Tag Archives: robin behavior

Dear Tom, this morning’s harvest~


Garlic. Purple potatoes. A couple leftover spring onions.

Yesterday I harvested asparagus, three bunches of celery, and a big bunch of broccoli. Now that the garlic is out of the ground I’ve got to get the clover-stuff out of the bed. Last year I purchased plants from a new nursery and unfortunately contaminated one entire bed with this yellow clover-ish weed. You can see some with the garlic.

My four baby robins fledged! Now a pair of mockingbirds have moved into the robin’s nest. They spend all their spare time begging for worms (making sounds like a puppy) and attacking Jake. Unlike the great horned owl, he can safely ignore them.

Yesterday we went to a beautiful beach. Jake had a wonderful time. He ran around like a maniac, then he and Oscar took a three mile hike. Unfortunately my climbing days are over until I’ve had surgery and rehabbed, so I walked along the shore and collected semi-precious stones. Then we drove over the Golden Gate into San Francisco to meet our youngest and her boyfriend for coffee. He lives at the very top of one of those hellacious hills and yes, I drove. Driving up the hills scares me to death. I always feel as if my car is going to flip upside down. Down doesn’t bother me. But believe me, I’d rather be driving than sitting in the passenger seat. I remember the first time I rode in the passenger seat up one of those hills – I was nineteen years old. I insisted the driver stop and let me out. I walked up the hill.

Last night we got lost in the mountains outside of Lafayette, looking for a retirement dinner. One of my husband’s managers is retiring after 40 years. The event was held in the middle of the wilderness (not kidding) at the end of a single-track road after we’d wound our way through a maze of country roads. Reminded me of the roads in Scotland but without the necessary turnouts. We had a hill on one side and a cliff on the other. We somehow managed to make it there without encountering another car (3 miles). The way home was another matter. All I can say is at least we were on the hill side, not the cliff side.

I only mention this retirement dinner because it made me sad. This woman has dedicated her life to her job. She’s married but has no children and only one sister. Her co-workers are both her family and her closest friends and now she’s leaving them.

There was a photo retrospective running on a loop on a big screen television.

Oscar’s co-worker is a happy healthy 70 year old woman. She radiates warmth and intelligence. But I experienced this weird disconnect as I watched the slide show. I’ve only known her for a couple years and I know little of her history. I was, to be frank, stunned. She was a glamorous young thing. She had model looks, kind of a combination of Bridgette Bardot and Twiggy. I had this completely inappropriate thought – If anyone ever makes one of these retrospectives of me I’ll come back from the grave and kill them. I think it’s kind of the same reason movie stars don’t watch their old movies. We’re young and then one day we get old. It ain’t always pretty.

Time does fly, doesn’t it?

XOXO! Julia



Dear Tom, Remember that skunk?

Well, she apparently lives under our deck and she has a litter. I can’t fence her out of the yard away from her babies. I just can’t do it. So we’re learning to live with the situation. At least there is no odor. When they babies grow up and everyone leaves, we will figure out a way to close the gaps along the sides of the deck.

In the meantime, we are in the midst… wait, let me clarify. I am in the midst of rebuilding our broken fence (the rotting areas of the back fence and side fence the skunk uses to get in and out of the yard)– so I’ll have to cut a couple holes in a couple old boards. I’ll replace the boards later. I’d rather cut holes than have her rip down the new boards or dig beneath them.

I say ‘I‘ because Oscar is out of town and has been for two weeks. Which allows me to get stuff done. No offense, Tom, but husbands, aside from you, say they’ll complete a project yet somehow never get around to starting it. At least that’s been my experience. Of course in this case it’s just as well. As my plumber once said – “Do I diagnose your husband’s patients??? Well tell him to keep his hands off my toilets!!!”

I got new carpet installed in his home office. (OMG that carpet was soooo awful!) I’m fixing a broken coffee table- yeah, me, as in I’m doing it myself- so I can move it (can’t move it with a broken claw foot, it’s too heavy and I don’t want to break it worse) along with all the other furniture in the family room in order to replace the big threadbare throw rug. And then I’m tackling the hardwood floors. I’ve been studying up on how to refinish worn areas.

