General Fiction posted March 1, 2008

This work has reached the exceptional level
An article on the English Robin

Brave Little Cock Robin

by Margaret Snowdon

Like so many Nature lovers, my husband and I take great pleasure in feeding the many variety of birds that lay claim to our garden. Tits, Finches, Sparrows, Wagtails, Chaffinch, a Song-thrush, three frayed Blackbirds that seem to spend much of their time chasing each other off, and the Starlings that we've nicknamed the "skinheads" for their daring and rowdiness, a pair of pigeons as well as a pair of doves, which regularly come to bathe in the bird bath. Our well-established climbing hydrangea and winter jasmine bushes that grow against garage wall and fence are likened to blocks of flats, with all the different comings and goings.

The Thrush and Blackbirds in particular fly to meet us at their special places, hopping so close to our feet that we hardly dare move sometimes. Also, one or the other comes into the conservatory to sit close to us, not seeming to want feeding, but seeking our company. If the door is closed, they hop from one end of the garden bench to the other, cocking their heads sideways and peering in through the conservatory window, seeking attention.

Although they tolerate the Sparrows and other smaller birds, the Thrush and Blackbird constantly drive off any larger trespassers that venture on their particular territory. We have watched many a bitter duel until the intruders are driven away. But it is not so with the brave little Cock Robin. He drops down amongst feeding birds, paying not the slightest attention to them, helps himself to what he wants and is swiftly off again. Robins usually eat a variety of invertebrates such as worms, beetles and flies but they will happily take fat, grated cheese and meaty scraps, as well as dried fruit or breadcrumbs. Of course, we must not forget the peanuts and seed for the seed-eating birds. A shallow pan of clean water is also appreciated, as much for bathing as for drinking.

Most wild birds have their particular domain, in which they brook no trespass. That is why you will seldom see more than one Robin in your garden - unless you are fortunate enough to have a pair nesting there. And even then the chances are that throughout the winter months only one will remain to come and perch beside you as you dig, watching you with those black beady little eyes and warbling softly when you have turned up a worm or a grub of some sort, which he at once pounces on, almost under your very spade, and disposes of it swiftly.

One morning during Summer I opened both kitchen and conservatory doors to welcome in the warmth and had just settled down at the table for breakfast, when in comes our Cock Robin, through both doors into the kitchen and settles himself on the worktop to watch me eat. I attempted to close the door to the hall in order to stop him from flying through the house, but wasn't quick enough and he flew into the hall, up the stairs, coming to rest on top of my computer at my work-station. I cautiously reached right across him to open the window and he thankfully flew out. Such a cheeky little fellow! Bless him! He looks so charming with his scarlet waistcoat, and his all-the-year song makes him an attractive bird to all Nature lovers. But, if the truth be told, he is a most pugnacious little beggar, and will fight on the slightest provocation, if another Cock Robin dares trespass on the territory he has claimed for his own.

I recall when a Robin perching on the branch of the cherry tree in our garden was violently attacked by another. There was no retaliation and the scene quite upset me, until I heard two of my sons laughing together in the background. The bird under attack was a stuffed Robin they had taken from the Christmas centre-piece I had made for the table. They had been up to one of their tricks. Very funny!! I did manage to rescue it and return it to its rightful place. Sometimes a fight between two Cock Robins will last for hours. How often have you heard the angry chattering and seen the Robin chasing a rival away? The birds use both bill and feet. With their claws they seek to grip the adversary and then strike with the beak, almost invariably aiming for the top of the head. As the intruder retreats towards the boundary, the pugnacity of the owner is not so pronounced, and once the line is crossed, it does not trouble to pursue.

The Thrush is one of the earliest to wake the morning with a song, the ringing notes usually breaking the silence when it is still quite dark, beginning at the end of January and continuing until July. But to me, the song of the Robin is one of the most melodic and heart warming of all the birds, and I say that deliberately, knowing the song of the Thrush and the Blackbird. Not many of our songsters give us music every month of the year; but the Robin is a delightful exception. In a well-lit garden a Robin will sing at night. They are among the few birds to hold a territory all through the winter, and they sing to proclaim their rights of ownership.

For me, the greatest charm is when this bold little fellow sits on the fence level with my head, well within arm's reach, and warbles a soft, low, confidential melody for me alone. In the Springtime, it is more than a confidential whisper; it is a profession of love that ripples forth in low, vibrating notes to a weird accompaniment of bows and postures and little dance steps. Of course, it is not intended for human ears, but for the attention and appreciation of a lady love who sits close by in her somewhat less colourful dress. He stands absolutely erect, his head and beak pointing to the sky, his tail stiffly raised, so much so that with a little more effort it might touch the back of his fine head. In this strange and strained attitude he hops about the female, all the while puffing out his breast and occasionally warbling soft, low, tender notes. He thus displays the beauty of his colouring - which is the object of all bird display. It is most amusing to watch, the more so if the female is a picture of studied indifference while he is exerting himself to the utmost. Come March the pair build their nest and the female will lay her first clutch of eggs. It takes about two to three weeks for the youngsters to fledge after which time they will fly off to find their own territories.

The truth is that most birds are sociable creatures. They love human companionship if left alone. And if they are shown hospitality they become delightful friends, pleasant little souls whose cheery presence brings much joy to us all. They are in love with life and demonstrate their unbounded happiness with song and action. And can it be wondered at? With a dawning consciousness they find themselves in an enchanting world, every day promising fresh delights and new wonders.

Margaret Snowdon - Nov. 2007

Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Save to Bookcase Promote This Share or Bookmark
Print It View Reviews

You need to login or register to write reviews. It's quick! We only ask four questions to new members.

© Copyright 2018. Margaret Snowdon All rights reserved.
Margaret Snowdon has granted, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.