Life Long Learner In The Garden


Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence. ~ Robert Frost



I have always considered myself a lifelong learner especially in the garden.  And I find I learn the best through my experiences good or bad.  Bad sometimes being the over the top, knee-jerk reactions to things.  They have become less and less since retiring, but they still happen.  Case in point was this spring as we awaited the nesting of the birds, especially the robins who usually nest in our front dwarf willows.


DSCN5908Every year we look forward to watching the robins make their nest, lay the eggs one a day, nurture the babies and see them fledge.  So we were ecstatic when we saw a pair of robins checking out one of the trees in April just after the last spring snow.  You can see the female robin above.  Little did we know at the time that we would get to know her up close and personal.


Soon after the robin pair checked out the tree, I was sure they were set on that tree, and was happy knowing we would have a nest here again.  A few days later though something strange happened.  The bluebirds had chosen a house in the back garden, built a nest and were all set until a lone robin chased them out.  Robins don’t nest in houses so I was perplexed as to why this robin was continuing to bully the bluebirds out of their nest.  You can see her sitting here unrelenting as the bluebirds fought her unsuccessfully.  They went on to another house and built a nest where they had a few babies who fledged.


DSCN5987Then one day, soon after the bluebird house fight, we heard an unusual banging on the front windows.  Perched on the front porch bench was a robin pecking at the window.  I thought nothing of it until the pecking moved from window to window all day long.  It seemed the robin was protecting the area around the tree she had chosen, and saw another robin in the window.  I read online to cover the windows with decals or paper to break up the robin’s image.  It went on to say that if the robin didn’t stop she could wear herself out and die.  Not to mention the incessant banging against the window did not stop if we ignored it, and the noise was making us me crazy!


So I proceeded to cover every other pane with white paper.  I left it loose on the ends so it would fly up and discourage the bird as she was now flying up and pecking into the windows.  We moved the bench off the porch and she then took to flying from the trees right at the window.  Eventually she eased up on the pecking, and just when we thought we had her calmed down, she went to the back of the house and started pecking relentlessly at our bedroom windows launching herself from the roof below.  It was then that I surmised that the robin was clearing all similar birds from the area, including the bluebirds as they are also part of the thrush family.


At one point I had 3 of the windows in the front of the house and our bedroom windows DSCN6164completely covered with wrapping paper and white paper.  Of course our neighbors noticed the paper on the windows and were asking all sorts of questions.  And still the robin pecked at the windows more out of habit than anything by now.  This was beginning to wear thin for us, and my patience was about gone.  She seemed a bit more than quirky and we thought perhaps all the banging had loosened a few screws in her head.


So back to the internet, and with more research I bought an owl that we could hang.  I really wanted her to nest here, but I was more concerned for the bird and our sanity.  The owl seemed to work right away.  The robin moved on to the unoccupied house next door.  We had done all we could, and wished her well.


DSCN6619We unwrapped the house, and were settling in to the calm again when we heard an occasional peck at the front windows as the robins visited to find food in our garden.  Then I spied the female gathering nesting materials.  I was happy she would be nesting, and was shocked to see she had completed the foundation of nest in the original tree they had checked out in April.  And right under the hanging owl.  Great deterrent that owl!


As she built her nest, she would fly by, weave the nesting materials and then peck at the windows.  She took forever to build the nest as she kept getting distracted by the robin she saw still in the window….I think at this point she had developed ADD.  Her mate could be seen flying to the tree and calling to her to get back to the nest-building.  But in three days she finally completed the nest, and three days after that she laid her first egg.  Whew!


And after all that has happened, I have been trying to figure out the lesson of this robin DSCN8859adventure.  One thing I have learned throughout my life is that the more distressing the experience, the more profound the lesson.  And each experience will be interpreted differently depending on our view of the world.  But most importantly, try not to judge the situation.  Instead dig into your feelings looking for the wisdom found therein.


So what is the wisdom from this experience.  The obvious lesson was; don’t try to change nature.  But when I thought about it a bit more, I realized the bigger lesson was one of resilience and perseverance.  You can hit your head against a wall or window many times before you might find success, but it is important to keep trying if you really want to reach the goal.  And boy was this robin a role model for reaching a goal in the midst of many obstacles or perhaps perceived obstacles.


