Robin Redbreast Again

Robin Copyright Zeb Bakes

29th May 2013

The English Robin or Robin Redbreast as she was known when I was a child was probably the first bird I ever learnt to recognise. Small and plump, bright eyed and endlessly curious about the world of humans, the little robin is part of the fabric of the suburban garden life of so many of us in the cities and towns of England. We never get huge gangs of them, as they are very territorial but we nearly always have one or two in residence, checking out what we do, looking in the windows and engaging in our lives.  They squabble and fight, quite badly sometimes and build nests in open fronted boxes and raise their speckly children happily there.

This is the one who you saw sitting on the whirly clothes dryer in the Back Door post. I have stretched my little camera to its macro zoom limits to take these so you can see her more clearly. (If you click on the image I think you might get to see it bigger, I have tried to link to where it is stored on WordPress) .  She sits on the corner of the dryer most mornings, looking down at the grass, and then whizzes down to pick up worms and grubs. Once she has a beakful she heads off over the fence to my left where I suspect she has her nest.

Brian is convinced that she bobs her head at him to tell him the feeder is empty and needs filling and I think he is right, these are the same birds who ask for you to spray the hose for them on hot days so they can take a shower. What adaptive mechanism is at work where a little bird can figure out how to get a human’s attention like that?  Currently we are putting out fat balls, finely chopped peanuts, husked sunflower seeds, and assorted fine seed.


The bluetits are nesting and raising their babies, I can hear them cheeping in their box on the garage wall. The blackbirds too are on the hunt for food;  there are jackdaws off to the side in the neighbours’ chimneys. Greenfinches and goldfinches fly through from time to time; they dance in the tops of the silver birches trilling away, offering glimpses of their delicate feathers and making me catch my breath when I track them down.

Even when it has rained all day and the geraniums are collapsed on the path, resembling a  damp poodle’s top knot, sodden with water and formless, I console myself for our everchanging and unpredictable weather, because rain means insects hatching, and worms wriggling; all good quality high protein fresh food for the growing birds.

Borrowed Flowers

Psst.. wanna see some American Robin eggs and babies, head over to Ardys and take a peek!

41 thoughts on “Robin Redbreast Again

  1. Jeannette

    I so enjoyed reading this, it did my heart good! You write so well, Joanna, describing exactly what a robin is like in its habits and movements, they are fascinating to watch, aren’t they? And we need to look on the bright side at the moment because the weather is so depressing, when are we going to get any SUMMER, do you think?

    1. Joanna Post author

      I want to say, summer will arrive on the 1st of June and stay till the last day of September. There will be rain between 2 am and 4 am each night and the temperature will stay at a comfortable 21 C with a light breeze at all times except when I want to take a siesta in the garden. At which point in time, all biting insects will vanish, small dogs will be silent and no one will start up their lawn mower or a chain saw, the traffic will die down, and children will be engrossed in happy but silent pursuits, reading on rugs or playing co-operative games which don’t involve shrieking. Small cakes will appear on trays with cups of tea in bone china and lovely friends from around the country and indeed the world will just appear and plop themselves down on the warm dry soft grass for a chat. No one will need to wear sunblock either because the sun won’t burn. The birds will come down with their babies to the grass and introduce them. Zeb will not chase them…. So come over any time xxx

  2. Elaine

    I loved your post and the photos are fantastic – we too have a resident robin whom we cherish. We have a feeder in our lilac tree and love watching the birds coming down to feed. They have even managed (we think it is the blackbird) to lift the top off the feeder (even though Kevin clicks the latch closed) so that they can peck down into the food! We have seen far more birds this year – we think this is because our beloved Burmese is no longer around and our ‘moggie’ hardly ever goes out. We have seen goldfinches for the first time this year and I agree they are simply beautiful – flashed of red and yellow. I have tried to take a photo but alas I am too slow.
    love E

    1. Joanna Post author

      The goldfinches are hard to get. If you buy a special niger (fine black seed that they really like) feeder, and fill it up and hang it near the house – they might come to that. It is famous for attracting them. Clever blackbird lifting the latch off the feeder! Was thinking of you today and we must meet up soon !

