If you are a gardener you will, at some point, have had an encounter with a robin. As we weed or dig, it is often the robin who is the species that seems to connect most with us. They associate us with food. As we turn over the soil, we disturb worms and invertebrates that they take advantage of. That little cocked head, beady eye and boldness means that they have been a popular species with all. Robins seem to be the most trusting of species; way more than all of the others I encounter.
My contact with Colin began at the beginning of April. Spending more time in my garden, he would start landing really close to me, often singing really quietly. I found myself talking to him and being delighted in his proximity and apparent friendliness. Every morning, when I restocked my feeding platform that live streams, he would alight on the table as I was filling it. When I weeded , he was there, just a few cm from me. I absolutely loved having him around and it was not long before I was looking out for him as soon as I went into the garden.
Obviously, I started to offer him little bits of food.. suet pellets were his favourite, but our friendship was sealed with the purchase of mealworms. With these, and some patience, he was soon feeding very close to me and would then dash in to take them from my hand. The first time he did it, my heart soared. It was so special!
I started to film and photograph him on my phone. Using the slow motion option , I was able to really appreciate how agile and stunning he was in flight.
I started to tweet about #ColinRobin and was amazed at the response. It seems that everyone loves a robin and this little chap was a right character. Over the coming weeks, he was my almost constant companion. As soon as I turned on the kitchen light in the morning, when I put the kettle on, he would alight on the perch outside the window. I would open the window and he would land on the frame and take breakfast from my hand.
When I left for my run, he would land on the railings and I would feel obliged to go and get the mealworms to offer him a snack before I left. On my return , he was there again. ... and so it went on.
Of course, he became bolder and bolder. He would follow me around the garden...
I began to use my DLSR and he would readily perch on anything I put out. I started to get some amazing photos as he was so photogenic and so obliging. I spoke to him constantly, explaining what we were going to do and tapping on the point I wanted him to perch. More often than not he would alight on my camera or in the wrong place, but would only get rewarded when he perched where I wanted him to.
He seemed to understand and was quite easy to 'train'. If I wasn't quick enough getting into position, he would steal the mealworm from my fingers before I was ready. He sometimes ate them himself, but more often, he disappeared off, across the lane, to feed his brood I presumed.
If I was in the garden and I did not pay him any attention, or get the food out, he would fly right across my path, his feathers sometimes brushing across my cheek. He would fly in front of me, landing on branches just a few cm from my face. He was difficult to ignore.
I looked forward to his presence and loved my time spent with him.
His popularity on Twitter was growing, with more and more lovely comments coming in from people enjoying his antics and my images of him. I started to get more creative and play around with a variety of images that showed him in different locations and in different light. he was a perfect subject and I was loving time with my camera in the garden. It is something I rarely have time to do in normal times. I was delighted with the images I was getting...
I even tried some more novel shots to celebrate VE day!
Always in the back of my mind, I was thinking that I had to make the most of my time with him and the lovely weather we were having. I felt that, once his brood had fledged, he would be less likely to be taking advantage of all the easy food I was providing. I wanted to make the most of my time with him.
One morning he wasn't there. I turned on the kitchen light and put on the kettle. He was usually there within a minute. He didn't appear. I went outside. Standing with the mealworms in my hand, I have to admit, I felt a rising feeling of anxiety... where was he? I walked down the path, expecting him to alight on the railings, as he had done for the last two weeks. Nothing.
I haven't seen Colin now for over a week. I have to say, he has left a large robin-shaped hole in my heart. I hadn't really appreciated quite how important he had become in my day, until he was not there any longer.
I have had many messages from others who have had similar experiences. For some, their robin disappeared for weeks, and then reappeared. I really hope that this will be the case with Colin. Maybe Colin was, in fact, Colleen and is now on her next brood. May be he has been pushed out by the numerous other pairs of robins I have here in the garden. I will never know for sure. But what I do know, is that he provided me with a very special wildlife encounter and one which I will never forget.
Ironically, his biggest moment came when he hit the front page of the Times at the end of last week!
I am thinking of putting together his best shots in a little book and I may be producing some cards in the near future.
It will be quite a while before I am out in the garden and I am not looking out for this special little chap who gave me so much pleasure in lock-down! Thank you Colin! :)