Tuesday, 6 October 2015
A War Cry
Now that all our swallows and house martins have gone and the fieldfares are just beginning to arrive, things are very different in the garden.
The fieldfares and redwings, our main Winter visitors, rarely come into the garden except in the very cold weather when the odd one might venture to the bird table, especially for suet. They prefer to arrive, strip all the hawthorn berries off every available bush, and then move on to pastures new.
And that leaves the way clear for our one constant bird who has just finished moulting and is back in force. Open our back door and a robin is singing loud and clear; open our front door and another robin is singing equally loudly. Go on a walk, as I did an hour ago, down the lane and in the space of half a mile I heard about half a dozen, singing their little heads off - a lovely, clear, sweet-sounding song.
But don't be fooled. There is nothing sweet about this little bird so beloved of the Christmas card makers. He will fight to the death if another robin dares to invade his territory and his 'sweet' song is really a war cry - 'keep off'.
I read in today's Times (Derwent May's Nature Notes) how the ornithologist David Lack inked out the red breast on a robin and put it out in his resident robin's territory. At the same time he hung some red breast feathers on a wire in the territory. His resident robin completely ignored the stuffed robin but tore the red feathers to pieces.
All I can say is it does not make me like the robin any less. He is a cheery bird and alright - he sticks up for his own corner. But I will tell you this for nothing - he absolutely adores meal worms. Put and handful on the birdtable and a handful of shredded suet and you will have him there all day to make sure no other robin gets a taste.