Yesterday, November 8th, 2016, I accepted a mission to help a youngish Mourning Dove find a flock to join after spending some time at Toronto Wildlife. There are certain species of birds who do better, especially at this time of year when the weather is turning colder, by flocking up with their own kind. Joining an established flock in an area gives them the best chance at survival, following the other birds who know where to find food, water and shelter.
Mourning Dove from backyard sometime ago.
It turned out to be quite the task.
I used to see Mourning Doves everywhere. But lately, and I mean for a while now, not so much.
We even checked eBird for sightings and Downsview Park, where TWC is located, had someone report seeing 20 just 2 days earlier. I had seen Doves there a week ago. Could I find a single bird? No.
Angie and I had seen a couple over the past weekend in Marie Curtis Park. It was only 2 birds but it was the only other spot I could think of.
I was making contact with friends who may have seen Doves in their birding travels lately, even people with bird feeders as a last resort. Nothing was working out. A couple friends had been seeing them but also a Cooper's Hawk who was doing quite a number on their Pigeon visitors. So ya, wasn't an option to send this guy there.
I hit a few parks where I am certain I've seen Doves in the past, nothing.
I ran into a birding bud of mine at one and he was at a loss about where one or more could be.
Funny thing is how many people talked about the fact that it is now legal to shoot these birds. I know this is true but facts on where and when are unknown to me. I should research it. Honestly it upsets me though. Who the heck would want to shoot a Mourning Dove? Sure they can be in abundance (or were), but they are such peaceful birds, some call them "not very bright" and they are much too easy of a target. Where is the challenge in that, if someone wanted to call this a sport? It seems more to me like jagoffs just getting their rocks off by obliterating these birds.
Mourning Doves can breed up to four times a year. They are a great food source to other animals, especially birds of prey. Yes, the grim side many don't want to think about, but it's true.
I just don't get it (hunting them). How are they ensuring the population does not plummet and go way of the Passenger Pigeon? Any one with an answer, please comment.
I made my way down to the lake parks. I stopped at a couple as I made my west towards Marie Curtis Park which is on the border between Etobicoke and Mississauga.
I had the last of migratory birds to release with me as well and they needed to be out and free sooner than later. As soon as I found a good spot, with other migrants in the area, out they went.
The last migratory bird release for me, for 2016. A White-throated Sparrow.
As you can see here, a funny thing happened with this Hermit Thrush. He left the bag but stopped on my hand. He decided to sit here for about a minute, taking in his new surroundings before flying off to join a couple other Hermit Thrushes. I was very happy that I had my phone in my jacket pocket when this occurred. This never happens! Sure made this last release outing quite memorable.
I kept onward with the mission at task. I asked bird people in my travels about any Dove sightings. Most said "no" and a few even said "why would I bother looking at a Mourning Dove?" One even called them an idiot species. WELL!
Through my mission, I chanced upon an Eastern Screech Owl. You know shit is real when I kept moving, not even running back to the truck for the camera to get even one photo. True story!
I had been in semi-regular contact with my friends at TWC on what was going on. It was agreed to keep the faith and just get over to Marie Curtis Park, going with that last sighting I had.
I slowly made my way through Marie Curtis, stopping at various spots, looking and listening. I parked the truck in a few areas and went for a walk. Nothing. I had made my way down to the lake, did a u-turn at the last parking lot and sat there for many minutes. I was in thought about what to do. I did not want to just let this little Dove go without finding him a friend or two, even knowing the birds are most likely still in the park... somewhere.
A small birding group was walking through the park. I had thought about asking them if they had seen any Doves but with all the responses I had gotten already, I decided not to.
I left that last lot, and got back on the driveway, crawling along in the truck, and really starting to stress now. I pull over about 50 ft out of the lot. I just sit, think and worry.
I kid you not about what happened next.
Suddenly in flew 7 Mourning Doves from the west. They landed on the drive right behind my truck! The birds wanted to get a drink from the large puddle on the road.
I just about pooped myself. My heart raced.
A car was coming and it forced the Doves off the road. NOOOOOOOOOOOO! The birds took flight and all landed in a nearby tree. I wasted no time now, getting to work. I did not want this bird to miss the opportunity.
I let the Dove out of the card board box there on the grass. The bird took flight and flew to a tree near where this flock was sitting.
I returned to the truck, watched and waited for something to happen. But nothing did. The birds stayed where they were, perhaps waiting for me to leave? I put the truck in drive and slowly drove away, watching out the mirror. Doves began dropping down from the tree to the puddle. I could not tell if my "friend" joined them at that moment or not. I just have to hope he did meet up with them sometime that day. Knowing there was more than the 2 birds Angie and I saw days earlier was a bonus.
I'm not a religious type. I'm not a believer in one God. I don't really know what I believe in. Maybe someone is out there watching over me, like a guardian angel. They say things happen for a reason but sometimes it's incredibly odd how they can work out so well, and just like that, when things seem so dark. This is one of those stories, for me, and this bird. I know I silently said "thank you". The relief that came over me with this grand finale was beyond description. I was exhausted. And now I had to get home and get ready for work.
No photos were taken of the bird or the flock. I kinda wish I even snapped one of the road, and that puddle. But capturing an image was of least importance here.
Here is one of my favorite Mourning Dove captures from the backyard a couple Decembers ago.
They really are beautiful birds. And if you listen to their song, you can be overwhelmed with a feeling of calm. We sure do. That call can lull us to sleep in the deck chairs on a Summer afternoon.