Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

May 4, 2012

My Little Friend(s)

Three years ago is when I first really took notice to the American Robin. Sure, I've seen and watched them ever since I was a kid. In school we were always taught that the Robin is the first sign of Spring. In 1958 "Rockin' Robin" was a chart topper recorded by Bobby Day and covered so many times by so many people including Micheal Jackson and The Muppets.

I guess seeing them all my life, I just blended them in with the natural scenery, like being a part of the lawn. You know, nothing too exciting.

"New Season - American Robin" by Canadian artist Robert Bateman

But one day 3 Springs ago this Robin showed up in my yard. And with my ever growing passion for birds and awareness to them all, I got thinking about this Robin on a very cold Spring morning. What do Robins eat? Fruit and insects. I have bird seed and peanuts in my feeders. What could I possibly offer this Robin to help him continue his existence through some very cold wet Spring days when fruit and insects are lacking?

I have a natural food supply of Holly, Raspberry, Blueberry and Viburnum (Cardinal Candy) shrubs which unfortunately had been picked clean by many critters through the earlier part of the winter. So what now? Dried meal worms is what we came up with through the help of our friends Jim and Lynda at Wild Birds Unlimited in Etobicoke. And each day I would set out a small pile of the mealworms in the same spot for the Robin. It didn't take very long for the Robin to figure out that I was a bringer of food and this one spot near our swing set was where he could find food pretty much daily until the ground thawed, the insects came out, and worms surfaced (it was going to be some while longer before any berries showed up). And we continued this right through until early June when he disappeared.

Occasionally I did see a Robin through the summer at the bird bath, or hunting in the garden, and I wondered if it was him? He never came to the feeding spot and the mealworms would disappear overnight by some other creature.

Summer turned to Autumn, Autumn turned to Winter and the Robin was long gone.

Moving ahead now to the next Spring, I am outside one morning in March and suddenly there is a Robin above me making quite a bit of noise. I just knew it was my friend returning. How could it not be? He was right above me and I just happened to be around the swing area cleaning up. I had already purchased some dried mealworms a few weeks earlier so no time was wasted in setting some out for him. And he went right for them. This time allowing me a much closer and longer viewing of him. Once again this carried on all through the Spring. And we were rewarded through the Summer months with more regular visits from him, a female, and later on in the summer with some young Robins.

And once again, as Autumn arrived, it wasn't long before he and the others left us.

Here we are again, another Spring, and guess what? My little friend returned once again, and so did his lady. The mealworms have been set out many times again, but now in two spots, because while they are mates, there still is a bit of a need to feed, and both birds are quite hungry at this time of year when the natural food supply is certainly lacking... and squabbles occur, with a "survival of the fittest" or the loudest taking place, allowing the winner to feed first.

Only, for some reason this Spring, the European Starlings started to notice the feeding spots and it turns out they have a liking to the dried mealworms as well. Starlings are aggressive birds especially in large flocks. So there is not much the Robins can do when 12 or more Starlings come in and chase them away. I know the Starlings got to eat as well but it pissed me off some. I was now standing guard while the Robins fed. Pretty cool that I now have this bond of sorts with these Robins. There was a trust between us... at least I'd like to think so. The Starlings would sit in the trees above and watch while I set out the mealworms, to which the Robins would run in and eat in peace with me standing ten feet away.

It's been a cold wet Spring, especially through April. And somewhere along the way between Angie and I, we had figured on tossing berries out to the Robins. I guess it started with old blueberries in their feeding spots and the Robins enjoyed greatly while the Starlings had little interest. One rainy day, me not wanting to go outside, I tossed a blueberry from the back door to the male Robin. He ran away at first, unsure what I had thrown at him; only to turn around soon after and investigate. Upon realizing what it was, he gulped it down quick; and now a new form of feeding had been introduced. A game of sorts as we toss the blueberries out in small handfuls and he would chase after them like a puppy after his ball. He'd scoop up the berry and run off with it to a safer eating spot. It took a while longer with the female, she showed up weeks later than him. But now both enjoy the berry feeding, and we enjoy watching the show of them chasing, catching, running off, and eating them elsewhere.

Oh boy! A Blueberry!

Sometimes they go down in one big gulp, or at least they try to.

Other times they pierce the berry, pull the skin open and eat the insides first.

This is my favorite shot. Looks like a clown nose, if only the berry was a red kind.

This is from last summer. A young Robin, offspring of my friends I am betting. And you can see the effects of all the berries on his throat being purple-ish.

Thanks for viewing. I hope the berry feeding catches on with some of you, even if you don't have bird feeders. Most of us see Robins on our lawns and in the early months of Spring, these birds would greatly appreciate the little help from us to keep going day to day. Angie's boss and his wife have caught on and enjoy the show with their Robins nowadays. Who is next?


Angie in TO said...
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Angie in TO said...

It's been fun to watch this relationship develop. They have you so well trained. ;)