Wednesday, 30 March 2016

All robins answer to "Tippy"

It's too early to tell whether Tippy himself, our original and by now quite geriatric front-yard robin will return this spring. So far, only one robin has appeared in the neighbourhood, a youngster by the look of him and a bit shy. He hangs out in the top of the tamarack tree across the street.

Today on a ramble, after Paul took pictures of the wild white water of Ragged Chute, we took 12th Line over to a quiet little spot on Killoran Road.

It's nothing special, really, but we're fond of that spot. A swamp drains through two large culverts under the road and the water in summer is a lazy shallow stream populated by bullfrog tadpoles and minnows. We've seen some rather lovely damselflies cruising over the glassy surface. Today it was wider, swift and deep, carving clay from the banks.

But I wasn't in the mood for water, I wanted a walk, and sky. The forest there is gorgeous, mostly maple, open, free of underbrush for the most part .. except near the road, where thorny hawthornes and tangled vines forbid entry. I admit to a sigh, I would have, this once, trespassed had I seen an opening. There was surprisingly little snow on that forest floor.

Still, it's a nice road, so I set off up it, leaving Paul in the car warming up after his clamberings around that still snowy, icy riverbank a few moments before. I didn't go near it, brrrr!

The air was soft and smelled like wet gravel road, old snowbanks and damp forest floor. The March breeze wind made me glad of my layers of warm clothes, headscarf and gloves and the slate grey sky spoke of eventual rain. I just walked, looking. Nothing green yet of course, unless you count lichen on fallen branches. But soft road under my feet felt good, branch shapes against spring sky looked good. I walked, just looking and feeling, noting how sure and strong my stride felt, how clear my breathing, how the big pines by the road near the top of the rise began to acknowledge me .. the maples had petered out at another wide bend of the stream that rolled away to my right, old white pine lined the road, from behind them the graceful presence of a stand of white birch stopped me.

"Where are all the birds?" I wondered. I knew they were there somewhere, watching me, so I called quietly, sing-song and sweet .. "birrrr - deees, birrrrr - deeees". Came the answer "chick-deeeee, chick-deeeee" the spring song of a winter bird, followed by the chirpling of several more.

Birds are delighted when we speak to them.

I walked slowly now, once again scanning the tree tops although I couldn't give you a reason, I just knew I should, and the shapes of several robins appeared in the highest branches. I love how that happens, they were there before, just invisible to me until I looked (as I believe Goethe described it) with "the unworn corners of the eye".

"Hel-lo!" I called to them, and of course they ignored me. "Ro-bins!" I called quietly, sing-song and sweet and one answered, a less than enthusiastic "cheep-cheep". At least it was acknowledgement. Out of habit, really, I called "Tippy ... Tip-py" and by gum didn't those birds get really excited! A chorus erupted as they all bounced to attention, regarding me first with one eye and then with the other as robins do. I laughed and walked towards them, expecting one to sound the alarm and them all to take off but no, they were interested.

"Tippy ... Tippeeeeee"

Just as old Tippy always, on the day he first returns to hang out by the front porch, relates a long chirping story that seems to be his telling of a winter's tale, all of those birds began to chatter excitedly. All of them.

Ha! Who knew? I laughed - a lot.

I could see our little blue car coming up the hill, so it was time to bid them adieu although they didn't seem to understand that. They were still chattering when Paul drew the car up. I opened the door saying "do you hear that?" and he laughed too. It really was delightful.

We pulled away slowly and had gone hardly any distance, just a little ways from the trees to where the land and sky opened up to hayfield when I spotted a Very Large Hawk.

"Let me out! I want to play the hawk game!" (I know, I'm such a kid sometimes). With maybe just a hint of eye-rolling he of course stopped the car to let me play.

A human being standing in the middle of a country road with arms outstretched as though wings piques the curiousity of vultures and ravens but not always hawks. This one was decidedly not interested, in fact he changed direction, wheeling away from me. As I turned around to watch him fly off I heard .. robins! Above and behind me, fluttering and still chattering, 'my' gang of robins had followed the car, followed me, more precisely. Crazy birds.

I wonder .. does the word 'Tippy' mean something in robin-speak? Is it magic? Or do I just have the kind of face that robins feel they can talk to?

Whatever the case may be, do try this with your local robin, because you never know. Maybe all robins really do answer to 'Tippy'.


  1. Seems 'Tippy' to robins is like 'Pooper' to dogs. :)

    1. If they could have wagged their tails, they would have.

    2. I'll have to try it. But I think when the Robins are busy looking for worms in the grass, they may not be as interested. Right now you've got the groups of male Robins coming back from migration. hehe, maybe you sound to them like a girl Robin!

    3. With our backyard robins, I talk to them when they're hanging out singing in the morning or late afternoon. They completely ignore me when they're hunting, yes.