      1. Elaine

        Thanks re the suggestion and will do – really would like to see them closer up. That is what we thought – at first Kevin thought he hadn’t put the latch down properly but seems that they are very smart birds! I agree we must – I will send some dates through and see if any are okay with you. Would be lovely to meet up. E

  3. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Loved this Jo, and as I started reading, I was wondering if it was the same little bird that was taking a shower under your hose spray! :) Such a lovely portrait – all plump and fluffed up to keep the warmth in and the rain out.. xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      I have my doubts that it is the same bird as looking at the photo (2010) she was very bedraggled there, but who knows, maybe one of her babies if not her. Hints of sunshine today and a small earthquake in North Wales. Glad you enjoyed the post darling xx

  4. Misky

    Good morning! You’ve put me in such a good mood this morning. Me with my cup of coffee, reading your post about nature and life and renewal … and I feel invigorated. And we have sunshine this morning, so the birds are singing. Life just doesn’t get much better for a simple woman (like me) than this. I wish you a lovely and happy morning, Joanna.

    1. Joanna Post author

      A lovely and happy morning to you too Misky, I will make a place on the rug for you and Molly too xx

  5. Pingback: ‘Love birds’ camp | ardysez

  6. hotlyspiced

    I just love red robins. They’re so beautiful yet sadly, we don’t have them here. I always associate them with Christmas with the bright red crests. xx

  7. Karin Anderson

    Reading your post my morning started on a happy note.
    I had robins and many other birds in my garden in Germany, too. One thing I miss most, living in Maine, is the complete absence of song birds. I always loved waking up to a chorus of singing birds, and, also, found it very comforting in times I were sad. Here we hear only a squawk or a caw no and then.

    1. Joanna Post author

      That is very sad to hear. I would miss the garden birds terribly Can you attract them by planting trees or shrubs? . I am glad you enjoyed the post Karin even so.

  8. Melanie

    Beautiful post Joanna! Your bluebird almost looks to have a certain expression on his face. I think he is trying to communicate something to you. I love your description, in a reply above, on how the perfect summer ‘ought’ to be. I would relish a day too, with only bird noise, and no music, screaming children, or motorcycle revving noises. I would be over to your backyard in a heartbeat to chat, while we sipped tea and ate biscuits. I love hearing how you describe your birds. I’m wondering if your goldfinches look like ours.
    Our robins are so tame here. They stand right by my husbands side, as he digs in the yard, begging for him to throw them all the grubs he finds. He tosses, they gobble, and then wait for more.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Our robins come to the hand if you are patient, or sit on the handle of your spade just like their American cousins. I think our goldfinches are different too, so confusing, same common names but different birds :)

      I was just indulging myself this morning, I only want a little quiet from time to time, I quite like hearing children playing usually :)

      1. Melanie

        Does your goldfinch have reddish-brown on its face, some brown on its body and just a little bit of yellow on its wings?

        1. Joanna Post author

          Yes, like this European Goldfinch do you have that sort or do you have this sort American Goldfinch ?

          I have photos somewhere, but I haven’t ‘tagged’ them if I come across them I will post one for you xx

          PPS I have a bird brain, here is a pic in the snow on a feeder in the garden that I found on the blog :)

          1. Melanie

            Oh, what a beautiful wintry picture!! We have the all yellow kind here. When hubby and I first started putting out feeders & watching birds, I was enthralled by the yellow guys. I swear I had never noticed them before in my whole life, and they were right in our neighborhood the whole time. It’s just hard to catch a glimpse of the goldfinches, unless you put out niger seed for them. Sorry, I wish I had a picture to show you of ours, but you know what they look like:)
            (They have very good ears, and whenever I try to approach for a picture they take off)

  9. heidiannie

    Robins are one of my favorite birds. We get whole flocks of them in the winter- flying through on their way somewhere- eating all the tiny crabapples left on the trees. And in the summer and spring they always have a worm half way to their mouth- the cardinals have nested right outside my bedroom window- so their early morning song wakes me at 5 AM most mornings. And the goldfinch in my backyard love the dandelion seeds- it is diverting watching them grab and land a stem and denude it is record time. Bird watching- a great time burner. :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      They are great fun, sounds as if you are a birdllover too :) Apart from being woken up at 5 am – a person could get s little fed up with that.

