Although one of the more common birds in Olvar Wood, the Eastern Yellow Robin is my favourite.
Their bright yellow breast, appearing anywhere from the clothesline to the windowsill, is a cheering sight. Their grey-brown wings are a long coat over colour. They have an endearing habit, too, of perching vertically on a tree trunk and peering round to look for insects, or to see if you are impressed. This morning, as I walked out my studio door, one fellow posed on the finger-thick trunk of a young tropical peach in the orchard, flanked by the tree’s first pink blossoms. The morning light was just right and robin cocked his head, as if offering up a portrait shot. Unfortunately, my camera was down in the cottage, although the picture is now framed in my imagination. He flew off to other amusements and insects, looping between trees beside me as I walked up the drive to collect our mail.
They are good company when out and about: inqusitive and quiet, swooping down occasionaly to snap up insects and spiders. Their dark eyes seem, to me, to hold an intelligence and sensitivity, having appraised, at least, that we are no threat. They prefer close low tree cover but are comfortable here in the relative open of the cottage’s gardens and orchard. When we sit on our back deck, they gather around, their numbers building the longer we linger. Our deep bird baths are the chief attraction, particularly in late afternoon, but they seem to prefer an audience.
In winter, the robins get so fat they are completely round. When they bathe and fluff their feathers up into a yellow ball it is difficult not to laugh. They remind me of the little toy chickens glued on top of Easter eggs when I was a child.
When we first moved here there were only one or two families but they have bred and stayed on so often now that we have lost count. Pairs can produce up to three broods per season, explaining the exponential style population growth. You can pick out the younger birds, a little smaller and everything new. Flanked by their parents, they are introduced to the birdbaths and the deck and taught to feed. One teen stays home to help its parents to help raise the next brood, and the others move on, but not too far away.
The robin’s yellow is at home, and quite well camouflaged, among all the green. Once you become attuned to them, though, you can see them everywhere, like candles arranged in the bush, and hear their cheery piping calls.
We don’t see them often over at the Writers Retreat; although only a few hundred metres away, the gardens there are too open and there are butcher birds about. It’s a shame, they would probably feature in more novels and short stories if they made an appearance. For now it is a pleasure of the wood we can’t often share with visitors, unless having a drink with us at home on the deck.