Archives for posts with tag: robin

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MORNING TALK
by Roberta Hill Whiteman

“Hi, guy,” said I to a robin
perched on a pole in the middle
of the garden. Pink and yellow
firecracker zinnias, rough green
leaves of broccoli,
and deep red tomatoes on dying stems
frame his still presence.

“I’ve heard you’re not
THE REAL ROBIN. Bird watchers have
agreed,” I said.”THE REAL ROBIN
lives in England. They claim
your are misnamed and that we ought
to call you ‘a red-breasted thrush’
because you are
indigenous.”

He fluffed up. “Am I not
Jis ko ko?” he cried, “that persistent
warrior who carries warmth
northward every spring?”
He seemed so young, his red belly
a bit light and his wings, still
faded brown. He watched me
untangling the hose to water squash.

“Look who’s talking!” he chirruped.
“Your people didn’t come
from Europe or even India.
The turtles say you’re a relative
to red clay on this great island.”
Drops of crystal water
sparkled on the squash.

“Indigenous!” he teased
as he flew by.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Jis ko ko is the Iroquoian name for Robin. In the story, he is a young warrior who confronts the old man of winter. The old man uses ice and brutal winds to keep Jis ko ko’s warmth away from the earth. When the old man shoots him on the chest with an arrow of ice, the young man bleeds and transforms into the bird. Even as a bird, he continues his purpose, bringing warm rain and growth—green leaves, flowers and fruit.

SOURCE: “Morning Talk” appears in Roberta Hill Whiteman‘s collection Philadelphia Flowers (Holy Cow! Press, 1996), available at Amazon.com.

IMAGE: “Harbinger,” watercolor by Betty LaRue. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roberta Hill Whiteman is a poet of Wisconsin Oneida heritage. She is known for the collections Star Quilt (1984) and Philadelphia Flowers (1996). She received the 1991 Wisconsin Idea Foundation’s Excellence Award and has a PhD from the University of Minnesota.

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END OF APRIL
by Phillis Levin

Under a cherry tree
I found a robin’s egg,
broken, but not shattered.

I had been thinking of you,
and was kneeling in the grass
among fallen blossoms

when I saw it: a blue scrap,
a delicate toy, as light
as confetti

It didn’t seem real,
but nature will do such things
from time to time.

I looked inside:
it was glistening, hollow,
a perfect shell

except for the missing crown,
which made it possible
to look inside.

What had been there
is gone now
and lives in my heart

where, periodically,
it opens up its wings,
tearing me apart.

SOURCE: “End of April” appears in Phillis Levin’s collection The Afterimage (Copper Beech Press, 1995), available at Amazon.com.

ILLUSTRATION: “Opus No. 122″ by Kazue Shima

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Phillis Levin is the author of four poetry collections, including May Day (Penguin, 2008), and editor of the Penguin Book of the Sonnet (Penguin, 2001). She teaches at Hofstra University.

Author photo by Sheila McKinnon

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PASTORAL AS COMPLAINT
by Bruce Weigl

           The robin is so quarrelsome. He barks to no one in the trees; 
he fluffs his body twice its size and rattles in the leaves.
           He doesn’t know or won’t accept the nest is empty now,
the eggs a tatter on the ground. The storm was quick, 
           we didn’t see it come; no sound above the hum

a summer morning makes when god is in his place
           and we are free of tragedies that pile up along the way.  
The robin is so quarrelsome; 
           he thinks his life is gone just like the nest,
but he’s like the rest of us, it’s only just begun.

Photo: colonial1637(off & on)’s, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Weigl served in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968 and was awarded a Bronze Star. His first full-length collection of poems was published in 1979. He has received two Pushcart Prizes, a Patterson Poetry Prize, and a Yaddo Foundation Fellowship. Weigl was awarded the Bread Loaf Fellowship in Poetry in 1981 and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988. He was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for Song of Napalm.

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ROBIN EGGS: THE BLUER THE BETTER

Illustration and Text by Patterson Clark

(originally published 5/1/2012 in the Washington Post)

Not much point in looking around for a nearby nest when you find an American robin eggshell on the sidewalk.