Yep. Jake and I are going to town. Speaking of Jake…

His robins are back, in the same nest. Mama robin has laid at least four eggs. I’m so busy feeding her worms I have no time to write. Boy, does she have it good. Since robins have a relatively short lifespan, I figure giving her and her babies a leg up is the least I can do. She sits on the nest, flutters down to the worm feeder for an occasional bite. Gets a drink out of the bird bath, maybe takes a plunge or two, and then heads back to the nest. She never has to leave the yard. Sweet. She’s even willing to share the feeder with the towhees, who have babies of their own, and two pairs of mourning doves. She’s pretty nasty to the blue jays though. Can’t say I blame her but I do miss their squawking.

What does this have to do with Jake? He hangs out in the yard with the birds. They love him. He keeps the predators at bay. None of the songbirds fear the dog. They hop all around him, preening, feeding, bathing, drinking. He likes birds. Now the squirrels… they are another matter altogether. And that skunk… Jake has grown wary.  He won’t go outside at night unless I turn on all the floodlights first. And even then he sniffs the air before he sets one foot on the deck.

He’s been a great companion in Oscar’s absence. Not hyper. Rather, he’s showing a lot of self-control. I think it’s because I’m pretty chill while Oscar is pretty loud and sporty, (kinda like Sporty Spice) and he gets him revved up.

Yesterday Jake and I had to wait on the side of a trail for thirty minutes. We happened to hit a bend in the river trail the same time as a kids’ 5-K. He and I needed to cross right at their turnaround point. There were so many participants, and the trail is so narrow, we were forced to wait until the end of the race. But you know, he just lay there like an angel and every single kid was cooing and fawning over him. Fortunately he likes kids. But if you’re an old lady in a floppy hat, beware. Jake hates nothing more than a floppy hat. Fortunately we didn’t see any floppy hats yesterday, although today we did see an old lady wearing an enormous floppy straw hat and, of course, even though she was across the road Jake had to bark at her.

Well, I’ve talked long enough. Will chat again soon. Love, Julia XOXO!

Dear Tom, about those robins and that memorial plaque…

The baby robins have flown the proverbial coop. The kiddos actually waited until they were big enough to fly– all the way into the tops of my redwood trees. Well, two of them managed to fly into the tops of my redwood trees. One was still standing on the edge of the nest when we returned home from the ball game. He looked skeptical. It was a long way down! He finally made the leap of faith– all the way into the garden. So for two days, we had a garden baby robin, or as Oscar says, “There’s one in every family.” Sigh. You’ll be happy to know he is now up in the big-ass maple.

Way to go, robins! Yesterday I set out three strategically placed feeders containing birdielicicious giant meal worms – no takers so far. I’m hoping the robins and other birds discover them. Hey, if I was a bird I’d be on those gross but very crunchy little suckers like white on rice!

Your daughter, Marie, sent me a photo of your memorial plaque. She’s the best! Love it. Makes me happy and sad at the same time. I want you to know I talked to Ish. She’s doing well. You don’t have to worry. She’s tough. Takes a tough woman to live with the likes of you!

Here lies one of the greats.

Here lies one of the greats.

I hate permanence. Death is by far and away too permanent. I’ll hook up with ya in the next life. We’ll share a pint or two or three. But no parachute jumping. I draw the line at parachute jumping.

Oh hey, tomorrow or the next day I’ll post photos of my jams – apricot, wild plum, black plum (excellent black plum), nectarine and my favorite – peach. This weekend I plan to pick blackberries so get ready for some outstanding blackberry jam, and maybe a pie or two.

That’s it for today. Love you! Julia

The Good Mom.

Dear Tom, I’ve been researching robins and robin behavior. According to the experts, after the babies hatch and grow a little, the mother robin no longer sits on the nest. Supposedly she will rest in a nearby tree during the day and spend the night in a nearby tree.


My mother robin loves to sit on her nest. If she’s not hunting for food and feeding the babies she’s sitting on the babies and grooming them. This despite the fact that those little suckers with their wide open mouths are getting huge. One will poke its head up under her wing and she’ll turn and give it a comforting scratch around the pin feathers. Down goes this head and up pops another one. She sleeps on the nest all night long. She’s such a tenderhearted soul, devoted to those babies. I’m sure she thinks they are beautiful. And they are, in her eyes.

