This month’s photo was another that I consider myself lucky to have obtained. I had been told that there was a nest in the Malayan Woods Pavilion in early March of 2015 and that there was a bleeding-heart dove apparently sitting on an egg in it. The nest was near the pathway inside, but was not all that easy to spot right away – which is a good thing – so I likely would never have noticed on my own. I checked it out for myself on St. Patrick’s Day and was delighted to see the startling red of her chest against the dull background of the nest and tree. Wanting to stay on the pathway and loathe to disturb mama by getting too close to her, I contorted myself into several awkward positions, leading to a few badly-framed or blurry shots as I wobbled unsteadily, and the one sharp one I’ve posted here. I checked back a few more times during March and at one point it was clear to me that there was a chick tucked away under her, but I couldn’t get a decent shot until April. More on that in a moment.
The bleeding-heart doves had not been residents of that pavilion for a long time, if memory serves. It had only been that January when I took my first photos of one of them, strutting around on the ground and still quite shy. They fascinated me, because if you approached them from behind it looked for all the world as if some local pigeons had found their way into the building and were overwintering there. Then they turned around and displayed the distinctive red marking on their chests that looked like these local pigeons had been shot with a tiny arrow or something, causing more than one concerned visitor to seek out a staff member to say there was an “injured” bird in the Malayan Woods Pavilion. I imagine this is still going on, but I no longer hear the stories. In any event, I had only been aware of the presence of this species for a couple of months at most before I heard about the nest.
On April 1st I arrived to find the chick well out in the open and maturing at a tremendous rate. I am lucky I took as many photos that day as I did because I didn’t have another opportunity like this, even though I returned several times through the month. The picture at right was a close runner-up to be the featured shot in the calendar; I think I simply found the one I went with to be sharper and a better showing of the baby in general, although I don’t recall for sure what my criteria was. I chose the dove chick for the March animal in the Baby Boom calendar for a couple of reasons: a) because the awkward, gangly, relative “unattractiveness” of this tiny creature would be in stark contrast to the “squee-inducing” images that surrounded it; and 2) because it was born in March, and I truthfully had no other options that I was 100% sure of. I’m happy I stuck to my choice, though, because I really love the striking splash of red on the smooth maternal feathers set against the harsh and chaotic lines of the molting near-fledgling under her adoring gaze. And speaking of her adoring gaze, let’s pull back for a moment and show you the two original photos before I cropped them.
I am particularly fond of the second image, for in the first the mom is quite wary of my presence but in that second one she forgets all about me to watch her baby stretch out his wings a little bit. The love is positively palpable in that shot.
I’ll add a small mosaic of some of the other photos I took that day, including a timely capture of a feeding, and a shot of both parents in the process of doing an “exchange”.
That’s it for March. Next up: a surprise (to me and many others) birth that produced babies with whom I spent the vast majority of my Zoo visits in May and June. These photos will truly be “squee-worthy”.