Around this time last year I moved into a new house in Ballsbridge and as usual it took a while to settle in and get to know the neighbours. Among the friendliest of the local residents were a couple of robins who quickly became constant companions on my visits to my back yard. Admittedly I had to do most of the work conversationally, but they cocked their heads and hopped around me enthusiastically and appeared to be the most interested in me of all the locals.
When I mentioned this to my mother, herself a keen kitchen window ornitholigist, she told me that robins were fond of a bit of cheddar. Moreover she claimed they would even take cheese from one’s hand.I wanted to make friends in the hood and was intrigued and indeed it didn’t find me long to find this article by Hugh Warwick, a similarly lonesome human who appeared to have trained a robin to eat from his hand. (Although I imagine from the robin’s perspective we are the trainees).
Encouraged I started taking cheese into the yard with me. At first I threw it on the ground a few yards from me. After a little cautious hopping my robins became bolder. I progressed to leaving bits of cheese on top of a wheelie bin outside the door and standing close by. Then I would leave my hand near the cheese. At each step the robins baulked a little at first, but noting that they were not themselves being consumed, they gradually overcame their misgivings.
I took to using my hand at the table. There were a few days of standing like an idiot with one hand stretched out to puzzled robins and the other holding my phone in the hopes of capturing an Attenborough-esque communion of man and beast. I imagined that the robins would be my mountain gorrillas.
After a few days of hopping, puzzled head cocking and jittery chirping the event which unfolds in the video above occurred.This year either that robin or perhaps its progeny are back and feeding busily again. I don’t know about the birds, but it has enhanced my sense of community no end.