Every morning, one of my first jobs when I go to my son’s home is to feed the four cats… none of which he owns, but all of whom come for breakfast every day… feed the fish in the pond and feed the birds. Although his home is in the middle of town, his garden is surrounded by trees that are home to an incredible variety of feathered residents and teh occasional squirrel too.
From the ever-hopeful heron, to the ravens, jackdaws and magpies, the blackbirds, woodpeckers and thrushes, right down to the chaffinches, bluetits and wrens…we have seen generations of birds fledge and grow. Red kites wheel overhead every day…and every day the robins potter around the garden.
If you are working there, the robins will follow you, exploring every bit of turned soil as soon as you move away…and you don’t need to move very far. They come close enough to touch should you stretch out a hand.
The birds…apart from the potential interspecies disasters where fish, birds and cats are concerned, are a constant source of delight.
The robins, though, are something special. There are always robins, wherever I go and they are always curious and brave enough to come close… but not all of them talk to me.
As I go out to feed the fish, they hear my footsteps and are waiting for me. As I go out, I whistle…a particular little sequence of notes… and if the robin is around, he whistles back. Then he waits, head on one side… until I answer… and he answers me again, and so it goes.
The past few days, he has not been in the tree when I have gone outside, but I have whistled anyway, just in case he was out of sight…he is only tiny after all and could easily be hidden by a branch. But every day, he has flown in from the trees across the path, taken up his position, then whistled and waited for a reply.
He has an extraordinary vocal range! I do my best and fail miserably to match his skill with his trills, catches and chirrups. But the song and response can go on for as long as I can stay outside.
I have no idea what we are saying to each other… he must be laughing at my ‘pronunciation’ and ‘grammar’… This is not just a foreign language, it is completely alien to me, yet that we are, somehow, communicating, I have no doubt. And of all the gifts I have been blessed with this year, talking with a robin is one of the most beautiful.