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Letting Libby Go

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Libby the dove stayed in her outdoor flight tent from May 14-23. We kept it zipped closed, but we visited with her and made sure she was eating and drinking and that she didn't get too lonely.

Phoebe and Liam spent quite a bit of time out there with her. Phoebe would take a book and read, and Liam would gently play with Libby.

He'd hold a handful of her favorite finch seed while she ate.

On May 23, it was time to open the tent. Libby had been trying to fly in a straight line and bouncing off the soft nylon walls, especially when something scared her. I was pleased to see her panic when a raccoon came trundling alongside the tent one afternoon. She's so blase about Chet Baker that I was glad to see her primitive little predator alarm still worked. Three other largeish dogs have visited us in the time Libby's been out of the tent, and she's refused to come down to visit while they've been in the yard. She seems to understand that Chet is all right, but other mammals aren't. Phewww. You always wonder about hand-raised birds.

Libby made a short flight into nearby birches and sat for an hour. It was nice to be able to tell the kids I thought she wouldn't go far when we finally opened her tent. The other two doves I've raised were homebodies.

She moved from there to her beloved lawn chairs and sunned for a long time. She's 43 days old in these photos. I wondered if she would sit there all day. At 12:38, I looked out to see her take off like a rocket flying high and hard, due east. Wow! She was gone for the rest of the day. At 8 pm, she winnowed down into the yard, landed on her little food table, and ate. She was so tired and hungry she was trembling all over. She filled her crop with millet and gradually became calm. We were so happy to see her.

photo by Bill Thompson III

When she was full she flew back into her tent. Aww. See her in flight?

photo by Bill Thompson III

She landed on the tent netting, trying to maneuver her way back inside.

Finally on her favorite lawnchair inside the tent, she looks undeniably smug.
But then doves look a bit smug anyway. And Libby's behavior should go to show that they're not near as dumb as they look. She explored who knows where, and then navigated her way back home and into the tent where she felt safe.

At dusk that first night she was nervous and unhappy even inside her tent, flying from perch to perch and landing on my head, so I took her inside the house to spend the night on my desk lamp or on her favorite chair.

She settled down with a contented pweep. I would take her inside for the next seven nights, until May 31, when she didn't come flying in to ask to be taken inside. Seriously. She'd come down at dusk, go into her tent or land on a nearby tree or someone's head, and as much as demand to go in the house. She'd climb up on our fingers like a cockatiel and ride inside, where she'd be safe from owls and storms and raccoons.

Of course, we greatly enjoyed taking her inside and tucking her in on a comfy chair with a kiss on her dear little head. We'd made a pet of her, but even so I knew she'd be all right in the end. We were just stretching the inevitable parting out a little longer.

And it was nice to be able to give her breakfast in the studio before taking her outside for the day. Please don't poop in my palette, Pweep.

And so she spent the next week coming and going from her tent. Most of the time, she'd disappear mid-morning and not be seen until almost dark. I don't know where she went, but I knew she was building her strength and learning about being a dove.

She was free to go, but she chose to stay for awhile.

Sending this from Pittsburgh, where we took in a Pirates game (total rout for the Buccos, unforch, but great fireworks!) with the Heeters. Now motelpooling with the kids. Wherever you spend your Fourth, have a wonderful one!


What a great post for July 4. Being free, means we can chose to come and go as well please. People around the world know what value that is. We are so used to it that I fear we take it for granted. Have fun in the pool. Damp and rainy here. May not get fireworks tonight.

ahhhh... "Born free, as free as the wind blows...."

Yes, wonderful story and post for July 4th!

That first picture makes her look like a "disapproving dove".

Happy 4th.

Wayne, PA

Posted by Anonymous July 4, 2010 at 4:15 PM

Ahhhh--I agree. The perfect post for the 4th--freedom, responsibility, exploration, and all.

Libby Lou is one very lucky -- not to mention smart -- dove. You and she taught me that doves ain't dopes.

I love this photo-documentary, julie. It really gives me an idea of the vigilance and attention it takes to raise a little well-loved dove.

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