DSCN5803So this fall, as I think about the deer already browsing the garden and the voles digging holes in my veg beds, I also think about the robin.  Her lessons so vital to me….we can only do what we can do in our gardens after all we share the land with the critters.…and of course, don’t beat your head against the wall for too long, but keep working on the problem by getting a new perspective.  Then we can work through the obstacles toward a solution.




Note:  There is much animal symbolism surrounding the Robin.  Their bright yellow beak stands for the sun’s rays.  The white ring around the robin’s eye is symbolic of clarity, and great wisdom. When clear understanding is needed the robin is called upon.




Update in fall:

While this story started in early spring when the robin’s returned it did not end with the first nest in our tree.  After a week of the robins laying the eggs, we arose to find some of the eggs pushed from the nest.  It appears something was wrong with them so the robin’s destroyed them and started over.

This time they moved to my next door neighbor’s tree and within hours had a new nest, and a couple days later they were laying another clutch of eggs.  She did not peck at their windows as they have a dog, but she flew for an occasional peck at our windows to make sure our robin in the window stayed at bay.

We never saw any fledglings, but heard there were some.  And just this fall we saw lots of young robin’s still around our garden.  It seems the robin is more than just a harbinger of spring here in our garden.



I am sharing this lesson with Beth@PlantPostings for her wonderful Garden Lessons Learned meme.  I hope you will join her.  I am also linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.  And I am joining Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday.  Please check them all out.


Also as the solstice approaches, please join me join in at my garden blog, Gardens Eye View,  for my quarterly meme, Seasonal Celebrations, where you can find all the details for linking up to this celebration of the new seasons around the world.



I leave you with another thought about my garden lesson learned this year.  Feel free to download the photo and share.



All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

50 Replies to “Life Long Learner In The Garden”

  1. What a wonderful story, Donna. The photo and quote at the end is a perfect conclusion. We have robins all year round and I’m glad they don’t peck at our windows (not yet anyway.) I’m reading Fran Sorin’s ‘Digging Deep’ and it is making me think ‘deeply’ about the lessons I learn from my garden. P. x

    1. Fran’s book is next on my list Pam. She sent me a free ebook version which will be new for me to read….I much prefer a real live book. And how wonderful you have robins year round. There is not enough of a food source here yet for them to stay. Our berries are stripped before the snow flies. I expect they linger in woods nearby as we will see them occasionally.

  2. I enjoyed your robin story, Donna. We see robins quite frequently and we had one build a nest on a light fixture by our front door. It’s a popular spot; finches were there the previous year.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the story Beth. I love when birds build nests close by so we can watch….I am spying a few sparrows using the tangle of branches, on the robin’s willow trees, for shelter this winter.

    1. Thanks Anna for popping by….so glad you enjoyed my very stubborn robin. They are very different than yours, but yours are so very cute. I enjoy seeing pictures of them on many European blogs.

    1. Sara she was a character we will never forget and she brought such wonderful lessons although not always a positive mood from us when she was relentless in her banging. So glad to have shared her story with you and thank you for stopping by and commenting!

    1. Soosie she was courageous and I could see the very fear in her eyes many days, but she did keep getting out there and trying showing me her courage…another lesson she taught me that I would have missed without your insightful comment…thank you!

  3. That last photo of the Robin looking right at you is priceless Donna. I had to chuckle throughout your story because I had a similar experience with Robins pecking the window. When we first moved to Portland and before I started volunteering at Audubon, I called them because this activity was really concerning me. I remember saying to the Audubon Naturalist: “I think the female Robin may be trying to get at a warm place for a nest.” (This shows you immediately how naive and nutty I was!) The man sighed. “Oh no,” he said, “It’s a male Robin” and he thinks he sees a competing bird in his territory. He won’t allow the building of the nest until this “other bird” goes away!” The whole way that he sighed about it being dumb masculine behavior just cracked me up and made me want to go and volunteer my time at Audubon so I could learn more. Great story!

