I assume most of you know who Pierre is. If not, quick re-cap, Pierre is a wild Rock Pigeon who literally jumped into our lives back on July 21, 2012 and has been a regular visitor here ever since. Surely you've seen the pics somewhere over the years, feeding from my hand, the Global News story. "Oh ya, that Pigeon!" Right?
The last year Pierre has had longer breaks between visits. I've missed him but in another way it's helping me get used to the idea of him one day not coming back. This July will mark 5 years since we first met. Bird guides say ROPIs live an average of 3 to 5 years in the wild; although some do live much longer than that with help from others, and if they can stay out of trouble or the talons of Hawks and Peregrine Falcons. Pierre has some great friends in way of myself and Angie. He seems to be pretty aware of the surroundings and smart enough to avoid here when Hawks are present.
I make mental notes of our last encounter especially when days pass with not seeing him. He's been exceptional with his absences the last number of months. November 1st, then not again until December 23rd, then December 29th and then finally coming in again on February 18th. Four visits in almost four months! But this is where our biggest adventure takes place. I actually started this blog a long time ago but with time passed, I'm not liking what I keyed out and have decided to start over. None of the facts have changed even with time passed and my memory of it all. I do hope to shorten it though. HA!
So, here we go...
Between November 1st until December 23rd, I had made comments on social media about missing Pierre. I did not suspect anything was really wrong because his whole flock was not visiting. Yes, there are stand out members in his flock that I easily recognize. A lot of people question this ability of mine and I can see their point. All I tell them is to spend time with a flock of Pigeons, years in my case, you will be able to identify them even in a mass of nearly 100 birds coming to visit like I had a few times last winter.
With his absence, I made new friends with "The Jerseys" last Autumn, who are a bigger hit with people and I assume it's because of their unique plumage.
They eased my need for bird bonding at home. But even with my sharing about them, I still threw in about my wonders of how Pierre is, where he is. He is THE ONE who started this all here.
As Christmas approached, I did a few "Days of Christmas" blogs with the nature gifts that were presented to me. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker for a couple days in December at our holly bush, and then the Screech Owl in our nest box. Then on December 23rd, Pierre finally came home. 53 long days he was away. I spread the news on social media but with it being so close to Christmas, I did not get the chance to blog about it. I had thought he was going to be here with us over the holidays but he once again disappeared. Then returning 6 days later on the 29th.
Pierre showed up sporting some "trashy bling". His left foot and toes were wrapped up in blue thread, lots and lots of blue thread. While this may not seem that serious, it is, as over time it can cut the circulation to the foot, the muscle tissue dies, toes can fall off, maybe even his whole foot and mobility will become difficult.
I had some discussion about how to deal with this, but being home alone, and not having any experience on how to handle this, it was a real challenge as you will read about.
Pierre was feeding from my hand and I put my free hand over top of him. Now any other Pigeon would suspect something was up and quickly react, like flying to the ground, but not Pierre. He's got a lot of trust in me from the years together and he ignored my hand. I lowered it over top of him and grabbed him in a bander's grip the best I could. A grip I've not used in a while and a grip I've never used on a larger bird. Bander's grip on a small Sparrow or Warbler vs bander's grip on a Pigeon... big difference actually. The grip is your index finger and middle finger around the bird's neck while the remaining fingers and thumb surround the body, keeping the wings pressed to the body. An example shown here that I borrowed from Google.
Pierre is a big Pigeon from years of good eating. A bit different than holding any small songbird.
But with Pierre, there was very little fuss, and he quickly submitted. I think he quickly realized what I was trying to do as I inspected his foot, toyed with the thread, looking for a loose end. I wasn't having much luck in finding one. I was having a lot of distraction by his friends all fluttering around us, more so wanting food, than any care/concern for their King in my hand.
I decided to bring Pierre inside where I could look at him in a closed off room, having some more light, and no distractions. First I needed to put him in something. I remembered I had a spare box in the shed, a box we often use for birds of his size for transport to and from Toronto Wildlife. Now I had to take him for a walk with me (the shed is about 100 ft from our back deck). I can only imagine what any neighbours must have thought seeing me holding this Pigeon like I was, and walking with him. I can only imagine what was going through Pierre's mind as well. He's belly up to the sky, looking at me, and around, but still not putting up a fight.
I get him to the shed, close the door over and put him in the box. Then it was a quick pace back to the house, a call to TWC, leaving a message about the situation in case I needed to bring him in and then downstairs to the bathroom. I close the door, get him out and see what I can do. He puts up a little struggle at first because I'm sure being inside a house, bright light over him that is not the sun, was rather confusing. But I talked to him in a calm voice, kept telling him it was okay and he relaxed. While he may not have understood my words exactly, I like to think my voice did help. He was even pretty chill when suddenly there were some cat paws coming through the underside of the door as Merry and Molly were on the other side, wanting to join us. That wasn't happening. I dropped my bath towel across the bottom of the door to put an end to that.
I inspected his foot, and manged to cut about 3 inches of thread off with some small scissors. Pierre kept pulling his leg to his body, like I was ticking him, although I know it was just a reflex (I was not hurting him nor pulling on his leg, impossible to do without a third hand). My hand was shaking as I tried to perform this sort of surgery on him (of course I was nervous). Trying this alone proved to be extremely difficult.
