Small red-breasted ‘burglar’

A bird in the hand...
A bird in the hand...

I HEARD a scuffle in the kitchen as if a burglar was shuffling through the cupboards looking for something to steal.

So I grabbed the knobkerry which has probably cracked many a skull in Africa before father bought the weapon in an antiques shop and advanced.

Suddenly there came a crash and a glass jar hit the floor sending a jagged piece spinning over the tiles.

Now my blood was up and I knew the weapon would easily break a few fingers so leapt into the attack.

Well, you can see who the burglar was. I opened all the doors and windows an tried to flush him out of the corner where he was panting like a spaniel on a grouse moor.

So I stood down and waited for him to recover.

Now you know how pheasant cheepers run stupidly in front of the car unable to think how to get off the road, and how you call them all sorts of names to do with total lack of brains.

Well, to me robins do not come into that league.

They are not cannon fodder, they cheer us up at Christmas and are the Old English originals of the little creatures of the hidden places; the Robin Goodfellows and the gnomes and Jacks in the hedgerow.

So I had all the time in the world for this wee timorous beastie.

Remembering school days when we learnt how to put small aluminium leg bands with serial numbers to identify individual passerines in the interests of science, I soon approached the robin with slow unruffled movements and had him tight but comfortable twixt fingers and thumb.

Where, I wondered, was my wee digital camera?

Thank goodness these things are easy to switch on, even with the left hand.

Also I was glad that my finger nails were fairly clean since only an hour before I had been delving into the guts of the old Alvis car sorting out the cleaning of the breather pipe which is akin to cleaning a very filthy shotgun barrel.

It is amazing how small birds in the hand quickly relax.

I have often found them go completely asleep, lying on their backs in the palm with eyes half shut and quite still even when you open your hand fully.

You have to roll them out then so they fall sideways ready to fly away.

Mind you, this robin has been around on my bird table for a year now so he must know me.

His wife has vanished, probably down to the South of France which is where many females migrate to for the winter.

All right for some, that is, if they avoid the gunners.

She usually comes back, or one like her.

He had recovered his sang-froid within the hour and and came back to the bird table as if nothing had ever come between us.

I imagine his adventure into the house was from curiosity.

Like The Specialist with his mouse gnawing at the pantry door, who had been there for a month or more: when he got in he was going to be might sore . . . huh-huh-huh.

There ain’t a durn thing in there.

Richard Williamson