Posted by: Ross Gardner | November 19, 2012

A Robin

The Robin, or the European Robin, to be more precise.  Known scientifically as Erithacus rubecula, the ‘Little red one’, as translated by Theodorus Gaza, the 15th century Greek scholar and translator of Aristotle, the Ancient Greek philosopher.  Britain apparently has its own subspecies Erithacus rubecula melophilus, derived from the Greek ‘melos’ (song) and ‘phileo’ (to love).

It was the effects of this last etymology that stopped me in my tracks as I got out of my car on returning home from work and started my way through the front gate.  A Robin singing little more than a metre above my head among the branches of a leafless cherry tree.  I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard a Robin singing and it is always a pleasure, but why did this one in particular dispell any preoccupations I might have had in my thoughts and demand that I stop and watch and listen?

The song is a beautiful one, of course.  Many a writer has referred to it as ‘mellow’ and ‘liquid’, words that are indeed hard to resist when attempting a description.  I watched this one as it sang.  The sound seemed to be made without effort – that the bill simply needed to be opened for the song to pour forth.  I have on occasion heard the Robin’s song described as melancholy, particularly in the winter when both male and female sing to hold territories.  To my ears it is always a sound of warmth and brightness.

The one in this picture was photographed one August in a garden in Devon, by the banks of the River Teign, a most welcome companion for a holiday week.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula). Copyright 2010 Ross Gardner

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