A robin, young and red-breasted, has become a great friend of mine over the past month. It looks out for me and the moment it espies me sitting down at my laptop by the window in the morning, it decides to draw my attention to its presence. This it does by launching into a series of songs, at various scales and what seems like an infinity of musical forms, on the tree a couple of yards from my window.
That is how the morning begins for me these days. I can see the bird singing away, keeping its eyes focused on me as it does so. It then becomes my happy responsibility to wave at it, call out to it --- I have given it a name to which it appears to respond. Its melodies then begin to take an even more degree of seriousness and good cheer. At moments, it punctuates the singing with a dance that looks like a pirouette on those branches, before making the jump to another branch, sometimes on a twig. The singing goes on. The bird and I keep looking at each other. It then disappears among the leaves, and sings from within their warmth.
I would not be writing of the robin today if I were not convinced of the feelings of friendship it has been demonstrating toward me over this past month. There are sometimes days when it does not make an appearance, but that is because of some construction work going on around the apartment complex where I happen to reside. The roar of machines, the sight of yellow plastic baskets carrying building materials being pulled up and then down are either a cause for fright on the part of the robin or a huge reason for displeasure. Birds, like every living being, have sensitivities. They have their emotions and their moments of happiness and depression. When nature is disturbed, they are perplexed and worried. It is their world of freedom which is interfered with.
These are symptoms of natural behaviour I spot in my friend the robin. On cold blustery days it does not appear before my window or on a branch of the tree that is evidently its home. But it sings, in the brief gaps between the winds, from deep inside the leaves. I call out to it, telling it as I do so that I can hear its song. The song goes on. In what was surely a strange moment, a few nights ago, when all birds are supposed to be at rest, asleep even as they dream away in the long hours before dawn, I heard the robin singing in low tones from inside the leaves. I opened a window, called out to it softly, hoping that it was not ill. It was, after all, a cold night. I wondered if it was the intensity of the frigid weather that was causing it pain, enough for it to sing, or call out to me, in what sounded like nervousness or fear. My friend lapsed into silence after a while. My worries about its well-being did not end.
There are the moments when, busy writing, I tend not to notice the robin launch its daily musical session on the tree outside my window. But it refuses to be ignored. It flits from the branch where it is ensconced, expecting me to link up with it, to another branch and then another. When I do not do that, or when I am intensely into some serious writing, it comes and goes into some impatient tapping at the window with its beak. It is then that I notice it staring at me. The moment when we make eye contact, it looks happy and flies back to the tree, where its music is renewed with greater vigour. This it does in two ways. It extends its tiny beak and lets out a longish song. And then comes the time when the song takes on a classical hue, a fact made evident by the way the robin pushes its beak downward, to let out a loud song even as its chest goes for an expansive movement forward.
There are often the wrens, tiny and yet beautiful in their swiftness of flight, which visit the tree the robin calls home. There are too the blackbirds which come visiting. On bright sunny days, the robin flies away somewhere --- it must be some visiting it is doing --- but even then it takes time off to come back to its tree, sing a few notes before flitting away again.
As winter approaches, I wonder where the robin will go for warmth and shelter. On blustery days, I have seen it singing bravely on a thin branch, almost falling off when the winds get stronger before deciding to seek refuge inside the safer sanctuary of a cluster of leaves deeper inside. Winter this year promises to be intense, not good news for my friend.
As I write, I look out at the tree outside my window. It will be evening soon. Perhaps my friend the robin will sing one more song before it retires for the night?
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