  10. themondaybaker

    I think that cute little robin has you both wrapped around her tiny wing! We have a mistlethrush family in our garden that are making short work of our snail population. I keep finding smashed snail shells on pretty much every hard surface in the garden! This wet weather is clearly good for snails, but better for thrushes…

    1. Joanna Post author

      That sounds perfect, wish I had a mistlethrush or two to munch up the snails ! I very rarely get thrushes and even more rarely sparrows. We have resident dunnock instead. Despite the rain the birds were queuing up to get in the birdbath/water dish today. Very,very busy out there :)

  11. Ann

    I’m so glad to be reading this – new laptop equipped with Windows 8 and I am slowly getting acquainted with it!
    Lots of birds in my garden – honeyeaters, wattle birds, doves, wagtails,magpies, ravens (which we all call crows) and in the summer parrots, lorikeets and the occasional flock of cockatoos. I once even had a pair of ducks land on my fish pond – luckily Spot didn’t see them!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Morning Ann, I get very envious reading about all your wonderful birds. Just their names sound exciting alone, I look them up sometimes and watch videos on YouTube and study their characteristics. You sound like you have masses – I followed a link in an earlier post of Ardys to pictures of clouds of wild budgies in central Australia, just amazing :)

  12. narf77

    We don’t have blue tits here but we do have robins. You would be forgiven for not recognising them from the U.K. robins however. Ours are black and red…heres a good image if you would like to see one (this is a Tasmanian robin, there are several kinds of robins living here in Australia and one that even has a pink chest…)

    We have weird and wonderful birds that come to our garden including HUGE black cockatoos and a solitary snow white ospray that makes every bird run for cover (including our hens!) when he decides to visit on the odd occasion he chooses to drop by.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I love those black and red Scarlet robins, so handsome, thankyou for the link! I would love to see your birds coming and going. We get osprey breeding in the UK but on very specific sites, like Bassenthwaite and Loch Garten. I watch them on webcams sometimex. I miss our birding days, we used to do s lot more pre havng the dogs, as they are not very good at sitting still and contemplating the landscape. I will post some more bird in the garden pics sometime soon. x Joanna

      1. narf77

        We have Grey Shrike Thrushes that come to our kitchen window sill for tiny cubes of cheese when the going gets tough and we also have tiny little blue wrens that come as well. They are MUCH bossier than the shrikes though! I have had a 1oz wren stand at the window glass while I was doing dishes and read me the riot act because there wasn’t any cheese when she came ;).

        Here’s what our shrikes look like

        And here are our wrens. The males are absolutely lovely but not anywhere near as glorious as the wrens in Western Australia where I originally came from…

        We do have some amazing birds here but I love to read about your birds through this blog – that if you aren’t aware of, you might like…

        Glad you enjoy birds like we do :)

        1. Joanna Post author

          Wow that blue wren is absolutely stunning!!! The entire birding community of the UK would stand on each others’ shoulders to see one of those. Maybe I should save up and go on a birding trip to Australasia one year, or learn to fly, (scratches between shoulder blades). I know our birds seem quite restrained and dowdy in comparison to yours but I am sure they have their reasons, maybe they have more predators here. Thanks for all the links, I have tidied them up so that they sit in the comments neatly x Joanna

