Who's watching who?

If you look carefully you will see that the birds watch each other as closely as we watch them

blackbird through windowHumans watch the birds, the birds watch us and we know that the birds sit on high perches and watch each other to see who might be gathering around where the food is. It's become especially noticeable between the robin, the blackbirds and the wren.

At home, an order to the dining sequence has become apparent. First the robin who almost always spots us before the others and will approach with boldness. Next the male blackbird, who seems timid but can become quite pushy and try to barge the robin out of the way, though the robin stands up for itself quite well. Lastly the female blackbird, unless it's spring and she's nesting - in which case the male stands back and waits for her to eat first. In the background is the wren (Troglodytes troglodytes). We often see it watching from a perch a few metres away, eyes bright and tail cocked; it hasn't yet approached, but shows a keen interest in events. Maybe it thinks, 'Other birds are getting worms from the humans, I could do that'.

Wrens eye view

Our friend, the robinIt was while staying with friends that we first noticed wrens watching robins. In a recent post, I mentioned that this friend had put a small dish of mealworms under a broken plant pot so the robin could find them, which it did very quickly. The pot was set up near to the window so we could sit indoors and watch the birds close up. We noticed that when the robin came for the worms, it was often watched at a distance by a wren. As the robin tucked in, the wren could be seen nonchalantly milling about in the nearby bed and no sooner had the robin finished with the worms, the wren would take its chance and go straight to the bowl. 

Learning from a robin

The woodland wren poking under a leaf

Cut to another scene, the woodland we work in. Here, again, the robin is the bold one, seemingly untroubled by the lumbering humans moving piles of logs and brash and only interested in what edible delights might be uncovered. The robin in one part of the woods has been a constant daytime companion, watching our every move, shifting from branch and brash pile to get a better view. Recently, the robin has been joined by a wren. To start with, it simply seemed to be observing as the robin moved in and out of the brash we worked with, but over time it began to come closer and now it seems almost as intrepid as the robin. Like a tiny mouse, the little brown body scuttles across the woodland floor, dipping under leaves and between blades of grass,  making its way towards the serpentine mound we're constructing. We stop work for a moment and stand to watch its progress. Between hops and scuttles, it gives tiny flutters of its wings and emits an occasional chirrup. Reaching the mound, it works along the base, investigating the disturbed ground and finding tiny insects, at one point swallowing a small worm.

It's delightful entertainment and it's free – all the more reason to get outside. 

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Please note: the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author, which are not necessarily those of the RHS. 

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