Soon after a chick hatches, the female robin grabs the eggshell and flies off to drop it far from the nest. Leaving the baby behind for a few moments is worth the risk, since the bright white insides of the eggshell can attract predators.

But before the egg hatches, blue-green pigments on the outside surface of the egg might help with camouflage. Pigments might also strengthen the egg and help protect it from solar radiation.

A robin coats her eggs with the same turquoise-hued compound found in our bile and bruises, biliverdin, an important antioxidant. Female robins with higher concentrations of biliverdin in their tissue lay darker, more vividly colored eggs, which apparently sends a strong signal to males.

“Males seem to use egg color to gauge the quality of their mate and the eggs she lays, putting more effort into rearing babies when they are more likely to survive and prosper,” says Robert Montgomerie of Queen’s University in Canada.

With Philina English, Montgomerie determined that when eggs are more colorful, male robins will invest as much as twice the amount of energy helping feed nestlings.

SOURCES: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology; Bird Coloration: Function and Evolution; Stanford University

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END OF APRIL

by Phillis Levin

Under a cherry tree

I found a robin’s egg,

broken, but not shattered.
 
I had been thinking of you,

and was kneeling in the grass

among fallen blossoms
 
when I saw it: a blue scrap,

a delicate toy, as light

as confetti
 
It didn’t seem real,

but nature will do such things

from time to time.
 
I looked inside:

it was glistening, hollow,

a perfect shell
 
except for the missing crown,

which made it possible

to look inside.
 
What had been there

is gone now

and lives in my heart
 
where, periodically,

it opens up its wings,

tearing me apart.

 Illustration: “Opus No. 122” by Kazue Shima

“End of April” is found in Phillis Levin’s collection The Afterimage (Copper Beech Press, 1995), available at Amazon.com.

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When poet Phillis Levin found the robin’s eggshell under the cherry tree, she might have been interested to learn a bit more about its unique, vivid shade of blue. For this, we turned to an expert — Patterson Clark, who writes and illustrates the Urban Jungle column for the Washington Post.

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ROBIN EGGS: THE BLUER THE BETTER

Illustration and Text by Patterson Clark

(originally published 5/1/2012 in the Washington Post)

Not much point in looking around for a nearby nest when you find an American robin eggshell on the sidewalk.

Soon after a chick hatches, the female robin grabs the eggshell and flies off to drop it far from the nest. Leaving the baby behind for a few moments is worth the risk, since the bright white insides of the eggshell can attract predators.

But before the egg hatches, blue-green pigments on the outside surface of the egg might help with camouflage. Pigments might also strengthen the egg and help protect it from solar radiation.

A robin coats her eggs with the same turquoise-hued compound found in our bile and bruises, biliverdin, an important antioxidant. Female robins with higher concentrations of biliverdin in their tissue lay darker, more vividly colored eggs, which apparently sends a strong signal to males.

“Males seem to use egg color to gauge the quality of their mate and the eggs she lays, putting more effort into rearing babies when they are more likely to survive and prosper,” says Robert Montgomerie of Queen’s University in Canada.

With Philina English, Montgomerie determined that when eggs are more colorful, male robins will invest as much as twice the amount of energy helping feed nestlings.

SOURCES: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology; Bird Coloration: Function and Evolution; Stanford University

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PASTORAL AS COMPLAINT

Poem by Bruce Weigl

           The robin is so quarrelsome. He barks to no one in the trees; 
he fluffs his body twice its size and rattles in the leaves.
           He doesn’t know or won’t accept the nest is empty now,
the eggs a tatter on the ground. The storm was quick, 
           we didn’t see it come; no sound above the hum

a summer morning makes when god is in his place
           and we are free of tragedies that pile up along the way.  
The robin is so quarrelsome; 
           he thinks his life is gone just like the nest,
but he’s like the rest of us, it’s only just begun.

Photo: colonial1637(off & on)’s, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED