We had not seen our very tame and friendly robin for at least a month. She liked to sit with us, eat from our knees, completely trusting, fearless, and generally treating us like garden furniture.
When sitting in the garden and vinifying by stripping grapes from their stems into fermentation bins, she suddenly re-appeared, treating us as she always had. It was lovely to see her again, having worried that perhaps a cat might have caused her demise. She has not re-appeared.
In the meantime another robin has fancied himself as king of our territory. He is a wild fellow – dashingly active.
If this newcomer (“The Intruder”) is to become our “house” robin, he is to be trained – that is, to be trained to eat with us in our shed (which is not really a shed but a small, glazed, octagonal summerhouse).
Instruction is conducted in four stages.
For the first stage it must be established that Cheddar cheese is good grub for robins. So morsels are thrown out on to flagstones for the robin to enjoy without having to become too familiar with us.
For the second stage, a morsel is thrown out on to the flagstones and a couple of pieces placed, very visibly, on the sill of the shed door. This bait, when taken, shows the robin that it is safe to be near us.
Stage three involves putting bait on the sill and more on the shed’s carpeted floor. The robin will then know that it is completely safe to be under our feet (we have to be careful when standing up).
The final stage is to bait the floor as well as the top of three boxes of bird food that stand next to my knee.
When the robin flies in, directly or indirectly, to take food from the boxes, it has been trained.
Later, as entertainment for guests, and our own pleasure, the bird will take morsels from our knees – more readily when feeding young, when both parents seem to cast caution aside.
There is something about a wild bird standing on one’s knee that is very pleasing.