Sunday, January 26, 2014

Oh the Red Red Robin

In The Tale of Peter Rabbit, the protagonists are decidedly leporine.  (I had to look it up; canine is to dog as leporine is to rabbit.)  But the supporting cast inhabiting the woodland and garden of Potter's Tale, ex. Mr. McGregor, includes a cat (white), fish (gold), a mouse, and three different types of birds.  Blackbirds, sparrows, and robins.

What set me thinking of this was a set of pictures that arrived in my mailbox this morning of a flock of robins that descended on a friend's winterberry (Ilex verticillata) during yesterday's snow.  She said about thirty of them showed up for an impromptu food orgy, the berries easy to spot, red against white. Winterberry is a type of holly that drops its leaves in the fall, making its berries even more prominent.

Photography by Ken Johnson

This is an American robin.  With the scientific name Turdus migratorius, I wonder if Carl Linnaeus (who invented zoological nomenclature as well as botanical in the mid-18th century) had an unfortunate encounter with bird droppings that day. Robins of the North American continent tend to flock in winter, which is why they aren't spotted as frequently in the cold season, and why they showed up en masse for a winterberry feast.

Beatrix Potter's robins were English, of course.  A different species entirely, Erithacus rubella. 

Image from Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life, Photography by Ward.

This wet little robin is perching in Beatrix Potter's winter garden at Hill Top Farm in the Lake District.  They are curious and do hang about watching gardeners (and photographers) work.  Waiting for bugs to be unearthed, no doubt.

Here is one of Beatrix Potter's robins in The Tale of Peter Rabbit. With pencil and watercolor, she captures its inquisitiveness. It is checking out one of Peter's shoes, lost in the cabbages during his great escape.  Unlike Cinderella, he lost both shoes.  The other is "amongst the potatoes."  If I have counted correctly, there are four other illustrations in The Tale of Peter Rabbit with robins bop-bop-bopping along.

Peter loses his shoes
From The Tale of Peter Rabbit,

No comments:

Post a Comment