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Plucky's Gift

Sunday, March 11, 2018

What ever happened to that half-winged mourning dove?
You know I wouldn't leave you hanging if I could help it.

I had this whole post written on a plane. And the Internet swallowed it. The photos stayed but the text disappeared. Never had that happen before. Now I'll probably say something completely different than I did while hurtling over Kansas at sunset. One of the things I like about blogging is that I have no idea what's going to come out when I sit down. I started this one, and what came out was "One Day in Light" (the last post). When I'm blogging, I enter into a conversation with you, and it can go anywhere.

I saw the ghost of Ellen on March 11. I'm at the point where I can recognize certain deer naked eye at rather long distances. I raised the blind in the bedroom and saw Ellen against the west border of the meadow. The camera revealed that it was actually Flag, her daughter. All the little Elleny things in her gestalt at several hundred yards, that added up to Ellen for me, made me smile so big. It was like a visitation from her mama.

Nobody would give a passing glance to a small plain doe like Flag, unless they had known her mama, and come to love her so. I grow fonder of Flag every day.

I almost never see Flag without Buffy. Doughty little Buffy. I'll always wonder if she was related to Ellen, because they were always together, too, though they didn't get along very well. 

I have watched Flag take corn right from under Buffy's nose, and have never seen one iota of aggression between them. That's saying something, because I've seen Buffy fight.

Here's Buffy kissing Flag back in January 2017. Flag was still a little fawn. She'd just lost her mother in November.

Buffy, left, Flag right, today. See how much warmer-toned Buffy's hair is?
Buffy's also got tear tracks from her weepy left eye.

Buffy gave me a good laugh on March 8 when she stamped me. Deer stamp when they see something they don't like. Which would be me, through the window, at my drawing table.

 She stamped me with both front feet!

 Come on, Buffy. You know me. Stop punching more holes in my poor mushy lawn.

I do notice a difference in these two (the only ones who come in to clean up the jays' corn) and the other deer at Indigo Hill. Buffy and Flag are much more approachable in the field, more likely to watch me pass at a safe distance than the others, who all bound off. They know the Corn Lady, know my schedule, know my voice. It feels good to be recognized, even if I can't throw my arms around their necks.

Speaking of recognizing...A small gray female mourning dove, the avian equivalent of Flag, came walking in from the direction of the trumpetvine tangle on March 1. 

 Nothing to distinguish her on the left side, unless you were to notice the fresh white edging on her secondary wing feathers.

But on the right side...oh yes. Hello, Plucky! Look at that regrowth! There's still a lone black primary exposed, one of the two that remained after the hawk attack. But here come the primaries!

Luckily, she gave me a closeup.  It took only two weeks for all those feathers to regenerate. That, to me, is amazing.

In a few more days, she'd be virtually indistinguishable from the other doves.That won't stop me, and hasn't. I'm still looking for a small, grayish dove--probably less than a year old-- with a pale cheek and fresh wing feathers. So far, I haven't seen her again. But I take that to mean that she no longer needs to hide in the vines and gobble down grain at my feeder simply to survive.

As is so often the case,  I find myself scrutinizing groups, looking for one special creature. It may seem silly to some, but for me it's time well spent. Looking for Plucky taught me that each mourning dove has a unique spot pattern on its wings. Like this one--likely an immature, who is sprinkled with small dots.

And this mature male, with his iridescent neck and large oval spots on his coverts and tertials.

 I'd never realized that about mourning doves before Plucky came into my life. And I will recognize her should she appear again, as her wings are very lightly spotted.  And that's something to be able to say, that you could pick one special mourning dove out of a flock. That's the gift of close observation.

When Plucky finally took flight March 1, she corkscrewed as she went, but not nearly as badly as she had before. No longer would she have to walk from the tangle to the feeders and back.

Plucky had gotten her second chance.


Thanks for updating us on Plucky! I love when creatures that other people would just lump together and not notice as individuals have something in their look or manner that sets them apart... that makes you really notice them. By observing the one, it's amazing how much one can learn about the species as a whole.

Posted by Anonymous March 11, 2018 at 5:16 PM

Love the story pic Ellen's sweet deer

You have a gift, and share it with all of us!

There's a mourning dove at the park I work at that I call Knuckles. It has all of the toes but it's foot is all curled up like a fist. It limps when it walks. I'm amazed it can perch in the trees. I noticed Knuckles last summer, so s/he is doing ok. Kind of amazing what they can survive.

On a dog walk recently I came upon a red-tailed hawk just starting in on plucking a dove. He was holding it down on the ground and paused to figure out what I was doing as I walked towards him. Honestly, at first I wasn't sure what was happening. From a distance I had only noticed him. He watched me until I got within 40 feet, which surprised me that he let me get so close. He took off, still had the dove. But I guess the pause I gave the dove while the hawk was watching me gave him a burst of energy because he somehow wrangled out of the hawk's talons and clumsily flew away. The hawk kept going and the dove perched in a tree. I couldn't really get a good look a the dove and I have been wondering if he made it. Luckily there weren't many feathers on the ground where I spotted them. Thanks to your story I have hope that he stayed hidden and took advantage of a close-by bird feeder till he healed!

"It may seem silly to some, but for me it's time well spent." Amen!

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