Donning our jackets, hats and gloves we listened as the small birds around us began to sing the morning chorus and watched as a small red squirrel kitten paused on a long since disused railway bridge, before bounding across into the trees back-lit by the first light of the day.
It was the second consecutive day that we had visited this reserve hoping to see the local but elusive Kingfishers in action. A few more visits were to follow but not necessarily to see the Kingfishers.
We had decided to try a different hide hoping our luck would improve and settled into our cold wooden shelter for a long wait.
Even before the suns rays started to illuminate all the nooks and crannies around the edge of the small loch it was clear a pair of small birds were busy at work. While other birds sang through the dawn these two were busy catching all the insects they could muster making full use of the perches used by the Kingfishers.
When the sun finally did break through we got our first proper look and photographs of the pair. It was no surprise by this time to find it was a pair of Robins. The size and shape of their silhouettes had given them away.
The UK’s favourite and most common bird, two of them in fact seemed to be working together. They were almost taking turns. One would sit among the branches while the other dived about filling it’s beak with as many flies and insects as it could.
It would then zip off with its catch. Both birds repeatedly disappearing in the same direction.
Before it returned the other adult would begin fishing for insects off of the surface allowing the first adult to have a break among the branches upon its return.
They were clearly feeding their newborn chicks. What other reason could the UK’s most territorial bird have to not only accept another adult into such close proximity and work with it?
Robins are very prolific breeders. Usually beginning in March, they can produce up to five broods each year. The timing was perfect. This couple clearly had young.
One of the adults was far more successful at foraging than the other. One would be lucky to catch a fly.
The other would regularly catch a mouthful.
We watched them all morning before heading home. They were enthralling. Unrelenting in their task to collect food.
It was only after getting home I became intrigued. ‘If they were feeding young I wonder if I would get to see a youngster in future?’ I thought but never acted on.
Yesterday we returned to the reserve, two weeks since our last visit. I was excited to see what they Robins were up to but there was no sign of them. We watched a Mute Swan swim towards us threateningly before settling down to preen itself.
Mallard ducklings cutely swam in every direction they could as fast they could testing their parents observation skills feeding on all the midgees now hovering on the loch that the upturn in weather has caused.
But no Robins. I was surprised and beginning to get annoyed that I didn’t make more of the initial photographic opportunity weeks ago when a Robin appeared.
But it didn’t fish for insects and instead seemed to be watching over us.
Right after this photo was taken it zipped to another branch where we got our first glimpse of its youngster.
Quickly feeding it and then flying off. We couldn’t believe it. My dad and I had never seen a juvenile Robin before. We have Robins in our garden but have never witnessed the bundle of fluff they have for offspring.
The juvenile was very camera shy and chose to reside in the safety of the undergrowth mostly. Only peering out to see if its high pitched chirps had got mum or dad’s attention.
It eventually set up camp in the corner of the loch. Nipping out occaisonally from the undergrowth for a drink or to collect an easy meal from the surface.
Only one of the adults was attending to the chick now, the pair had clearly gone their separate ways, turning up every so often to feed it. Unfortunately I was never able to get a clear shot of this as it always took place secretively in the undergrowth or just behind some obstructive branches.
Every so often the chick would try its wings, flapping awkwardly and ungainly landing on an exposed branch allowing me to get a few snaps of its floofy coat.
At one point on its attempted return to its safe haven it overshot its landing and touched down right next to the hide in full view. Giving me a dirty look before scampering away.
The adult was never far away and would regularly check on the chick and us it seemed.
We watched the juvenile for hours, constantly scuttling about chirping for its parent to feed it before it was scared away from its little sanctuary by a thirsty Red Squirrel visiting the lochs edge to drink and wasn’t seen again.
It was an amazing encounter. One I hope to have more of. I will be dropping in on these two in the coming months hoping to catch a glimpse of the chick growing into it’s adult plumage and beginning to fend for itself hoping to get a few more interesting shots.
Thanks for reading.
Elliot & Kirsten.