Tag Archives: European Robin

Birds in Autumn

It can be hard to love November. Whereas October is like a watered down, slightly colder version of summer, November is often wet, quite cold, and very dark as the sun travels across the sky at a very low angle causing very long shadows. And, of course, the days are now much shorter than the nights. We have very long nights. But because of this there are often great opportunities to see many species of birds close-up. Small birds in particular, come into villages and towns, and gardens in Wicklow looking for food and shelter. Some are harder to spot than others, but here is one you really ought to keep an eye out for – the Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris):

   It is an unusual-looking bird with a narrow curved bill with which it probes for insects and spiders in the bark. A Treecreeper will usually land at the base of a tree, or a wall, and walk up it to the top, before flying back down to another side, or area, to start the climbing process again. They are quiet birds, but quite calm, and can easily be mistaken for mice due to their colouring, long tails and habit of climbing.

The Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) is difficult to see for a very different reason – it is green like a leaf, is so hyperactive it seems like a leaf in the breeze rather than a bird as it hunts for insects under the leaves and twigs of bushes and trees, and it’s tiny. In fact, it’s the smallest bird in Europe. However, despite the difficulties I managed to get some photos. Here is one, which shows how camouflaged a Goldcrest is, despite the gold ‘crown’ on its head:

   Some birds are a lot easier to see because they prefer to look for food in the open, and they are coloured more boldly. One of them is the Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba), which is black and white and likes to bob along in front of walkers, relying on them to scare insects up from the ground so the Wagtail can leap up and snatch them. They will also enter supermarkets, and even small shops, in cold weather to shelter from cold or wet weather. Here is one which hopped across a flower tub to take a better look at me as I sat at a table outdoors:

However, even common garden birds can be a little bit shy sometimes. Here is a Robin (Erithacus rubecula), observing me from behind a leaf on a tree, a little shy of my camera. I like this photo:

What To Do If A Robin Gets Stuck In Your Supermarket

Today I had a neat little adventure. Today I was in a supermarket and there was a hive of activity with the staff gathered at various locations. And then I saw someone tossing a box across the floor, as though trying to land it on something. It was only when I spotted a bobble-like object leap into the air, that I realised what was going on. A little Robin (the European Robin – Erythacus rubecola) had entered the store yesterday (or maybe even longer ago) and had either stayed or become stuck indoors.

A nice fat 'Christmas Robin'. Although in the thrush family, like the American Robin, both birds are significantly different. The American Robin is much bigger and more closely related to the Redwing.
A nice fat ‘Christmas Robin’. Although in the thrush family, like the American Robin, both birds are significantly different. The American Robin is much bigger and more closely related to the Redwing.

The staff were doing everything they could, but couldn’t catch it. After getting my shopping I took a trip down to Birdwatch Ireland‘s HQ in Kilcoole to tell them about it. Unfortunately Birdwatch can’t do anything about ‘animal control’ issues, but they suggested the best course would be to leave the bird alone and leave the doors open and the Robin would find its way out. Attempting to catch the bird could lead to it being injured, especially without the proper equipment. I decided to drive back to the supermarket and tell them Birdwatch Ireland‘s opinion.

On the way back I suddenly remembered that Robins hate anything red, assuming it to be another Robin, and often attacking it after an initial inspection. If it moves, all the better. So when I got back the staff found a pair of bright red boots furry, and the robin appeared almost immediately and we were able to lead it to the door, and eventually get it out, as I tried to whistle my best imitation of a Robin’s call (it was awful, but seemed to work to some degree).

The whole red boot operation took less than five minutes, which was quite an achievement when you consider the bird had been there at least one day and nothing else had worked. It’s great when a plan works.