by Paul Cormacain
SPRING has separated the boy robins from the girl robins. When I appear in the garden to feed the birds a few blackbirds and usually three robins appear. When I am doing some work in the garden, the same birds appear, well, I think they are the same.
If soil is being turned, or work done to compost, the birds come very close to sample the insect delights. But now the robins are pairing off. This is the big highlight of their year, when they have to have a spouse, build up their strength to lay good healthy eggs, and they have to be able to produce a constant food supply for hungry young ones. lust like humans? As in all forms of wildlife the male and female have to act as a team, they have to understand, respect, trust each other, and this relationship has be to worked at.
As the female carries and lays the eggs she has to be very healthy and strong, so she expects the male to pamper her a bit and to give her presents and feed her. Who says that Nature isn't clever?
The female coyly flutters her wings, cries out plaintively and waits.
The male heads off, gets some food, brings it back and gives it to her. This has the effect of strengthening the bond between male and female, growing mutual admiration and trust.
It shows the female that she is highly respected, and it helps to build up her body strength.
This takes two robins, not three, so we now appear to have only a pair in the garden.
Many bird books make a great deal about the robin being aggressive, forever claiming territory and being intolerant of the presence of others robins. Yet our robins do not seem to fight, and three of them would congregate quite happily, especially when food is about.
Now the behaviour I have described has been ongoing. But in the last few days the robins seem to be very quiet, lying low.
I suspect that they have now got down to the serious business of nest building, perhaps they are even now laying eggs.
I will not go out of my way to look for a nest because all will be revealed when the chicks hatch. Then the parents will be working like slaves to keep their offsprings' empty bellies full.
They won't have the time to be very careful. They will start approaching the nest more and more directly instead of laying false trials and approaching obliquely. Oh, what parents will do for their children! If the nest has been made it will consist of moss, grass and dead leaves.
The lady of the house (the stronger of the two ?) will have built it.
The site she used could be in a shed, in a hollow in a bank, even in a hole in a tree or wall. The eggs are white, with red-brown spots, and there could be from three to six of them.
Only the lady of the house incubates, but the boss keeps nearby.
After a fortnight the eggs hatch, and then both parents commence the endless task of keeping the young satisfied with food.
This will keep going for another fortnight, then the young will leave the nest, and the parents will fuss about them for another while.
Then the parents will start another new family and repeat the whole thing. It is not unknown for them to raise a third family in the one year and then they go on their holidays.
The total number of robins in Ireland and Britain is of the order of about five million pairs.
Friday 22-Sunday 24 March - RSPBIBirdwatch Ireland, joint conference. An exciting agenda has been arranged for this conference at the Great Southern Hotel in Rosslare.
Sunday 24 March - Ranger Ramble at Colin Glen Forest Park, at
2pm, details 9061 4115
Mother's Day Walk, around the Nature Reserve at Oxford Island, who will tell you more if you phone them on 3832 2205
If you any energy left you could join the Lagan Valley guys, discover the Mottes and Men, loam, more from 9066 2259
Sunday 24 March-Sunday 7 April - A trail through the woods at Castle Espie in search of suitable places for nests, details 9187 4146
Monday 25 March - Lisburn RSPB will have Anthony McGeehan tell you how to Know Your Birds better, 7.30, Friends Meeting House, phone 9260 1864
Thursday 28 March - Birdwatch Morning, 10.30, Castle Espie,
see flocks of birds, call 9187 4146
Saturday 30 March - Lisburn RSPB field trip to Rea's Wood and Sixmilewater, talk to 9260 1864
Friday 29-Saturday 30 March - Sounds messy, but try to get involved in the biggest ever Easter Eggsculpture, at Castle Espie, from noon, call 9187 4146
Sunday 31 March - More eggs, this time at Oxford Island, and
it involves a self-guided trail around the Nature Reserve, and the
mystery of the mixed-up eggs, at 12.00, call 3832 2205
Cuddly Ducks Easter Picnic, at 2pm, Castle Espie, phone 9187 4146 for details.