Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Robin Training

We are used to having a tame robin in our small London garden.
We train them to have confidence in us and eventually to fly into our shed (a small summerhouse) to eat grated cheese from a feeder that I designed, and then to stand on my knee.
The robins last for a year or more, the length of friendship depending on the extent of their life -–usually terminated by a cat. So we have to train a new one every so often.
Our summer was one without a tame robin – or robin of any sort. But the gap was filled by a wood pigeon.
Training this large bird was minimal as soon as it came to the conclusion that grated Cheddar cheese was not only delicious, but also easily obtainable from the feeder in our shed. So in it would come, hopping on to and over the door’s sill to wander around by our feet. Then it would jump-fly up to the feeder, or fly in directly from outside, making us jump.
So, despite no robins, we did have avian company over the summer months. Our very handsome pigeon became so bold as to walk on or hop over our knees and legs as we sat in the shed in its search for morsels of cheese.
Then, at the onset of autumn, a new robin appeared.
This robin, we think, was a foreigner, a blow-in, perhaps from Scandinavia. It flew around the garden like a wild thing. Slowly it calmed down as it felt more at home in its English surroundings.
Training this wild one was obviously going to be difficult. Our “making friends” regime is simple, but it does take patience and time. Would we have that time between its arrival and the start of winter when it would be too cold for us to sit in the shed with the door open?
The first move is always to show the bird that grated cheese is good to eat. Our new robin was for some time loath to even try it out for taste. But it did, eventually taking the proffered bait that had been placed well away from us in the shed. It liked what it was eating.
Then, day by day, cheese gratings were positioned nearer and nearer to our open shed door – then to the sill and then the floor.
Now the new robin chooses to fly straight into the floor. But despite seeing the pigeon enjoying lovely cheese from the feeder, positioned on top of three boxes of bird food, it has yet to do the same. That should happen very soon, but will it be before the cold winter sets in and we have to abandon the shed and close the door until springtime? 
Being discriminatory, we now ask the pigeon to leave the feeder so that the robin might eat there. Although we still like and admire a wild wood pigeon to be so close and trusting, we would rather have a robin as a garden pet. And we would like it to be an even closer friend before the winter is over and birds think of mates and nest-building once more.

(I am glad to add that the robin has now, in early November, flown into the shed to take cheese from the feeder.)