From dawn until dusk right now, it seems that there is always a Robin singing somewhere in my garden. There’s one pair by the house, one in the middle of the garden and one at the top end. However, they also use the neighbours gardens so I wasn’t sure if they were actually nesting in mine.
The thing is that, while Robins can be very tame and approachable when they are feeding, when it comes to nesting they are notoriously wary. I’ll correct that: they are downright sneaky. If a Robin is nestbuilding but thinks it is being watched, it will carry its beakful of nesting material in the wrong direction, just to put you off the scent. How clever is that?!
It is a vital strategy because a Robin nest isn’t safely in a tight hole like a tit or sparrow, but instead is rather vulnerable. Yes, it may be tucked away in a nook, often behind dense vegetation, but that still means it is accessible to a whole host of predators if they can spot the its owner popping back home.
So, until this week I hadn’t even had a sniff of where any of my Robins might be nesting, until one day I went to get a plant tray out of the shed. As I went in and started to rummage around, there was a flurry of wings and a dark shadow that whistled right past my ear. “Hmmm”, I thought, in full Hercule Poirot mode; “Why, oh why, would a bird be ‘iding in ze dark recesses of ze potting shed?”
Sure enough, there in the corner, tucked into an empty plant pot, was a pristine cup of leaves and grasses. And I sensed I wasn’t looking in at a clutch of eggs but at a little mound of downy feathers.
I grabbed a quick photo and then left them be.
Since then have watched the adults industriously collecting insects around the garden, especially using the pond margins. Again, however, they are loathe to enter the shed while I’m anywhere near, despite me feeling that on any other occasion we are bosom buddies. After all, here's one of the pair happily feeding alongside me where I'm preparing a bed for annual flowers.
How long has the nest been there without me realising? Well, I’m rubbish at recalling the exact times it takes for each species to build their nests and incubate their eggs, but I have a rule of thumb that I CAN remember. For our song birds, think in the order of about five days for building the nest, then two weeks for incubation, and two weeks until fledging.
While it is the female Robin that chooses the location, builds the nest and does all the incubation, what I love is that she will not have let her male sit idle. She will have been putting him through his paces by getting him to feed her. This is behaviour is quite easy to observe – she will sit in a bush and call to him, and you get the odd spectacle of an adult Robin feeding another adult Robin, where normally two Robins tend to be so antagonistic.
Now I know where the nest is, I’ll be watching progress from a safe distance. I do have to pop into the shed from time to time, but I’ll keep my visits as brief as possible and they will be able to cope with that level of disturbance. But for now I’m just excited to have another active nest in the garden, to add to those of Blackbird, Collared Dove, Blue Tit (3), Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Great Tit and House Sparrow (3).
After all, of all the things you can do to help wildlife in the garden, creating the conditions in which it becomes the source of new life is the Holy Grail. A garden that is a nursery as well as a pit-stop really is contributing to nature’s recovery.
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