Robins – forty years ago in my nature notebooks

As a twelve year old boy, seeing any wild bird was a thrill. Seeing a Robin was a particularly special occasion, especially if it came close. Here’s my nature notebook entry:

Robin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) 2016 David Bailey (not the)

Forty years later and I still love “Song. Long melodious warbling,” as a description.

Here’s the first time I wrote about Robins, in August 1976:

Robin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) 2016 David Bailey (not the)

I wrote that Robins are known as ‘Robin Redbreast’ but it’s not actually red is it? It’s definitely orange.

Robin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) 2016 David Bailey (not the)

It’s astonishing that Robins seem so brightly coloured and yet blend into the background with perfect camouflage amongst Autumn leaves.

Just six years after these notebook entries I was a student at Oxford University attending lectures by Richard Dawkins, the academic and author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion. He was keen to point out that many people’s attitudes to other species were based upon a deep-seated prejudice against instinctive behaviours. Animals which displayed instinctive behaviours were seen as ‘less intelligent’ than others. He used the Robin as an example. He said that if you take a Robin into the territory of another male Robin then it will be attacked. If you take a stuffed Robin into the territory of another male Robin then it will still be attacked. In fact if you even take just a few red breast feathers into the territory of another male Robin then it will be attacked. That was seen as proof that Robins were bird brained, as it wasn’t even a real Robin. “But then,” he said, “Just look at what men do when they see a photograph of a naked woman; and it’s not even a real woman!”

Robin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) 2016 David Bailey (not the)

Robins. Not as stupid as they seem.

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