First Robin

Now, more than ever, is the time for some good news. Something to take our collective minds off this global pandemic. You know, the story being covered with moderation and restraint by the mass media. And I’ve got just the thing: Spring is here!

I know, according to the calendar that annual event occurred on March 20. But those of us living in Northern Ontario know better. Spring doesn’t truly begin until the first robin arrives. And I saw one yesterday (March 24)!

It was about 3:30 and I was sitting on my deck—six feet from anyone else—enjoying the sunshine when I spotted a movement in the tree-branches. Several chickadees had been flittering around, amusing me with their antics, when something bigger settled down for a rest. It took me a moment to believe my eyes but it was indeed the first robin of 2020.

You cannot imagine how happy the arrival of spring’s harbinger made me. This past winter has been long for us all and seeing the first robin proved that the season was well and truly changing. A visceral joy surged through me, followed by relief—the kind of relief known only to 1980s horror-movie survivors. Those feelings swept through me but didn’t last long. Not once I got a good look at the robin.

He was a sorry specimen. Sure, the red-breast shone, a beacon signalling spring, but other than that he looked pitiful. Feathers akimbo and scrawny in the extreme, my new best-friend, Mr. Robin, sagged with exhaustion and exuded a desperate hunger. He was the first of his kind to arrive in Capreol this year and he’d paid a high price for the honour.

Naturally, my heart went out to him. Here he was bringing me hope and it had clearly cost him. Who knows how far the little bird had flown or what hardships he’d survived in those travels? Was there a cat in his past, one who nearly got the jump on my feathered friend? Did he hit a storm or two en route and have to hunker down, surviving with his back to the wind, cold and miserable with inadequate shelter?

I rushed inside, turning the house over in search of birdseeds, hoping the ragged robin would still be there when I finally found some food for him. Miracle of miracles it only took me six tries and twelve curse-words to discover a quarter bag of some seeds. And they were…not-too out-of-date.

The robin was, of course, gone when I returned to the deck. But I spread some seeds around anyway. A trail went on the deck’s railing, a couple handfuls got thrown onto the garage roof, and I dropped a trickle on the front stoop. If there’d been any lawn visible, I’d have put some on the grass too but, this being March in Capreol, there’s still a metre (or more!) of snow in my yard.

Good deed done, I went inside and Googled ‘feeding robins’. Imagine my surprise when I learnt they don’t eat seeds!

Next time he arrives I will be better prepared. A buffet will be awaiting that little robin. A feast of epic proportions. Slices of fruit, apples and berries are apparently popular with his species, and more dried insects and mealworms than he ever dreamt possible. Something suitable to his seasonal importance.

The first robin is, after all, spring’s herald. His cries mean spring is here and there is no sound more welcome after a hard winter than the robin’s long-anticipated song. It means, quite literally, Spring in the North! Enjoy.

Posted on: March 25, 2020, by :