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When The Red Red Robin Goes March March Marching Along…


We finally got Noel to sleep through the night the old-fashioned way: we turned off the baby monitor. If he couldn’t wake us up from three rooms away, tough. (Which is not to say that he didn’t wake us up from three rooms away at times: those babies have lungs like Robert Plant in his heyday.) It was harsh love, but it worked.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we’ve been having uninterrupted sleep. No sooner did Noel get down for the night, than we found ourselves with a new dilemma. Around dawn every day, we started hearing sporadic and firm crashes against the bathroom window. One would be enough to wake us up, two would be enough to keep us up. If I was a farmer, this might not bother me, but I like sleeping on just a little past six in the morning.

Standing in the bathroom itself during this frustrating dawn chorus would quickly reveal the culprit. A red robin in the tree branches a few feet away and directly opposite could be seen launching itself furiously at the window, perching on the ledge for a few clearly confused seconds, flying back to the branch to regain its composure, and then starting the process all over again. Throughout this exercise, its mate would stay perched on the branch, watching on with what we might consider bemusement but for the difficulty in attempting to read a robin’s expression.

We thought at first that the robins were trying to build a nest, and that they imagined the interior side of our bathroom window was some kind of vestibule. But even a dumb bird would surely get the message, after repeatedly throwing itself against a solid object, that there was no way through to the other side, and eventually give up.

But not this robin. And so, after a week of dawn choruses, our nerves frayed to breaking point, we called a friend who happens to be an ornithologist. His response was immediate and well rehearsed: it turned out we were not the only people asking the question this spring. The robin in question was a male, he told us, and every time he saw his reflection in the window, which was continually once the day dawned, he assumed he was viewing a rival for his mate’s affections. Out of instinct, he would fly off his branch to attack his perceived foe. Robin brains not being big enough to distinguish between a pane of glass and a body of ruffled feathers, he kept repeating the exercise despite the obvious futility of it.

In a way, you have to pity the pea-brained animal: here he was, launching himself into pitched battle every few seconds to sate his ego and impress his mate, and yet every time he returned to his branch to assess the damage, there was the enemy again, staring him right in the eye as if challenging him to another round (robin).

(Meantime, his better half is hanging out on the tree branch, thinking to herself, “Men! That’s all they’re interested in: fighting and fucking, fighting and fucking.”)

Armed with a logical explanation, Posie set off to buy a reflective shield from the hardware store. It covered 90% of the window, which we figured would be enough. Guess what? The same robin managed to find his reflection in the 10% of unprotected glass and continued flying into the window, determined to beat himself up. Another trip to the hardware store, some more reflective tape, and finally we’ve found peace.

Those of our neighbors with guns would probably have found peace a lot sooner. What was the chorus to that old football chant? “When The Red Red Robin Goes March March Marching Along…shoot the bastard, shoot the bastard.

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