- The North wind doth blow And we shall have snow And what will poor robin do then Poor thing? He’ll sit in a barn And keep himself warm And hide his head under his wing Poor thing.
He never leaves – maybe hides away for a day or two, probably finding better fare in another garden and then he’s back: my little robin.
Usually we meet in his world…as he explores newly turned soil…or roots through freshly mown grass…but today he flew into mine…following me from the garden through the patio doors. Initially he seemed surprised at this new indoor world, maybe even a little panicked as he flitted back and forth close to the ceiling. But he soon calmed and landed atop the door…viewing the strange surroundings ….preparing to explore this new “room”scape.
At this time of the year of course he is as my gardening aficionado, Diarmuid Gavin (Irish Ind 31/12/2017) says, one of the special symbols of the festive season…. quite the celebrity, with portraits emblazoned across Christmas cards, calendars and gift wrap and effigies of them balanced on Christmas trees”.
The robin’s presence is not by chance at this time of year. Christian folklore tells the tale of how a little robin flew to comfort a dying Jesus. A thorn from Jesus’s crown pierced the robin and hence his distinctive orange-red face, throat and breast. I told this story many times to many children over the years.
Another gem of wisdom from Mr Gavin tells that in Victorian times, the first postmen who delivered plenty of seasonal greetings were known as “Robins” due to their distinctive red w
My garden companion, in winter or summer, I have only to take a walk to the end of the garden and pull a weed or two and he’s there beside me, waiting to see what spoils I’ve unearthed. He hops about excitedly anticipating some juicy earthworms and any other delicious insects that might be unearthed. I certainly don’t consider myself a gardener but I do enjoy encouraging this little fellow to join me whenever possible.
Slugs and snails are my No. 1 enemy but Robin love to hoover these up. So why not encourage birds into your garden? Food, water and shelter are their basic needs and it costs little to provide a food sources all year round. Plants with berries will provide sustenance over the hard winter months. It’s a relationship that benefits the plant as well – the birds will digest the flesh of the berry and excrete the seed elsewhere, assisting with dispersal. This is obviously how my second hawthorn appeared.
Native plants such as ivy are rich in berries midwinter. Haws from the hawthorn can remain on the tree right through to March. Bruised apples from the fruit bowl can be thrown into the garden rather than the compost bin and will be devoured by birds.
The robin redbreast is one of the few birds who can still be heard singing away in midwinter. How wonderful to find a book for my grandson illustrating in picture and sound the songs of six of Ireland’s songbirds- his dad was great to encourage bird life into this and his own garden.
So they should have some fun watching for “little robin redbreast” and listening for his distinctive song.
December has been very cold, temperatures falling into the minuses. So it’s important to provide food and water for robins and other birdlife.
It is very easy to make your own feeder and can be a fun project to do with your kids. Just get an old plastic bottle or milk carton, wash it out and cut a hole in the side which will give access to the seeds. Pierce a few drainage holes in the bottom, fill with bird seed and hang with wire or string from a tree branch.
You can buy seed mixtures and bird cakes or make your own using sunflower seeds, peanut granules (not roasted or salted), flaked maize, uncooked porridge oats, grated cheese and soft fruit. And always leave out some water as it can be particularly difficult for birds to source when ponds are frozen over.