Tuesday, 6 October 2015

A War Cry

Image result for european robin

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'.
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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.



17 comments:

Heather said...

My husband buys dried mealworms for the birds but on one occasion he put out some live ones. I am certain that if we had held them on our outstretched hands 'our' robin would still have fed on them. I always think of robins as gardeners' companions as one seems to appear as soon as I get out there to do some work. I have seen as many as three robins in our garden at the same time and no sign of any aggression, though I know them to be very territorial.

Doc said...

Growing up in England I remember these feisty little birds and their beautiful song. Here in the U.S. the American Robin is a large thrush type species that has a rather ludicrous drunken song which soon becomes monotonous.

donna baker said...

Like Doc said, our robin is very different looking. It's the first bird to arrive in spring. A sure sign spring is nigh. I've never had one come to eat at the feeder. They always hop along the ground looking for their pickings. Do you have mockingbirds there? I think they are my favorite bird, no maybe the wren, or chickadees...

jinxxxygirl said...

The humming birds have left Pat... I think what i have left is what stays all year... cardinals, bluejays, crows, woodpeckers, blackcapped chickadees, tufted titmouse, I haven't seen an indigo bunting in quite some time nor a goldfinch... perhaps they have migrated? So lovely to hear about your robin... haven't seen one of those in a while either... Hugs! deb

Joanne Noragon said...

Our robins prefer worms to seed any day, and are busy about the yard decimating (not really) the earth worm population. I remember once after a very hard rain that drove many worms to the surface, we had a troup of robins in the yard, feasting. When they could eat no more some just flew to the phone wires with a worm, dropped it (for amusement?), flew down for another and repeated the performance until, apparently bored, they left.

Midmarsh John said...

Similar here. On early morning walks there is a Robin on either side of our narrow lane each singing loudly.

Countryside Tales said...

Ours comes in the house and makes himself at home. Unlike other birds who visit indoors, I've never needed to put the Robin out- he finds his way quite happily. Love 'em.

The History Anorak said...

Lovely photo!

A Heron's View said...

I have always enjoyed the company of Robins. When I am sitting outside if a robin appears near to me I give a bit of a low whistle and they chirpily sing back to me.
This odd communication that we have carries on for several minutes until one of us gets bored and it is generally me.
I had a friend in Glastonbury who worked in Chalice Well gardens and as soon as she arrived at her work station, she would open the window & a robin would enter to sit on her finger and peck at a bit of cheese from her other hand. She was the only person who ever emitted such a trust to be able to do that.
Robins are ground feeders and they are unable to feed from a vertical cage.

Chris Elliot said...

The robins here (Canada) are bigger that your version and they love the berries in my Mountain Ash (Rowan) tree. It is almost stripped bare as they load up for the long winter.

angryparsnip said...

I so enjoy your post and when I have to go look up something I learn even more !
The American Robins are not related to your Robins. They have a red breast so I guess when English came over they named them Robins (?) I couldn't find out this part.
I think yours are so much cuter though.
When son was at Cambridge I came over and one day in a shop I bought them out of all the darling Christmas Cards with robins and holly on them. Just so perfect.

cheers, parsnip

Cro Magnon said...

My late father used to train his garden Robins, he always had one on his hand eating crushed peanuts. I've tried but never managed it.

Dawn McHugh said...

We have a robin ha often comes into the house and will sit on the back of the chair,I have managed to get few photos, he is a cheerful chappie, all our winter birds are now here in force and the bird feeders need re-filling every few days. I am looking out for a very special visitor to our skies will be blogging about it on Thursday :-)

Frances said...

I have recently noticed our Robin around at the front of the house ( robins?). They have been missing for months. In the winter months they come many times a day to a window feeder a few feet from my chair, which has dried mealworms and suet pieces. Last winter I decided they preferred coloured suet bits to brown ones! If the cat is in the room they fly off, but don't seem bothered by the dog's presence.

The Weaver of Grass said...

It is pouring with rain as \i write this and the damp air is making the sound of the robin's song even clearer as he sings just outside the window. Thanks for calling. Seems we are all agreed mealworms and suet are the chosen food.

Bovey Belle said...

I must get some mealworms for our robins this winter, but I will need to put them out of reach of the cats (the windowledge at the back of the kitchen is a good place). We have them singing their hearts out whenever I am outside or coming demanding breakfast (at that same kitchen window!)

I'm sorry your risotto was carp the other day. Shades of our "meal" out in Solva recently!

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

I remember a snowy winter's day three years ago when the Fieldfares were forced to venture into town. I watched them attacking every berry laden tree around the houses on the Beacon Heights development, making a hell of a mess on the ground. Around 200 of them, making a lot of noise too.

They are very large and sturdy thrushes.