Little Robin redbreast may look cheery but I’m sure it was feeling the icy easterly chill as much as I was today, judging by its fluffed-up feathers.
I felt guilty during yesterday’s meander around Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, my first there for a couple of weeks, as I’d gone without my backpack and so wasn’t carrying my usual small supply of bird seed. After the cooler temperatures of recent nights and the absence now of many insect species, the birds are already looking to passing humans for supplementary supplies. This Robin wasn’t the only little bird looking disappointed.
One of the things that makes this time of year special is all the young birds that are about, newly fledged but still clad in their teenage threads; learning to fend for themselves but still squawking at their parents for handouts; finding their way in the world, as this young Robin was yesterday.
In the world of social media, reaching 500 followers means I’m very small fry as a blogger but, to me personally, it’s a huge deal, and I just want to say a sincere ‘thank you’ to you all for supporting my attempts to share the beauty, the fascination, the mystery of the natural world around us. Your follows, likes and comments are all very much appreciated. Diolch!
By ‘Round Robin’, I mean a Robin (bird) that looks round because it’s fluffed up all its feathers to increase trapped air to keep itself warm, as opposed to round-robin, a tournament where each contestant competes with every other contestant (rather than a knockout competition, where contestants get eliminated in stages, in, for example, a series of quarter- and semi-finals). And then I wondered if the two robins were somehow related but it turns out they’re not. According to Wikipedia, in round-robin the competition the word robin is a corruption of the French term ruban, which means ribbon, though, if you’re a word nut like me, you might like to check out The Phrase Finder website, which has even more interesting information about the origin of the term.
I consider this my best photo of 2020, partly for technical reasons – it’s sharp, the bird is looking at me, the background and composition are pleasing, but also because I caught this gorgeous wee Robin in a ‘between’ state, as it transitions from juvenile to adult, its head still showing the mottled beige and browns of its chick feathers but the first of its adult red breast feathers already present. And so this photo also seems appropriate for New Year’s Eve, as we humans transition from one calendar year to the next.
It’s that time of year when the Robins fluff up their feathers and sing.
The facts, that the feather-fluffing is to keep them warm and the singing is part of what can be quite aggressive behaviour to establish winter territories, are completely lost on most humans, who are simply beguiled by their cuteness … as I was by this songster.
As the song goes …
‘When the red, red robin comes bob, bob, bobbin’ along, along
There’ll be no more sobbin’ when he starts throbbin’ his old sweet song….’
~ Harry Woods, ‘When the red red robin comes bob bob bobbin’ along’, 1926
Woods was writing about an American Robin (Turdus migratorius), which is a very different bird from the British Robin (Erithacus rubecula), but the bobbing still applies. And this juvenile Robin, which is just moulting into its adult plumage, was bobbing very well for me during yesterday’s exercise walk.
This juvenile Robin was hopping along the path in front of me yesterday, busily searching for snacks, staying a few hops ahead but not too concerned about the much larger ‘wildlife’ behind it.
Its mottled brown colouring helped to camouflage it while it was still in the nest and continues to protect it now that it’s out foraging on its own. It almost ‘disappeared’ completely when it eventually ducked into the bushes alongside the path, though I could still see its beady eye watching me.
Juvenile Robins don’t get their distinctive red breast feathers until they’re a few months old and undergo their first moult. By that time, hopefully, they’ll be ready to fight off or rapidly flee from the territorial disputes their adult colouring might prompt.