Wildlife Column:  Robin goes bob, bob, bobbin’ along 

Sheffield weather expert Professor Ian Rotherham.
Sheffield weather expert Professor Ian Rotherham.

I wonder if any readers have noticed the increasing phenomenon of robins taking residence within greenhouses and sales areas of garden centres. I have now seen this at several local places and New Leaf Garden Centre at Coal Aston allowed me to wander around photographing one of their residents.

The first clue is the beautiful clear song – and of course the robin sings throughout the winter as well as in the summer. Generally, the winter song is not so loud or varied as in summer, but at close quarters and indoors, it sounds delightful. Robins adapt well to human company and to suitable available habitats that we provide; so a nice warm, sheltered spot with easy access to the outdoors is great. Fill that space with plants and a few worms and insects no doubt, and the robin is in its element. However, it gets even better, when as at New Leaf the staff put out mealworms as well. This must count as luxury living for a robin. I have now seen this behaviour at a number of garden centres and even DIY stores but I would be interested to hear of more examples – and of course to receive your photographs too. Robins adapt readily to human contact as gardeners will know very well. They probably learnt the behaviour as an adaptation from their natural woodland habitat where they might follow a large herbivore such as a deer through the undergrowth and then eagerly snap up any insects or worms etc that the animal disturbs. Following you or me around the garden is just a small step from that. Then, much to the undoubted satisfaction of the robin, the humans are soon trained to reward presence with the provision of titbits like mealworms, and other suitable bird-food. This adaptation is, I think, a two-way process and the robin has us well-trained indeed! Essentially though, we are just one step away from a large herbivore moving though a forest and providing easy pickings. So who is really in charge? Of course the robin is also our classic ‘Christmas’ seasonal bird, other than the turkey of course. The red breast was adopted by Christianity as symbolic of the blood on the head of Christ from the crown of thorns on his head. Associated with being fed on crumbs from the Christmas table, for the robin, the rest as they say is history.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Robin

Robin