Our winter robin, Robbie, is frisky and fit. He arrives for worms earlier and earlier. It was 7:30 this morning and when a second robin showed up, my husband was excited enough to cause himself a near cardiac incident.
Robbie has been coming since mid-January when an old-fashioned cold snap hit Alberta. He was weak and surviving on rock hard, frozen crabapples. The worms we provided were a bonanza and he didn’t forget. Soon a routine was established where he came to the mountain ash tree in the front yard and stared at us through the window. He answers Gary’s whistle and since I can’t whistle (never mind), I talk to him. Robbie does know us and trusts that he can swoop down close to get his meal.
Recently, he comes to the apple tree in the backyard and waits. I am comically quick in getting his worms, being sure to hold them in my hand so they warm up from fridge temperature for him. I am the same woman who dithers and takes forever to get ready to go somewhere, yet somehow Robbie inspires me to get those worms out for him.
His breakfast is gobbled down before I get back into the house. Robbie no longer comes looking for food three times a day. He is stronger and the days are getting longer. Soon he’ll find another robin, a female, and we hope he’ll nest here but know that he might not. The other robin looked like a male and there was a bit of a scuffle before he flew off. Robbie has pretty much staked us out.
Until it’s really spring and even after, we’ll look for Rob. Gary will whistle at every male robin, just in case. Keep frisky, Rob.
The farther I get into retirement, the more reluctant I am to go “downtown” to run errands. Yesterday was no exception but the dearth of vegetable choices made a trip imperative. Then I realized I needed to send valentine cards to my grandkids, return library books, and get toothpaste. The minutiae of life and so many things on my mind that I even had a list.
First stop the bank because I had no cash and I’m old-fashioned enough that I find it handy at times. Our bank branch has a new ATM with a touch screen, bright colours, and huge fonts. It should be the easiest thing to use and it is. My mind “buzzing” with ‘all the things I had to do’ and the fact that I was parked a little close to a driveway had me grab my debit card and run. Yes, I got the debit card but left the cash hanging out of the ATM.
I returned my library books, chatted with our librarian, (it is a small town), and signed out a couple of new reads. Then to the drugstore to pick out valentines. It was only when I sat down to address them, I noticed that there was no cash in my purse. Plummeting heart…what a waste of $100.
On the off-chance that an honest person returned the money to the teller and that they might be able to trace which idiot didn’t take it, I returned to the bank.
The ATM is way smarter than me. When I didn’t get my money, it sucked it back to safety. I had to wait for a teller to go and retrieve it from the “box” in the cash machine. I am not the first person and the sympathetic teller said, not likely the last to have walked off and left their money. To say I was relieved is an understatement.
I would like to have someone to blame or to say that ATMs invite mistakes. Having a human to facilitate financial transactions like this would have saved me from making such an error. A human would have called me back immediately if I left money laying on the counter. I would like to but I know it was all me. I had a few errands and in a moment of distraction, it was me who left the money hanging.
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.
I’ve finally dealt with the reality that I will not be the next Margaret Atwood. It hasn’t discouraged me from writing but what might have was the complete lack of publication despite my several stories and a failed romance novel. I blame my astrological sign for my enthusiasm about new projects and my equal reluctance to do the work to make them worthwhile.
That’s where my writers’ group emerges as the hero. Writing can be a pretty lonely pastime but when there’s an discerning audience to share a piece with, the sting of rejection isn’t as sharp. Learning to hear and accept that the words didn’t drip with golden elegance from your fingertips is hard. Those adverbs you love? They are a sure sign of flabby writing. Slipping between present and past tense? It isn’t done. Hard lessons.
Your eloquent prose has only confused the reader. Reading a new bit of writing to the group can be humiliating. Out loud, in your own voice, the errors jump off the page. Then improvements can begin.
The great thing about the writers I’ve met through the years and through this small town writing group is their support and enthusiasm. I met a writer twenty years ago and our mutual interest led to a close and deep friendship. A couple of the writers are much younger but the problems of writing and finding time is the same. I value their opinions and their friendship.