    1. Oh I love your robin story Susie….I was surprised our pecking robin was a female. And that last robin picture of the glaring bird is the male….he was making sure all knew this was his territory and he defended it mightily. What a great way to learn by volunteering…food for thought perhaps as I look toward future steps for me!

  4. Wow, that is a persistent robin, Donna! It must have been frustrating to have it continually pecking at your windows. As many robins as we’ve had here this past year, I’ve never noticed them pecking at the window. They swarm the bird feeder and swoop and duck and defend territory (and fly into the windows), but I don’t recall any pecking at the windows. How fascinating! Thanks for joining in the meme!

  5. I really enjoyed this post Donna, and wonderful that you could follow your Robins journey. We would love to be hosts to nesting birds but it rarely happens unless by Coal Tits on our house wall. It must be really joyful to be able to know when eggs are laid and successful young birds fledge.

  6. Donna your Robin is so different from ours but chubby and adorable! I am so impressed by your efforts to support the breeding pair. What good karma you have created in your garden, sowing the seeds for even more to come. Your new home here on this blog is really giving you wings, C x

    1. Oh dear Catherine you made my day as tears of joy are welling up with your lovely words here. I had not even thought about the karma we create, but you are so right…and it is so important to me that we do so the seeds for more to come. I am especially happy that you are enjoying the new blog home I am creating here….I do feel so cozy here! And thank you for leaving such beautiful thoughts for me!

  7. I have never seen or heard of such an aggressive robin although we often have them nesting in our yard. I have heard of male cardinals acting like this, though. Fascinating story!

    1. Hugs to you too Diane and thank you for letting me know how much you are enjoying the new blog….I greatly love writing in this space….I hope you have a very special holiday season!

  8. I love robins, as well as bluebirds, and so far, fortunately, they have co-existed in my garden. I hope your robin babies did not inherit the mom’s strange phobia or whatever that was, as I am sure some will then be pecking at your windows next year. I admire YOUR determination.. Not many would have put paper all over their windows. I think my hubby would have went for the B-B gun!

  9. I have never seen an aggressive Robin. I feel for the poor Bluebirds.I have had a Cardinal tapping against my den window, I had to put up some decals and it seemed to stop.. Thanks for sharing your Robin story.. Love the photos and the quote.. Enjoy your new week and thanks for linking up!

  10. the trouble in the garden, is the opportunity for problem-solving. I’m enjoying trying our paper plans against the reality I find in the garden. That wall where I was going to display pot plants and the potted Japanese maple – doesn’t work, too hot and windy. Plan B a succulent hedge there, and the tender plants will stay where they are happy on the sheltered shady patio. We have a resident robin who appreciates the new birdbath.

  11. Really cute robin adventures. It had to be perplexing at first though for all you did to discourage it. I get birds tapping at the window where I photograph them and I am sure it is so I fill the feeders. I even had a hummingbird fly in one time.

    1. Critters at the window can be a hoot Donna…we have had hummers looking in at us and even a few tree frogs. The last was a woodpecker looking in. They must be curious about us too.

  12. All of that from a very industrious robin (with a red breast, I might add!). I love the lessons, Donna, but I especially love the beginning quote by Robert Frost…which I might use for my 2015 quote (on my main email account), if you don’t mind?!

  13. I’ve just been reading some of Thomas Merton’s nature writing, where he describes a wren hopping on to his notebook and then his shoulder and then going about its business. He talks about how unknowable a bird’s motivations are. Your robin’s motives weren’t unknowable, but still — what wouldn’t you have given to be inside her head for a few minutes, just so you could see the windows from her perspective! So much of what we do is second-guessing, as we try to counteract the effects of modern life on nature. I’m glad she succeeded in the end, as determined and protective as she was! Wonderful story and lovely photos, Donna.

    1. Merton’s work sounds interesting…I think animals are curious about us but not for as long as we are curious about them….I love watching them and trying to imagine what they are thinking….it would have been great to get inside that robin’s head. Glad you enjoyed her story Stacy.

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