Hollywood winter which is depicted in movies as gentle snow with no need to wear gloves, toques, and winter boots is over. Even blizzards have bare-headed heroes in film and that’s the kind of weather we’ve had for the last couple of weeks. Today was different. Old Man Winter crept in with fog and painted the landscape with hoar frost. It was chillier and it’s going to get cold. Real winter is on the way.
Alberta has entered a period of new COVID restrictions that coincide with the change in weather. No more indoor visitors; only the people you reside with. No outdoor visitors. Outdoor activities are permitted if you do them with the people of your household. You can skate, toboggan, sled, walk, skate. But you aren’t supposed to meet family or friends to do it. There are rules for retail outlets as well. Christmas gatherings are limited to, you guessed it, your household. this means me, Gary and the dogs. I guess it’ll be a little quieter. Am I happy about not seeing my grandkids and kids? NO. But I understand the reasons. Alberta has high infections levels and unless we isolate, they will continue to rise so Christmas is different.
A friend and I were bemoaning via text message the fact that we wouldn’t be seeing anyone this holiday. She said, “This year it will be just me and N___. But we’re going to have Christmas in July. We’ll meet our son and his girlfriend at a campsite and celebrate then.” What a revelation! The family part of Christmas can be postponed and the spiritual part can be observed by reading scriptures, meditating, praying by yourself or attending online services. Christmas get-togethers are postponed until summer. Retailers have been observing Christmas in July for a long time. Now we’ll be doing that, too. Barbecued steak, potato salad, and beverages around the campfire. I can hardly 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.
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.
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.