We have had male writers join until life got in the way. For twenty years one other writer and I have maintained the group in its various incarnations. On Feb. 20, 2020, we are celebrating with a self-led workshop and a celebratory lunch.
The things I have published, have been improved and critiqued by the group. Different eyes on your work makes you aware of its weakness and its strength. If you can find a group of supportive, sharp-eyed writers like I have, don’t let them go.
Before I end this. One more thing is off my bucket list. As a retired teacher who had dabbled in writing for years, when the Alberta Retired Teachers announced their writing contest, I was sure I was a shoe-in. A humbling experience awaited. Despite entering each year, the best I achieved was an honourable mention. I was ready to give up but last year I tried one more time. With help from the group, I won one of the categories. Not a threat to Margaret Atwood, but it made me happy.
I just fed Robbie. He showed up right on time at a little after 11:00, sitting in the mountain ash tree and looking in at us. “Where is my brunch?”
Our resident robin is tough. It goes without saying since he’s still here in the middle of an Alberta winter. The weather has broken and we are experiencing warmer than normal temperatures but they are still colder than Robbie is comfortable in. There’s no food around for him to hunt.
Robbie has adapted so that he can spend more time in our big fir tree sheltered from the wind. It’s dense enough among the needles that it’s impossible to see him, but he’s there. We think he spends the night somewhere else. Either that or he’s not the “early bird.” Another possibility is that he, too, has seen the little hawk that is back in the neighbourhood. It would enjoy Robbie as a meal so fingers crossed, our robin stays hidden.
He hasn’t appeared first thing in the morning waiting for his breakfast the last few days. Instead, sometime between 10:00 and 11:00 am, if Gary goes out and whistles, he shows himself. Then one of us hurries around and gets his worms ready. Robbie now sometimes gets meal worms and at others, King worms which are like the meal worms but bigger. Robbie likes them both.
Once his day is underway, if he gets hungry again, he might make his desires known. Yesterday despite there being nothing on offer, he flew down to the cutting board and sat staring through the window at my husband. Robbie demanded more worms.
He spends some of the afternoon perched in the mountain ash tree which as you can see provides camouflage. Especially on a duller day such as this, Robbie blends right in with the leaves that are still clinging stubbornly to the branches.
Robbie is getting hardier because of the food supply. He feels good; when you feed him, his tail twitches in anticipation and he answers Gary’s whistles. Robbie is tough and with a little help from his friends….
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.
It’s -34 or -35 today without considering wind chill. The sun is bright but it’s cold and in our front yard, there’s a robin, in winter, in Alberta. The poor little guy pecked a bit from an ornamental plum, frozen and desiccated, the only available food. Whether it’s climate change or an odd anomaly, he won’t survive without help. Robins like protein- bugs, grubs and more bugs.
We’ve fed wayward robins before. They like hamburger mixed with a little fruit and one winter Robbie and my husband, Gary, became good friends. He’d come to Gary’s whistle and was fairly tame. A female (who was more cautious) also took advantage of the food we’d set out, too.
This new outlier has just eaten 7 meal worms. Who has meal worms on hand, in case of robin emergencies? An ice fisherman. Meal worms last a very long time before pupating when they are kept in refrigeration. Yes, my downstairs beer fridge has harboured various types of legal, live bait. Gary had almost forgotten the meal worms but they were there and alive.
The robin looked at the apple and tiny bits of raw chicken I set out in the sun on my cutting board. He was interested (as were the sparrows) but too suspicious of something new to come down and investigate. Then Gary set out the meal worms that wiggled, catching the robin’s eye. Down he came and you can see him in the picture after eating the first three worms. Gary got four more and they disappeared in very short order. Mr. Robin sat on the cutting board in the sun, full and hopefully warming up.
The real test is later and then tonight. Meal worms will have been a huge change to whatever he’s been eating. We have fingers crossed that the switch isn’t too much of a shock to his digestive system. Even in this short time, we’re kind of attached to Robbie 2.0 and if he survives, we know where to get him live worms.
Hang in there, Alberta Robin. We’ll help you through winter and the temperatures in the minus thirties.