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Coffee with Warren: Robins put smiles on faces

The return of spring also brings the return of our feathered friend, the robin.
WarrenHarbeckApril28
Photos: left, Warren Harbeck; top right, Judith Sikorski; lower right, Susan Campbell

They’re back!

Yup, a whole flock of robins paid their annual springtime visit to our backyard apple tree the other day. They filled their fluffy bodies with all the fruit they could find, scoffed at our mid-April snowstorm, and posed real pretty-like for a few photos (the shots along the left side in the accompanying collage).

Our apple tree has become a popular destination for these cheery guests. In fact, Mary Anna stopped harvesting the apples a few years ago, just so there’d be plenty of fruit on the tree when they dropped by.

The tree is within touching distance of our bedroom window. We even removed the screen from that window just so we could have an unobstructed view for photos – assuming we’re able to slide the window open quietly and slowly enough not to frighten our feathered friends away.

Some years ago, I showed similar photos to backcountry equestrian Pam Asheton, of Cochrane. She didn’t give me the response I was expecting. To help me understand what robins are really thinking about at our backyard buffet, she spoke from the robins’ perspective:

“Apples are all very well in emergencies, but we want worms!”

She cited research noting that only 10 per cent of a robin’s springtime diet consists of fruit. Worms and other grubs make up a whopping 90 per cent.

“Believe it or not,” Pam said, “you can buy robin 'worms' in case the ground is frozen, to tide them over. You put them out in a robin-type place and they'll love you forever – even more than your gorgeous tree!”

Worms, tastier than apples? Now, that feast is for the birds!

But that’s no surprise to another of our Cochrane coffee companions, Susan Campbell. Susan sent me the photo in the lower right of the collage, and explained:

“I took this at Mount St. Francis retreat centre on March 24. There were several robins in the yard hunting for worms. I was surprised at how many they found. I felt such delight at seeing these signs of spring. It put a smile on my face.”

And it put a smile on the robins’ faces, too, I bet.

Well, whether worms are the reason why the robin in Judy Sikorski’s photo in the upper right of the collage looks so happy, or whether it had just feasted on apples, or was just enjoying being back in Cochrane, I don’t know.

But that happiness is contagious, and just as Susan said, it put a smile on my face, too, and hopefully on yours.