I had the phone with me and suddenly it rang. It was someone from hotline at Toronto Wildlife. I'm still holding Pierre with my one hand while I take the call. I swear he gave me this look like "Dude! WTF? Taking a phone call now?" I had left them a detailed message already so there wasn't much to say other than "yes I still have him contained" and they said "bring him in".
Back in the box he went, and away we went for a drive.
We were at the tail end of a small snow storm, which in Toronto with driving could still be like 20+ cm with some drivers. Thankfully a lot of people were still off work with the holiday season so traffic was light.
I spoke to Pierre through the drive, just a calm light voice, saying "it's alright Pierre" or "I got your back Pierre", etc. No matter what I said, I said his name with it. I'd like to think he knows the name we've given him after all these years. Normally you are supposed to be quiet when traveling with wildlife but Pierre is not your normal wildlife, is he?
We get to TWC and he is quickly taken to the back room. I offered to wait if someone was able to observe him sooner than later. Depending on what was going on beneath all that thread, he could come home right away. But they had to get the thread off first and see.
Lucky for us, it's a time of year where things are normally much slower with wildlife emergencies and there was enough staff in that morning, that he was observed almost immediately. And even luckier was that there was nothing going on beneath the thread, no skin breaks, no bleeding, no infection. He was deemed fit to go home right away.
Pierre just won a little lottery I think.
I don't know how many "thank yous" I said and that they probably helped me end 2016 on a really high note. I'm sure they could tell I was a little emotional about it all but there were no tears... just saying.
I kept Angie in the loop via text about what was going on. When I said we were on our way home again, she replied with "make a donation!" Doh! I ran back inside the centre and got that on the go.
Now we were going home. Once again, the drive back, I talked to him throughout. "You're going home Pierre".
We get home, and I get him out back, releasing him down at the shed. I was happy to see his flock was still around almost an hour and a half later. Weird that they were all still here. Remember, it's been 53 days since they were all here like this.
I release him, which took a little time, and I put my hand in the box to help him out. He took to my hand like nothing, and came out to the open wild world once again from my palm. Mere seconds passed and he took flight, going to a nearby roof top to join his mates. I threw more food down for everyone and they all came back in to feed. Pierre was a little delayed about this all and I worried that maybe our trust was broken. Silly me! He finally flew in, picked at the corn for a moment until he saw me put my hand out to him, saying his name and I had the good stuff to offer him... shelled peanut bits (no salt of course) and sunflower chips. He was in my hand in the blink of an eye. All was well in his world and back to normal.
They all flew off and I did not see them again before I went to work.
I anticipated a return the next day. Nope. The day after. Nope. Now with the New Years weekend upon us, hoping to bring in 2017 with him. Nope.
How long would it be until I saw him again?
51 days later (Feb 18) he flies in like he does any other time, landing in his usual spot by the back door, and greets me like no time has passed. It certainly was a great start to the Family Day long weekend because Pierre sure is like family to us. He ended up coming in all 3 days, showing up just before 8 am each day.
Here we are. The gang is all here and 2 flocks are mingling with a little bit of squabbling. We all look like shit first thing in the morning, but we don't care. LoL!
I tell people he's cheating on us these days, having a new friend to mooch off of. I say it in joking manner but of course it is true. Pigeons are very dependent on humans for survival.
I guess his other friend went away for the long weekend or something, which brought him in. Now we are back to the work week and I've not seen him at all, nor any of his flock.
He did have a few threats lingering about here this past weekend and I'm certain that kept him wary.
Cooper's Hawk late in the day on Feb 18.
Resident Red-tailed Hawk caught one of his friends on Feb 20. I had seen the Hawk come in a couple times, flushing birds, Pierre and his buds were long gone, but the Hawk managed to grab one somewhere nearby. We noticed feathers falling from the sky, and I went out to investigate, spotting this. I can even tell by this Pigeon's markings, that it's not one of my special buds. I still felt some sadness although I know well enough that this is how it goes, it is nature.
Initially I was going to blog about the TWC adventure after it happened, but then decided to wait until his return, which finally happened. I will once again wonder how long until we meet again?
Don't stay away too long this time Pierre.
On a final note, I would like to add that I can honestly say that Pierre did not get any special treatment with his care at TWC. As I mentioned, he was lucky there was available staff on hand and it was a slower time of the year, plus early on in the day. All these things put together, along with the short time the thread was around his foot, made for a quick and easy visit. All wildlife patents get the same care and concern when coming in. It's just great when they can go free again like this, and so quickly. Any animal Toronto Wildlife can help, and not have to keep in care, is a great thing.
Pierre and I will forever be thankful for TWC.
Maybe you've made it to the end of this blog? Maybe you've got a warm and fuzzy feeling all over now? Maybe you are thinking about sending a "thank you" to TWC, they are a charitable run organization after all, here is the link to do so. If so, please tell them "Pierre" sent you. Sorry, couldn't help myself with this last bit.
Thanks for reading about our biggest adventure. Cheers!