The robin's bad leg and other stories

The robin's mate has had a bad leg and the jackdaws have discovered a wool stash

The robin has a mate for the second year running. It isn't clear if it is the same female, but he is being as generous with her as he was with his mate last year, which is endearing. He takes worms for her and we see her peeping out from the hedge as he collects them. Sometimes he has to go and look for her and, if she isn't visible, he will sometimes eat the worm himself before returning for another one. 

The robin's mate has been favouring her left legThe robin's mate is much bolder than last year's, which leads us to wonder if it could be the same bird. She's been watching her mate from an ever smaller distance and copying him, even coming for her own worms, which wasn't seen last year.

She's also confident enough to sit nearby and bask in the sunshine while I'm fiddling about a few feet away. It was on one of these occasions that I noticed she was favouring her left leg – she was sitting in the sunshine on the ledge created by a piece of wood leaning against the garage, her feathers spilling out over the front. Her right leg seemed to be taking most of her weight and if a bird can look tired, she did. I noticed a couple of weeks ago that she was stretching the left leg, hooking it under a twig and pulling herself forward and I'd wondered what was going on. Now I realise she must have injured herself. The good news, though, is that she does seem to be getting better, but we'll keep and eye on her. The mealworms should help. 

A gap left in a barn wall for nesting birdsElsewhere, the birds are getting ready for nesting. Next to a garden I work in, there is an old barn with a deliberate gap left for birds to nest in. For the last few years, jackdaws have nested there and they are now  busy nest-building again and though I have yet to see or hear chicks, it will be obvious from the noise when they hatch. Jackdaws make a noisy family. I like to see these purposely left nesting gaps, they are a small act of generosity towards a species other than our own, which soothes my soul in what can feel like darkening times.

Fits like a dove

Doves using nesting holes in an old barnNear to where I live there is another such barn and this one has many nesting holes in the walls. Whether or not it was made for doves, it is they who use the gaps. Walk by on a winter's night and every hole is sheltering one or two doves, tucked in close and protected somewhat from the cold.

There are gaps on the inside too and it pleases me to think of the birds watching over the wedding parties that take place in that barn. It would be good to see more spaces left for wildlife in this way, and it saddens me that searching on the topic of 'gaps left in barn walls for nesting birds' brings up so many pages on 'how to stop birds nesting on your property'. 

At home, the jackdaws are nest-building too and they have discovered the wool I put out after grooming our sheepskin rugs. I'd stuffed it into a suet cake feeder and hung it in a small tree in the courtyard and thought it would be popular. That was over a year ago and the idea was that I'd be able to look out of the window and see small birds taking wisps of soft wool to line their nests, but they all ignored it until this spring. Suddenly, the jackdaws found it and have been stuffing as much into their beaks as they can fit in. They seemed quite excited about it too and three were gathered around collecting. I shall now enjoy thinking about the young birds snuggling into the wool, they should stay properly cosy. 

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