          1. narf77

            Our birds are showoffs Joanna. They need to stand out in the crowd because everything eats everything else here ;). Most of them are larrkikins as well and so you can imagine the noise when a group of them get together. Where I came from in Western Australia we didn’t have starlings, blackbirds or sparrows introduced and they police the borders to keep them out (not hard with a great wodge of desert in between W.A. and the other states…) but I was SO happy to meet them when we moved here. I love blackbirds. They are the cleverest birds in the world. I remember watching them watching me when we lived in town. They would sit on the fence and peer inside when they wanted something to eat. Incredibly clever. They are less motivated out here as there is plenty of fodder on our 4 acres to keep them interested. I learned from Finn (that website I sent in my last comment) that they love apple slices. Tasmania is also known as “The Apple Isle”. I wouldn’t want to be an orchardist with those clever buggers around! ;)

            1. Joanna Post author

              How do they keep the birds out? Do they shoot them? I remember watching a film about the Cane Toad.. I am glad you have apple muching blackbirds to keep you company. They have the most beautiful song, in fact one is singing away in the garden right now.

  13. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen

    I soooo love seeing little birds in my yard! I have a few little squirrels who are on a mission to steal all of my bird seed so I’m still trying to fool them! I love your little robins.. how very cool they get you to run the hose, I’ve never heard of that? I think you’ve got special robins:) xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      I was reading up about the robin this morning and one site suggested that they used to follow wild boars out foraging and snuffling around for roots and then they would grab the worms that the boars tossed up into the light, and now they’ve switched to us instead as we do much the same thing in our gardens. As far as the robin is concerned I am just a wild boar (hee hee). The hose thing was very strange though, I couldn’t quite believe it at the time, but they are smart and observant little birds.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you! That is very kind of you and you might be right about your feeling but I am always incredibly touched that people do this and I appreciate it, particularly from such a fantastic and enthusiastic baker as you xx Joanna

  14. michaelawah

    Such a sweet post. Even though I’m no bird lover, and even less of a connoisseur. Enjoyed your writing and glad your garden and nature bring you such joy :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thankyou Michael, I try not to do too many bird posts but this is the fun time of year, with babies flying around and lots of activity. By August they are all away somewhere changing their feathers or gone to the Costa Brava on their holidays. By the way, (this is your kefir conscience speaking now… ) I nursed a couple more kefir loaves yesterday, I rigged up a plastic box with a heatpad meant for sore backs under it, and they proved much more quickly. Brian keeps munching that raisin bread so I am condemned to make it for all eternity…

  15. bakecakecrumbs

    I do love your cheery robin, my mum quite often used to have a robin visit her when she was working in the garden, I guess he was after the worms in the freshly turned soil. I’m not very good at identifying the birds I see at all, but get excited when I see something I recognise but don’t see very often such as thrushes or jays. Plenty of blackbirds and magpies round here.

    1. Joanna Post author

      They do bring good cheer and lift your spirits, I think it might be just the fact that they like to spend time with us, knowing that we are a friendly source of food. Identifying birds is fun, look first at the size and compare to something you know, like a robin or a blackbird. Then look at the shape,, the way it hops or flies, and if you can, look at the head shape and colour, the chest colour and if there are colours try and remember where they are. Wresn are small and have stuck up tails and fly in short flights and then cluck loudly in the undergrowth, Finches tend to sti high up on TV aeriels or tops of trees and sing, tits do that hanging upside down thing on ends of branches, the longtailed tits fly around in gangs. House sparrows tend to sit in hedges and cheep a lot. House martins nest under eaves of houses and make nests out of mud which you can often see. You can find out about what birds you are more likely to see near where you live on the net these days, so many local groups. They like gardens where there are hedges and dense shrubs or trees to hide in. We got very few birds here when the garden plants were small and new and get more now tihe garden has matured a bit. Feeders and a birdbath and a lack of cats are also good! YouTube is stuffed with videos too xx

  16. michaelawah

    …and my kefir conscience is duly pricked :)) What a set-up you’ve got for them, heating pad and lid!!! Lucky cosseted lot, mine would sue for neglect. I don’t blame Brian for the muchiness. That bread was good, even more so with giant raisins surely. (btw, my name is Wee. It’s my fault, i know, i never sign off.)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Nice to meet you Wee! The last one I did ended up with the raisins all up one end, very mysterious, hiding from the everadvancing bread knife possibly ? ;)

Comments are closed.