking it was close to laying time.
During the first few days of the building time, the doves only worked during the morning and up to mid-afternoon hours. Then, we wouldn't see them again until the next morning.
I thought maybe I had scared them off on the first day, as I got about a foot away to take a photo when the female flew off and looked pretty frightened.
We didn't see either bird for the rest of that day and so, we thought, they had abandoned the nest. However, the next morning, they were back and continued to build the next.
I tried not to bother them as much at this point. At about Day 5, I noticed that the dove didn't seen to move off the nest anymore. The dove was very still and occasionally would get up and move around and then re-sit into a new position.
I put some food out on the porch table in case they would like some easier food source. The dove just watched me, but didn't move. I guessed that the female had finally laid eggs and wondered if the dove moved at all.
So, I did some online research and found out that the couple will take shifts, though you might not see them switching out. However, I decided at the end of this evening to shoot a few more photos.
I was out for just a few minutes when all of a sudden I heard a sharp coo from behind and the other dove swooped in and both doves flew out of the porch onto the shed roof, which is next to the porch. So, I went inside, upstairs and watched out the bathroom window.
I noticed two white eggs in the nest from my position above. Slowly, I saw one of the doves finally came back to the nest. It just stood on the nest for several minutes before finally sitting back into a brooding position.
I am thinking we have another few weeks before we will see the little ones. I'm excited and can't wait to see what they look like!
Please note that I am a semi-professional photographer and I hope you will enjoy viewing my dove photos here. If you would like to see more, please visit my website at http://www.smhembreephotography.com/-/smhembreephotography/default.asp