Robbie is a Player

And loading the genetic dice. I ran across an article about robin migration and it turns out that some robins, usually males, decide not to fly south. It seems to me that Robbie is a little far north but it explains what he’s doing here in the middle of winter. The early male gets the females.

Robbie will be here when spring arrives ahead of the competition that headed south. He’ll have the pick of territories and when the girls get here, he’ll be singing and ready with the best nesting site. If he continues to come for meal worms, he’ll be sleek and handsome. Natural selection chooses the biggest and best looking a lot of the time. Robbie has a jump (pun intended) on the choice of mates and has the best chance of passing his genes to the next generation.

Gary says we could be interfering in evolution by feeding Robbie. However, he didn’t show up until it was very cold, -35 C and he’d made it on his own that far. I prefer to think that it shows a superior intellect and that Robbie will pass his “smart” genes to his offspring.

Robbie is smart. He arrives for his worms once the day has warmed up a bit and he sits where we see him, looking for us through the front window. When he doesn’t, Gary whistles for him and he appears from the middle of the fir tree. Then he might stay for a bit to be polite; more often he flies off and returns for lunch. We don’t know where he spends the rest of his day but it’s good to shy away from feral cats, returning hawks, and other dangers.

About the end of March or beginning of April, we expect Robbie will have moved on. There’ll be plenty of food and with any luck he’ll be a husband and a dad. May his days as a player pay off.

Robbie Goes Missing…

Tuesday morning and no Robbie. Where was the little guy? There are so many dangers for a wayward robin. Could he have found another robin and stayed with her for company? That was a best case scenario and then the resident pessimist thought for too long and decided it was likely Robbie had flown into a window, by mistake. Gary was able to create some gory images for me. Robbie lying in the snow with his little neck at an impossible angle. blood oozing from his brave beak. It’s surprising how attached we were to the tough winter robin.

Robbie didn’t show Tuesday but yesterday he was back, staring through the window at us as though to say, “Where’s my breakfast?” We were quick to feed him but had to use mostly earthworms. Our Robbie is a bit of a gourmet and prefers meal worms. He ate the earthworms but not with the same relish he gobbles down the more palatable fare. Gary got him fresh meal worms yesterday and today is going to see if we can get him King worms. They’re much like the meal worms but come with more to a container. Fingers crossed Robbie will like them.

I was interrupted partway through this post by Robbie’s arrival. He sat in the mountain ash tree for a bit and then when he moved to the ornamental plum, I knew it was time. The new meal worms are strong and they squirmed in my hand straight from the fridge. How many should Robbie get? He’s been in the cold all night so I dole out 9. Before I can get back into the house he has wolfed them down and left.

Robbie’s new routine, now that he’s stronger, seems to be to drop in for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Then he flies off to do more interesting Robin stuff. I don’t mind. I’m glad he’s no longer missing and hope to see him about noon. He’s a lovable diversion in a prairie winter.

Robbie- A Little Winter Drama…

It was too early for Robbie so we went for our walk and on the way back went to the local “all toys water, snow and land” business and bought him some fresh meal worms. $5.98 and worth every penny.

Robbie arrived about 11:00 and sat in the planter, eating snow. We hurried to warm up the cutting board and get him 7 worms. Robbie sat and looked at them and then the worms froze…Robbie flew off. We were upset. Had he found other people with better food? He seemed energetic so we consoled ourselves with that.

Then about 12:40, Robbie was back. I heated his board well, held seven meal worms in my hand until they warmed up to squirm, and then I took them out to the robin. O, NO. I thought I was too clumsy or got too close. Robbie flew away into a tree.

Ha! Not to worry, by the time I’d walked around the house to come in the back, Robbie had consumed 4 of the worms. Then in a more leisurely manner, he ate the others. You can see the last worm in front of him in the picture. I think he knows where to come. It’s just a miserable wind again so if he has a warmer place to wait it out, I’m okay with that.

Robbie is tough. In another blog, I wrote about a prairie jack rabbit who visits our front yard late at night or very early in the morning, depending how you look at it. He came around last night. Alas, I wasn’t at the window to see him but he left tracks. He checks the yard and I hope sometimes finds something to eat.

And this is likely the last Robbie blog unless there is something to really talk about like he meets the rabbit. But how, when they come at intervals 12 hours apart? Stay warm.

Robbie 2.0 – Day 2

He made it! Low of -36C , that’s -33F, and the tough little guy appeared around 9:00 this morning. Robbie sat on the edge of the flower pot, feathers puffed out, and looking miserable. But he made it through the night.

As soon as I saw him, I got his food ready. It’s a bit of a production (which I figured out yesterday) and kind of gross. First warm up the cutting board so the worms don’t freeze immediately. Then get the earthworm, that although it’s only a segmented worm, doesn’t enjoy being sliced into segments. Whatever is in their medium, gave the victim actual red blood. Ugh. But I sacrificed him because Robbie, Robbie was hungry.

