Alberta winters train you for sheltering in place and that’s why the self isolation in spring is so difficult. We wait six months to get out of the house, to make plans that don’t involve checking road conditions, to golf, to camp, to have a bevvie on a patio.
This winter, Gary and I fed a robin from January until sometime in March. It provided a winter isolation diversion. Then Robbie quit coming for his worms. Migrating robins were back from the south. There were rival males and o, so attractive females. We had bonded with Robbie and Gary would whistle at random robins hoping we’d see our winter friend again.
Yesterday it happened. This robin sat in Robbie’s favourite places. He cocked his head to listen to the whistles, chirpy sounds, and greetings. (I cannot whistle.) He stayed long enough for me to get his picture on the eaves. He flew off when our neighbour arrived home. But later we saw him peering at us through the front room window, just like he had this winter. A great visit with Robbie.
Friends go for coffee every day. That doesn’t sound safe but it is because the couple stay in their vehicle, visit with one another, and people watch in the parking lot. The only improvement could be binoculars to zoom in on the activity. It’s an outing with physical distancing and is a great mental health strategy.
Yesterday we drove down the highway and stopped in a town about halfway to Edmonton. The Troll Park looked like a perfect place to have a visit. The kids and the grandkids could drive an hour and so could we. Physical distancing, of course. I took pictures and sent them off with the suggestion of a meet-up. There was a quick reply, “Maaaybe.”
“We’d rather visit you than your tombstone.”
So…a visit is out for the time being. The idea of lawn chairs and our own food and a face-to-face was fun to think about but reality slammed back. Now is not the time to get together. I can wait and although I miss my family, I’d rather not have them gathering at my tombstone. I can see the epitaph- “Why couldn’t she just wait?”
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.
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.
Robbie was here early this morning and hungry. He looks for us through the front room window as though to say, “Well, I’m here; where’re my worms?”
I know I said I wouldn’t write about Robbie again but he is an engaging little guy. Even the sparrows think so and yesterday they all hung out together in balmy -18 temperatures. There was sun, though, and it makes a difference. Robbie warmed up his breast and then he’d turn so his back (and the black feathers help) could benefit from the sun.
Robbie is getting trusting. This morning when I took out his breakfast, he was watching from the plum tree as you can see from the picture. I always talk to him and make “robin sounds”. I’m pretty sure he chirps back just to be polite. Or maybe it’s “Put the worms down, for goodness sake.” I set the board with the worms down and if I’d realized that he was going to swoop down, I could have sat still and watched from a couple of feet away. I moved too quickly so he wouldn’t be frightened and of course, he was. Back to the plum tree.
But for an instant. By the time I was back in the house, Robbie was sitting on the warm board, looking pretty full. One intrepid meal worm was making a break for it and would have if he\she didn’t feel the cold moving up from the sidewalk. After belching (now I am projecting; I don’t even know if birds burp), Robbie hopped over and ate the last worm.
Now he’s enjoying the sun and it’s getting warmer; maybe even as high as -6. Later the dogs and I can walk outside again. It’s like the ‘Get out of Jail” free card in Monopoly…hurray.
And this time, I won’t say I’m not going to write about Robbie again. My will power where he’s concerned is weak. I even gave him 9 worms this morning. That’s explains why the last one was a challenge. Get out and enjoy the sun and warmer temperatures.
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.
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.