Friday, 15 November 2013


Of all garden birds, the robin (erithacus rubecula) is probably the best loved. A sight of a redbreast is particularly welcome in winter when cold, grey skies and drizzle make gardening more of a chore than it is in summer. They will come and sit on a convenient local perch and look as if they are taking an intelligent interest in your activities.
Of course they are doing just that, though the prospect of your exposing some hapless insect is more likely to be their motive than a desire to offer constructive criticism of your digging technique. But they look so cheerful in their smart red waistcoats that the gardener's heart is lifted anyway.
If you can tell male robins from females, you're doing better than I can. When I see aggressive territorial behaviour from these birds I'm never sure whether the victim is a rival male. I assume the robins themselves can tell the difference.
From the point of view of an aspiring photographer, robins are a great help. Not only are they usually ready and willing to adopt and hold a good Christmas-card pose, they also have a good colour contrast between the eye and its surrounding feathers, making it much easier to focus and more likely that you will catch the reflected light in the eye that makes a bird photograph come alive.