Monday, April 17, 2017

Dear Mrs. Red Robin

Dear Mrs. Red Robin,

Spring has finally come to the garden and the warm weather has me thinking about you. I hope you are well and enjoyed your winter away. 

Will you be returning again to make your nest and raise your babies in the arbor, I wonder?

When I first saw that you had made your nest in the arbor last spring, I am ashamed to admit I thought you were foolish. I hope you forgive both my honesty and my terrible arrogance! To me the arbor seemed like such a low and exposed place to build a family home. We humans have one serious frailty– we think we always know best. 

So quickly I saw the wisdom of your choice! The leafy arbor had both a front and back door. It was nothing for you to fly from your lookout in the black walnut to the arbor and slip unseen through the leaves to the sheltered nest inside of the arbor. And if no one was watching, there was always the more direct root from the fence to the nest that you had hidden so skillfully.

Curious creature that I am, I couldn't resist counting the tiny eggs one day when you were out. Five perfect turquoise eggs! 

I pass through the arbor daily on my way into the garden. Despite my coming and going inches your resting spot, you remained steadfast on those precious eggs. How I came to admire your bravery and diligence Mrs. Robin! I think after a while we got rather used to one another, didn't we? I began to look forward to that moment when l'd pass and say hello.

Then we had that terrible cold snap and even the warmth.of your feathered breast could not protect the two eggs at the very bottom of the nest. Oh the heartbreak motherhood can bring! Only three babies survived to tap their way out of their shells. As mothers we do our best, but sometimes there is nothing we can do to protect our children from the harsh realities of life. 

I think I was excited as you were to see the three baby robins. All beaks and eyes they weren't cute in the way that babies so often are, but with regular meals of fresh tasty worms who wouldn't see their potential to become handsome birds? It broke my heart when one morning I found a baby had fallen from the crowded nest and perished in the cold. I buried him among the flowers, and like you, I invested all my hopes in the remaining two. 

Some might scoff at me for thinking I could learn anything from a simple creature like a bird, but learn I did. Flying is no easy task even when you are born with wings. I see that now!

The days got warmer and the babies grew and grew. There were no further mishaps until Mr.Gardener walked through the arbor one afternoon unaware. The startled fledglings fluttered to the ground to the sounds of your alarmed, "Pip, pip, pip." Mr. Robin came in answer to your calls and all the other birds spread the word that there was possible danger in the garden.

I thought that your distress was that your babies had fallen, but now I think I see, my dear Mrs. Red Robin, that your only concern was for the circumstances in which they had fallen. The young fledglings had been testing their wings for days. They were ready to leave the nest and make their own way in the world. The only difference was that their departure was not made at a moment of their choosing.

There is a right of passage that all adolescent robins must face. The first test of a young robin's wings is a safe drop to the ground. That is why your nest is not high in a tree! Now I understand that there is a very delicate balance at work when you build your nest. A home close to the ground might invite danger from predators, but it also assures your offspring will make it through their first flight unharmed.

Who would have guested that the cacophony of bird calls on that bright, sunny afternoon would bring fresh danger instead of preventing old? A brown hawk swooped down from the sky and perched himself on the fence. What a devilishly handsome fellow he was too! Mr. Gardener and I watched with horror as one of the two babies hopped down the garden path in plain sight those dark, beady eyes. There was not a moment to loose. I ran down the path after your wee babe waving my arms up and down as if l had my own pair of wings. The hawk wanted no part of such lunacy. He took to the sky and disappeared as mysteriously as he had arrived.

While I was occupied creating a distraction, the fledgling disappeared into the green cover of the garden. There his black feathers and spotted breast made him all but invisible. I felt sick fearing the worst would befall the last of your children, Mrs Red Robin! You had worked hard to keep them safe, but sometimes misfortune counters a parent's best efforts!

I am so very glad that neither of your children perished that afternoon or in the days that followed. I was relieved and happy when I discovered that there were still two shy adolescents in your good company Mrs. Red Robin! I could not have been more proud of them, if they had been my own.

It broke my heart all over again when they eventually struck it out on their own. 

So now you know, my dear friend, how much I have been thinking of you. The arbor remains empty awaiting your return.

Happy Easter to you Mrs Red Robin. Happy Easter!

Yours truly, 
Mrs. Gardener

P. S. If you happen to see Mrs. Brown Bunny in your travels, please pass on my regards. 


  1. Beautiful!
    I believe all nature is a good teacher, if we just sllllloooooowwwwww down and listen!

    1. Yes, I agree nature is a patient teacher. As you say, we just have to listen.

  2. I have watched baby birds grow up in my own garden and had many of the same feelings you did. Being out in a garden really makes you aware of all that is going on. I think perhaps your Mrs. Robin visited us here on Cape Cod this winter. I SO enjoy your blog!

    1. Thanks Diane! Mrs. Red Robbin may indeed have spent the winter in your Cape Cod garden. A connection to other creatures one of the best reasons for gardening, isn't it?

  3. Oh, Jennifer, how much I enjoyed reading this (twice)!!
    I sure hope she returns to you.
    She could not ask for a kinder mother's helper.

    1. Thanks Lisa! It's a longish post, so I worried no one would read it. Your comment made my day!

  4. So lovely! You make me feel guilty for spending the day trying to keep the mourning doves from nesting in my hanging fern.

    1. Some birds can be a bit of a nuisance, so don't feel too guilty. Glad you liked the post Sarah.

  5. What a beautiful, sweet post, I absolutely loved it, what a lovely children's story it would

    1. Thanks Snowbird. There is a bit too much death for a kids book I think, but I know what you mean. I never thought I had any potential to be a children's author, but who knows, maybe I do.

  6. So sweet! I agree with Snowbird, this would make a wonderful children's book, though I can see the sadness would have to be omitted. I hope Mrs. Robin returns this year, and you have a chance to enjoy some new fledglings.

  7. This would make a beautiful children's story. I know the children I teach would enjoy it very much. Even children are aware of and know the perils that accompany life in nature. The cold snap in the spring is talked about as just another one of the challenges of Mother Nature (believe me, we talk about this in our need to be prepared in our dress for wild swings in temperatures) and we talk about the food chain, too. Children these days need so much to learn about nature. Too many of them spend their time at home behind a digital screen of some sort and are not even able to identify a Robin. 😔

    I so enjoy when the robins return!


I love to hear from you. Thanks for leaving a comment.