Tuesday, 2 July 2013

When Harry met Gibby

  ... the story of a Collared Dove called Harold

As previously promised this is how my adventures with Harold and Madge began in 1999.

The following is also part of a story I entered in a birdwatching magazine. 
I couldn't compete with all the exotic birds people had seen and wrote about; however I was a runner up and won a CD on identifying bird songs.
This is how I got to know Harold.
©  Gibby Frogett
  At first glance if you peep over the fence you might think I was carrying out some ancient ritual, kneeling on the ground rattling a pot of something in the air towards a very tall gnarled apple tree. You may just think I was mad!

If you stay a while you will hear a swishing noise as 'he', attracted by the rattling pot of peanuts, glides down to the paving area then walks towards me. 


‘He’ is called Harold, a Collared Dove who has visited my garden daily for the last six months.
My first meeting with Harold happened by chance when he landed on the bird table and didn't see me kneeling down below it arranging some flower pots.
As I got up he was right beside me. We looked at each other and momentarily froze, then he flew off, up in to the apple tree.
Over the next few days Harold appeared in the garden feeding on some crushed nuts left over by the previous nights visiting hedgehogs. 
© Gibby Frogett

One day I was about to put out some peanuts I kept in a pot when I noticed him in the apple tree. I rattled the pot at him before placing the nuts out on the ground.
He came down almost straight away. After this, 'rattling the pot' became a ritual.
Sometimes Harold would land on the conservatory roof and I would say gently to him 'Come on Harold, I won't hurt you', and rattle my pot of nuts.
Eventually he would flutter down, often hesitating for some time before taking that ultimate step. 
I would keep a reasonable distance not wanting to frighten him but long to be able to get closer.

One evening at dusk it was raining hard and Harold, perched on his usual branch in the apple tree, looks very bedraggled.
I don't want to get wet so I kneel down in the doorway rattling the peanut pot. He comes down to the usual feeding place but there are only raisins and soggy bread but no peanuts.
I hold out my hand but he appears unsure of this unfamiliar procedure and won't come up to the door.

Feeling sorry for the poor soggy bird I throw him a nut and he runs for it like a dog going to fetch a stick. Some nuts catch the side of the paving slabs and bounce everywhere and Harold runs about to retrieve them.
He doesn't seem to mind as when he has eaten one he walks towards me looking at me again as if to request another to be thrown.

Over the following weeks we made great progress to the extent that he didn't fly away and I was able to get within inches of him.

Placing some peanuts on the ground I would also offer him some in my flat out stretched hand but he only would eat what was on the floor. He would look at my hand, bow his head to take some nuts but stop in mid-flow. "Have some nuts Harold" I say, but he doesn't.

When he turned his back on me, stooping to drink while I sat beside him, I thought perhaps he now trusted me but he still wouldn't take anything from me.

Then one evening Harold landed by the water saucer but there weren't any nuts other than myself. He looked at me as if to say 'Where's the grub then?' I rushed to get my nut pot and place some in my hand ready to put on the ground. Harold rushes at me as if he hasn't had a meal in weeks. 

© Gibby Frogett

© Gibby Frogett

I hold my hand out. Harold gracefully steps forward, hesitates and steps back.
Then the most amazing thing happens, Harold eats from my hand not just one nut but lots.

'See Harold that wasn't so bad was it?' I say, 'Told you I wouldn't hurt you'.

© Gibby Frogett

© Gibby Frogett

His feathers brush against my out stretched fingers and I worry that he might back off or fly away but he doesn't.

His feathers are soft and silky and I would dearly love to stroke him but don't as this is too much of a special moment to spoil.

I observe Harold as often as I can to learn about him and to maintain his confidence. Sometimes I'm unsure of just who is watching whom.
He has started coming up to the door and sit on the wall outside when there isn't any food out, and it looks likes he is peering in the window trying to attract my attention.

This lovable pretty bird that I call Harold has opened my eyes to the fact that birds each have their own characters and are not just a flying mass of feathers. Harold constantly amazes and intrigues me and I wonder what his next move will be.
Next time when you are in your garden, look around as there may be a feathered friend just waiting for you to rattle your pot and befriend it.

If only digital cameras had been about in 1999. These particular photos I used are pretty awful quality as taken from Camcorder stills, but at least I have them to go with these great memories.

Next chapter coming soon on what happened next with Harold and Madge.




Heather Alger said...

This was a joy to read Gill, I Love feeding the birds too, but have never been able to get as close as this. Will be looking forward to the Adventures of Harold and Madge x

Natasha said...

Great story, I'm looking forward to the next chapter :)
I'm glad I'm not the only one who talks to my garden birds and wildlife!!!

heather williams said...

Aw, you are so lucky to get so close to these gorgeous birds Gill, I have loved reading all about your 'meeting' and can't wait for the next instalment! xx

Rike said...

What a wonderful story!
Rike xx