Several weeks ago I noticed that a particular robin would pop up in my feed shed almost every time I was in it. At that time it would hop around and flit from one point to another whilst appearing to be curious about what was going on. For a wild bird it was quite fearless, in that, it would come within a yard of me in, what is, a fairly closed in environment. I began putting odd bits of food down for it and soon we had a regular cycle going on.
I feed my animals twice a day and, therefore, open up the feed shed at regular times in order to do so. The robin usually arrives a few minutes after me and has got used to eating whatever I dropped on the floor for it. This progressed until the little bird would fly into the shed and sit quite near to me, clearly, waiting for food. I began whistling to it in, what can only be described,as a most un-robin like way. None the less my robin was clearly intrigued by the noise I was making as it would cock its head to one side in, what I took to be, a listening pose. One day, as a result of pouring rain, I put my usual offering to the bird on the base of an upturned plastic tub inside the shed. He quickly realised what was going on and began feeding.
This has now progressed to a daily ritual, but now the robin sings to me. Upon arrival it sits on the afore mentioned tub and makes a delightful little twittering noise. This is nothing like the normal robin calls which, for the most part, are quite loud and fairly penetrating. The little chap sits making these noises and cocking its head from side to side watching my every move. I respond by getting some bread,which I keep for the purpose, from a polythene bag. I break it up into small crumbs and scatter it on to the bin. Whilst this is going on the robin will fly to a spot a few feet away and wait until I have moved back and then it will feed. This has now been going on for about couple of months each day repeating the routine. The robin and I have now progressed to a situation where it will come within about a foot of my hands whilst I am breaking up the bread. As soon as I move back it will feed happily and allow me to remain within a foot or eighteen inches of it. Any sudden movements and it will fly a short distance away, but, within a couple of minutes it will resume feeding again.
I am of the belief that the twittering noise is to get my attention and, perhaps, as near as it gets to a request to be fed. It would appear progress and the birds confidence seem to build in weekly stages. Each passing week there is a willingness on the robins part to allow me closer to it. Yesterday it came within six inches of my hand. I have no idea if the little bird is male or female, I wonder if it is female, as in the last few days it’s visits are not quite as regular and seem to be only once a day rather than the normal twice.Perhaps it is sitting on eggs somewhere in the garden. Each year we have been here we have had, at least,one brood of baby robins. Some years two.In addition to all of the above I now have two more adult robins which appear at the feed shed. Not yet on a regular daily basis but several times a week. Word is obviously getting around that food is available. I must say, it is a great delight to be able to get so close to a wild bird and to gain its trust and I eagerly await the arrival of my little robin at each feed time.
All of this stirred a memory in the old grey matter as I recalled that my grandmother had a tame robin when I was a child. She at the time was living in the last cottage along the Straits, the house farthest from where I lived in Rose cottage. I don’t recall the details of how granny’s robin became tame or how long the process took. However, granny’s little bird would actually come and feed from her hand. She would take a chair into the garden, just outside the back door, and sit there motionless with food in her outstretched hand and the bird would fly down. It perched on her hand and would remain until it had enough food. It was, if you like, granny’s party piece.
So, I am hoping to be able to achieve the same result with my robin and each day appears to be a step in the right direction. I, of course, have no idea if I will actually achieve the hand feeding but I will keep you posted.
Just an update on the wild rabbits which I wrote about previously, they are alive and well. Apart from the odd sighting in my field, I found masses of rabbit tracks in the recent snow. Actually, many of the tracks came right up into the garden and I could see much activity in the earth mound behind the polytunnel which they seem to have colonised.