well, some of them are subtle. this particular robin was a cheeky blighter with an attitude that would make a rhinoceros proud.
they're very territorial birds, i'm told. and, i'm not sure if it's the norm, but it's fairly common for a male robin to build a nest in order to attract a female. it seems the ladies like some assurance that his intentions are honorable.
but he'll pick the oddest place to build the blessed thing!!! i've seen them glued on the traffic side of a tractor trailer, with the tiniest lip of metal supporting the whole structure he expects his intended to raise a family in. or on top of the carriage light between two electric garage doors. i'm sure herself's first words on inspecting such a dwelling are 'what were you thinking?!' and the second sentence she speaks is probably 'i'm going home to mother till you come up with something habitable'.
this particular romeo chose for his 'home' base the horizontal beam that supported the second story deck of the old church i was renovating. it was on the west side of the building, broadside to the prevailing winds. each joist of the deck above rested perpendicular to this beam, forming a little box which created a mini wind tunnel. were flatlanders here. there IS wind. a LOT of wind.
now, romeo was on his own for some time. i'm not sure if there had been some confusion about where and when the rendezvous would occur, or if he was a magnificent optimist who just knew someone wonderful would appear magically, and find him irresistible. i tend towards the magnificent optimist theory, and here's why. romeo didn't just build a nest. there were something in the neighborhood of a dozen little wind tunnels on that beam. he built a nest in every one of them. or, he tried to..... he drove himself crazy trying to.
remember the wind? in the tunnel? often i'd come home from work and walk under the deck to the front door, in that howling prairie wind. and i'd notice as i strode along, that those once-nest-filled tunnels were empty, or had only tattered shreds of vegetable matter left in them. but the next day (if the wind had abated) there'd be little heaps of new - or possibly recycled - vegetable matter in each of them. if enough windless days managed to cling to each other long enough to become a weather pattern, there'd soon be a little nest in each darling little hurricane chute. till the wind woke up again. this continued from spring till well into summer, and still no sign of a missus.
i mentioned that robins are territorial. i haven't yet mentioned the scaffold. it had been built to facilitate installing the new roof part of the renovation. it worked terrifically for that purpose, and the roof - a gorgeous blue sheet metal with a pitch that a chinese pagoda would envy - had been through its second winter by then. i couldn't see that the scaffold continued to serve any useful purpose, and the horizontal footpath planks were right at eye level from inside the building. as well as being in the direct line of vision, whenever it rained, muddy water splattered all over the windows. i wasn't sure why it even existed anymore, but any effort to discuss the subject with the architect and engineer responsible for the structure - my (now ex-) husband - resulted in long periods of darkly silent glowering and pouting. even the kids knew better than to behave that way, for crying out loud.
turns out i was wrong about the scaffolds not serving any useful purpose. romeo discovered they were perfect for pacing on. perhaps he was relieving sexual tension, what with no missus, and all that nest building. he spent every waking moment that he wasn't building nests walking the plank. back and forth in front of the windows. he must have had drumsticks of steel. his favorite spot seemed to be the kitchen window - glaring at me as i did all the kitchen things one does with 2 teenage boys who can't eat processed food. i spent a lot of time in that kitchen. when he couldn't stand it any more, he'd fly screaming at the window in a fury, with murder in his eyes. so now the windows were splattered with mud & robin guck and covered with robin footprints and feather smudges. bleargh!
this went on for much of the summer. he didn't bother us in the yard, but he seemed to consider the house his turf, and anyone inside it fair game. more than one visitor who dared approach a window from inside was frightened off by his sudden and very angry appearance. several made reference to alfred hitchcock's 'the birds'.
i'm not a 'birder', but i like birds. i like the way they fill my yard with song, and i keep my bedroom window open all summer because i like to wake up to the sounds of their conversations, even if i don't understand the language. i like to keep a bird feeder and feel very proud when i can identify one or two of my dinner guests. i don't want them to be hungry in the winter. at first i thought he was charming. then, amusing. then, though he was becoming annoying, i empathized with his frustrated nesting instinct. by the time july was ripening tomatoes, i'd about had it with him, and i was calling him ugly names and wishing he'd go away. my front step was always full of trash from his bloody nests, and i didn't dare go near any of my blinkin' filthy windows when i was inside my own damned house. i'm ashamed to say, i even told him i could see why he was still single, and i thought he deserved to die a virgin. the sooner the better.
but miracles do happen. one day, he was gone. the wind blew the last of his nests away. i washed all of my windows. my friends made tentative forays over for tea. a new robin's nest appeared on that carriage light i mentioned earlier, between two electric doors on the garage across the street. he'd found his lady love after all, but, though he'd given her a dozen cozy nests to choose from, she hadn't liked the neighborhood, and he had to help her build a new one, from scratch. baby robins grow at a phenomenal rate, and we caught glimpses of them feeding and learning to fly, before the family packed up for the trip south.
i guess my Mr. didn't like the neighborhood either. he left the following winter. one of the first things i did the spring after he left was tear down the cursed scaffold. i wasn't chancing the arrival of any more wonky robins.