I took the worm pieces outside on the pre-heated board but alas, Robbie wasn’t ready to eat. He was just too cold. The worm bits froze solid. My husband said he had to warm up more (this in -30 temperatures with a wicked wind) so we left and so did Robbie, up into the big fir tree.

We went for our morning walk on the indoor track and when we got back, Robbie had been down and tried to eat the earthworm bits but the were frozen solid and stuck to the cutting board.

Gary warmed up himself and by the time he had Robbie’s meal worms and thawed earthworm bits ready, the robin had flown back into the fir tree. When Gary whisteled for Robbie, there was no answer, (Already, my husband thinks they have a special relationship.) And maybe they do because by the time Gary had his coat off, the robin was back. He gobbled a meal worm or two, and then turned to the earthworm pieces. Robbie ate most of them, too. Now he’s back in the fir tree, trying to keep warm.

Admiration for you, Robbie. You’re back and a survivor. We’ll see you though this frigid cold.

Fiction Friday – Not a Good Day

I wrote this flash fiction a while ago and it appeared in The Fieldstone Review which is the University of Saskatoon publication. 

Calvin Harrison turned down the dirt road and braked.  He listened to the throb of the big diesel and sighed.   He was going to miss his new truck. It made him feel like someone else—not the friendly neighbourhood pharmacist, not the hen-pecked husband and definitely not the doting father.  Someone you saw in commercials—a little taller and straighter.  Someone with flinty blue eyes, whose tight Wranglers bulged a little bigger.

He didn’t mind the doting father image.  He and Natalie had had one of those perfect relationships where they laughed at each other’s jokes and knew what the other was thinking.  He’d spoiled her and if he had it to do again, he’d spoil her worse.  No regrets.

Pale light fingered the horizon and touched the clouds that had gathered to greet the sun with pink gold.  Mim would have a name for the colour, something from the new palette of paints at Home Depot.  Pink Desire, Reef Rose, Peach Parfait, Pink Abalone.  Mim—so tied in to things that didn’t matter.  She’d be happy choosing the new colour for the walls and happy while she squabbled with the painters.  Almost before the paint dried, she’d start getting restless again.  It was the same with her hair.  Cal had loved her shiny blonde mane.  She could have modeled for l’Oreal or Clairol.  God knows she used enough of their products over the years.  He never knew what the tint of the week would be.  Wild Irish Red, Mahogany Fire, Ebony Ice.  Then there was the chunking and streaking.  Mim said no one had a natural hair colour any more.  When Cal tried to summon up the shade her hair had been when he met her, he couldn’t.  He was living with a stranger.  Sometimes he watched her when she wasn’t looking and by narrowing his eyes and squinting tried to conjure the image of the girl he had married.  Occasionally, he thought he caught a fleeting resemblance.

The horizon burned gold fire now where the sun began its shallow ascent into the fall sky.  The clouds radiated gilt light.  The air was still.

It was as good a day as any, Calvin thought.

He would have liked to take Mollie for a last walk but it wouldn’t have been fair to the little mongrel. He couldn’t leave her in the truck even though someone would find her…just like they were going to find him.

Light raced across the hilltops, casting the hollows into shadow and outlining the dark limbs of aspen trees with tinsel trim.  Time was getting short.  His father used to say, no time like the present.  Already the siren of lethargy threatened to mire him in inaction

He lifted the shotgun from the truck seat.  Its double barrel glinted in the early light and the handle felt cold.  The acrid scent of gun oil hung in the air and there was a sharp snap as Cal broke the gun to load it.  He slid two magnum shells into place and there was a quiet snick as he closed the breech.  Magnums…he would only need the first one but he didn’t want any mistakes.

He tried not to think about Jim Craddock who botched the job and actually needed the second shell.  He must have lost his nerve at the last minute and only his jaw had been blown away. He’d staggered around his game room splattering blood and howling in outrage.   Then he finished what he had started.

Cal killed the truck’s engine.  He wasn’t about to destroy the interior.  Maybe Mim would get a decent price for it after…even with its unfortunate history.  He climbed out and closed the door quietly.  No need to slam it; the truck wasn’t yet a year old.  A breeze sprang up and carried the spicy fall air up the hill to Cal.  When he looked out across the valley, he saw a doe standing next to a stand of willows.  She had seen him and was testing the air cautiously but it was another month until hunting season opened and she was more curious than scared. He watched her for a minute.  A yearling stepped into the clearing and Cal could see it was sleek and healthy.

When he started down the slope the white-tails turned to step delicately into the bushes.  Cal headed west.  There was a small lake…the locals called it Schubert’s after an early settler—and at this time of the morning, the bright yellow leaves of the poplars would reflect perfectly from its cobalt depths.  Those same poplars protected it from errant puffs of air and it made a picture perfect enough for a calendar.

