Apologies to all! I am very late posting Sarah’s monthly wildlife gardening blog. It’s been crazy busy in Higgledyland but things are at last returning to normal. #NewNormal. …mind you….young Sarah was getting married, so she may not have noticed my slackness….. ;) CONGRATULATIONS!! xx
A Rooter and a Robin.
If you ask a gardener what is their favourite bird, I’ll bet you 9 times out of 10 they’ll say the robin. And the reason for this might be because of its pretty russet breast, its cute rounded body set on the finest little legs – in short, its general irresistible charm.
But the main reason may be more about its behaviour when you are gardening. It comes so close sometimes you catch your breath to see it there, and how honoured you feel that something so delicate and lovely might want to be near you, might even trust you! It comes still closer and you see the exquisite feathers….that beady little eye… and such bold eye contact, cocking it’s head to one side, the skipping and hopping about and finally perching on your garden fork as if posing for a photo then saying, “good morning how are you today?” with wistful but perky chirps. You can actually have a little conversation with a robin, I’ve seen many a burly gardener do it, I swear it’s not just me.
This human interaction is almost non-existent in other wild birds and I have often wondered why they should be so different? Turns out there are a few reasons for this, one being that we Brits don’t have a tradition of trapping and eating small birds which kind of helps (apart from maybe Roald Dahl’s Mr and Mrs Twit). But the main and most interesting reason I think is connected to the evolution of these little birds.
Many 1000’s of years ago, when much of the land was far more wooded, and wild boar and deer roamed about in great numbers, the inquisitive nature of the robin would have been evolving. They were following these large animals, especially the boars, as they rooted in the earth, watching for those delicious worms. Robins aren’t great at pulling out worms like the blackbird, are useless at cracking a snail like a thrush, and they are only just learning how to hang onto a bird feeder like a tit– I feel sorry for them when they try! But they do like to use their charm or, rather, inquisitive adaptability and succeed in letting someone else do the work. I expect they were very close friends with the boar. And here we are, many 1000’s of years later, and lo and behold they are with us too– a taller, more upright ‘swine’. It’s not much of a leap and we are of course equipped with that very useful garden fork!
Sarah Ashworth, Designs For Life,
Garden designer and wildlife specialist, Little Shelford