She possesses the courage of a lion. I’ve watched her chase off ravens and crows and jays and other robins. Yet she doesn’t mind the swallows or the finches or the hummers or the towhees, or the crazy dog or me. When I water plants in the afternoon, she follows along behind and studies the wet places, digs for worms and bugs. Mr. Robin is equally interested in my activities. He waits all day until I clean out the birdbath– then he flies down and bathes in his clean water.

You know what excites him? He loves it when I turn on the garden hose. Right now I’m sprinkling the fruit trees. The second I turned on the water, before I could even move away, he flew right past my head and landed in the puddle, found a big worm and flew right by my head again, brushing my hair with his wing tip. No fear. We’re buds. We’ve been buds for four years now.

I think the pair like this yard because the dog keeps out all strange cats, squirrels and raccoons. It’s a good place to raise babies–as long as they aren’t run over by a dog careening through the yard with his basketball.

Click on the photo below to enlarge it. You can see Mrs. Robin standing on her nest, keeping a close eye on a pair of ravens. I called Bob the Plumber (also an award-winning bug photographer) but he’s too busy to snap some close-up photos. The best I can do is take a picture through my kitchen window.

A protective mama robin.

A protective mama robin.

Dear Tom, You will never belive what happened with the robins. Gives me hope for humanity.

drama queen

Oscar says Mrs. Robin is a drama queen. That may be… but still.

Two days after he vanished, Mr. Robin reappeared. He showed up at the nest and boy, did he get a scolding. Reminded me of you and Ish when you’d pushed a few too many of her buttons!

Here’s what I heard– “Where the hell have you been??? I’ve been worried sick. You couldn’t sing a note to let me know you were okay? You couldn’t make an appearance? I thought you were dead, you stupid bird, and now you show up like it’s no big thing? Well, it is a big thing. Now get crackin’, Robin-monkey! These babies can’t feed themselves.”

And boy, did he ever. He, in fact, took over feeding duties for the rest of the afternoon. She took a bath in the birdbath, smoothed her ruffled feathers, perched in a the maple tree, chased off a couple ravens…

Oh the humanity! (And the joy on my part!) The squawking was loud and long and Mrs. Robin was every bit as irritated as you might imagine.

I observed Mr. Robin for several days and I realized just what he’d been up to. He’d been enlarging his territory, driving away a few rogue robins because he needed more places to find bugs.

A robin’s territory can extend from one-third of an acre to several acres. Initially our robin’s territory consisted of our yard, one-third of an acre, and our neighbor’s yard, three-quarters of an acre. Now he’s driven off two other males and he’s claimed our yard, the yards on either side of our yard – so that’s one-third plus three quarters plus one acre, and he’s added one of the yards across the street, another one-half of an acre, and the yard of the home behind us, another one-third of an acre. He’s been a busy bird. Two other robin couples had to move to make room for him.

This has been so cool to watch. And he did it again. He scared the bejeezus outta me this morning. Here’s what happened~

Jake and I went out for a hike. When we got home I heard the weirdest keening sound coming from the backyard. We went outside to see what was going on and Mrs. Robin flew right up to us. She landed on the garden fence, a foot from me and began this awful keening chirp, just like she did when Mr. Robin left the first time around. But this time it seemed she was speaking directly to me.

I was really worried. She sounded so upset and she seemed desperate, asking a human for help, that I was afraid something had happened to her babies.

I asked, “What’s wrong? Do you need help? What can I do for you?”

She closed her eyes and continued to make that sad sound.

I reached out a hand. I said, “Here, c’mere. I’ll help you.”

She opened her eyes and looked into mine, but she didn’t fly off. I nearly managed to touch her belly. She began to cry once again.

I decided something absolutely horrible must have happened. I brought Jake in the house and she followed right behind, landing on the window ledge outside the kitchen window. I kept an eye on her. She didn’t approach the nest at all, not for two hours. And I knew it, I just knew it. Somebody came and killed her babies and she was distraught. I wanted to give her a hug.

And then, after two long hours, here came Mr. Robin. She flew up into the redwood tree after him and you have never heard such an argument, such squawking and flapping of wings, gnashing of beaks. She had a fit. He’d done it again. And then the storm passed and they both began to feed the babies like crazy.

This afternoon all is well in Robinsville.

I told Oscar the story. He said two things: Write it down and Mrs. Robin is a drama queen.