Cal stood for a couple of minutes.  Maybe if things were different between him and his wife…… but they weren’t.  Maybe if Tallie…but he couldn’t think of her; he just couldn’t.

Minutes later the shot gun blast sent the doe and yearling deeper into the bush, their white flags flashing once as they disappeared.  On the hilltop, Cal’s Dodge waited in splendor, silhouetted against a cerulean sky that promised early snow.

The silence was absolute.  Then the breeze brushed dried grass blades against each other.  Aspen leaves like gold foil coins rattled in the bushes.  A crow flew up and landed at the top of a tree, cawing raucously.

Cal emerged from the western woods.  He was a dark shadow against their colour and it was him the crow was scolding.  He held the shotgun gingerly and broke it to remove the remaining shell.

“Damn it, shut up,” he muttered.  The crow cocked its head as though listening.  “It’s just not a good day to die.”

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October Arrives

Today is the first day of October. It is the month often associated with fall but this year, fall arrived in September. We’ve already had snow and hard frosts.IMG_3748 (2).jpg

I took this picture of the Battle River Valley when I thought the leaves were at their most colourful. Now there are stands of aspen which have lost their leaves. When you drive through the countryside, the colours are there but they are not as spectacular as they were.

This morning on my dog walk, the geese filled the air. They were flying south east from where they had fed earlier. Their honking and calling reverberated. It is eerie to hear and humbling to think how they cooperate in the flight and how they are getting ready for their migration south.

In our yard, all kinds of birds have come to gorge at the feeder. They are battling the colder temperatures and getting ready for winter. There have been chick-a-dees, sparrows, two kinds of native sparrows, nuthatches, warblers, juncos, and a small downy woodpecker. The blue jays are the bold birds that screech at my husband to bring out the peanuts.

We’re still on daylight saving time and sunrise is getting later and later. The twilight lingers but not for long. The shadows are somehow thinner and more slanted. The wind bears traces of ice.

October days can be bright and crisp. The water in ponds has a cobalt blue not seen in other months. The clouds no longer gather and expand at the horizon but instead move in carrying the promise of precipitation. The land settles in, getting ready for the coming winter.

Welcome, October. I hope for sunny autumn days that carry a hint of the summer gone by.

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A Therapeutic Walk in the Snow

I can’t lie. When the snow fell and then accumulated yesterday, I was bummed. After all, the calendar said that yesterday was the last day of summer. Since August 25th, it’s mostly been cool and dreary. I did feel sorry for myself…

And then, came the news out of Ottawa and Gatineau. Not one but two tornadoes, the first an EF-2 strength, with winds to 220 km/h, and then a second an EF-3, with winds to 265 km/h struck. Pictures and video are terrifying and show mass devastation- houses, buildings, trees, cars, reduced to sticks and twisted metal. Some areas are unrecognizable. If there is one silver lining to this storm cloud, no one died, as far as can be determined.

Here, on the prairies, the snow is a lot more than an inconvenience and something for me to whine about. As farmers look across fields with crops, swaths, and a year’s work, they wonder if anything can be salvaged. Grades of the grain decrease as each snowy, wet day passes and the second danger is that crops in swaths will begin to sprout. Even with perfect, unseasonably, warm weather, it is going to take weeks for grain to dry enough to harvest. A slower kind of devastation.

Dogs don’t really understand weather and so this morning, snow was no excuse, we headed out on our normal route.

The snow on the trees is pretty and after a while, I felt better about the weather. It was chilly but tomorrow is supposed to warm up. As we walked along, little sparrows darted among the branches, twittering to one another. My Scruffy, who has no teeth and weighs 10 pounds, charged a timid, Border Collie-cross, and chased her. Tazzie, the Jack Russell, made several new friends, humans, of course.

When we were close to home, a young fellow, ten or eleven years old met us.

“Can I pet your dogs?”

Of course, Taz was delighted to be introduced to a new friend and then the boy said, “How do you like your weekend off from school?”

Ha! I must have acted as a supply teacher for his class one day. I replied that I wasn’t happy with the snow.

“I know. Yesterday we went to Lloyd,” he said. “And Mom bought me these mitts and toque at Walmart.”

Then he said, “Enjoy your weekend.”

Perspective is everything. A simple walk through the trees, a meeting with a young boy, and an adventure with a Border Collie. The air is fresh, I wasn’t cold and I’m pretty sure breathing it, stimulates the release of endorphins. I’m not bummed now. And I can appreciate it’s just another phase of Alberta weather.

I do hope there is a stretch of mild temperatures so crops can be harvested.

IMG_2585 Do you think my begonias are going to survive? 😀