Volume XVII, Issue 28 # July 9 - July 15, 2009

Bay Reflections

A Tale of Three Households

For the robins and me, these are good times

by M.L. Faunce

When the red, red robin comes bob-bob-bobbin’ along, along …

Sweet song. Old song. Remember Doris Day?

Maybe not, but this is an old song being played out in your yard, and it’s just the tonic we need. Because things are a mess out there, and these robins are forging ahead with what they do best.

The neighbor to my north (call him Dave, because that’s his name) told me over the fence last weekend during a break from our grass cutting that he would be leaving the neighborhood. Here’s a guy, a local real estate appraiser, who in earlier years was so busy he didn’t have time for yard work — though he still found time to give me the numbers on the value of my house that never failed to titillate. After the current slowdown and months of no work, about the time the robins were nesting, Dave announced the foreclosure of his own home.

Digesting that hard bit of realty (in your neighborhood, too?) I concentrated on a robin that had a different housing issue. A wise man once said, The main purpose of a robin’s life is to make more robins. No truer words could be spoken about the robins in my yard. I have the spent remains of robins’ nests past mounted in my shed, lined up like seasonal trophies, nests discordant and rangy yet with smooth mud cups in the center as if straight from a potter’s wheel. Today’s robins apparently prefer a well-groomed yard, a place with nooks and support beams, like decks with their spaces and crannies out of the rain. Call them upscale robins, like us. We earned this, right?

This year’s action with the robins merits particular attention. Gets your mind off of things. In a wet spring like we had, robins eat a lot of earthworms. After the feasting, in mid-morning, they lay their pretty blue eggs, one egg per day, usually stopping at four.

Mama doesn’t incubate her clutch until all eggs are laid so that they hatch close to the same time. This takes time, and when the human co-tenant is hankering to clean or stain a deck and the robin mama decides not only to have one brood but two, yard work and deck rehab is put on hold.

It gets complicated because you have to keep your family dachshund, if you are lucky enough to have one, on hold as well. No more foraging, or running about barking, as well as no mowing or planting.

As you squirm under the pressure of yard work, you watch this mother turn her eggs ever so slowly, ever so methodically until chicks, naked, reddish, wet and blind, finally hatch, and you are so proud of your brood — okay, hers. Welcome to the world. By then it’s almost summer and there’s work to be done.

Come July, Dave’s yard is still and quiet. I’ll go over to mow the grass. Baby robins flit around my yard and will, in time, find his empty yard. A cycle of life repeats. It is a cycle, isn’t it?

This reflection is M.L. Faunce’s first of 2009, her 15th straight year of reflecting for Bay Weekly.