How to spend waiting time? A Robin & Writing Update

By Carol / May 4, 2013 /
Robin incubating a clutch of eggs.

Robin incubating a clutch of eggs.

Waiting can be so difficult. That whole “watched pot” thing. Whether it’s 30 seconds to heat up the coffee in the microwave or 2 weeks for eggs to hatch – time just passes so slowly when you must wait for an outcome. I’m in that waiting phase in two ways now – with the robin nesting on my windowsill and with the novel I’m writing.

Mrs. Red Breast moved from laying to incubating her clutch of four eggs. Though I left the shade up while she laid the eggs, now that she’s nesting, I’ve pulled it down to keep from startling her off the nest. An expectant mama just does not need to be startled or to worry about being startled.

Whether she worries or not, I don’t know. I’m likely ascribing my own emotions to her.  When she’s not on the nest, I worry if she’s abandoned it. Now that we’re experiencing an unseasonal and heavy snow, I worry the eggs will get too cold. I worry whether Mama can find enough food in the brief moments she flies away from her post.

To distract myself from my role as Chief Robin Worrier – I’ve been fortunate to have found the support of several readers who informed me a nest of eggs is called a clutch, and who shared links as well as their own knowledge of robin behavior. I thank all of you for your comments!  A few interesting things I’ve learned:

  • The American Robin is actually in the thrush family. Though immigrants to America named it after the European Robin, they’re not the same. The European Robin is similar in size and shape to some of our bluebirds.
  • Robins don’t listen for worms, though the way the cock their heads makes it appear that they do. Rather, one eye is trained on the ground watching for worms while the other eye is scanning the sky for predators. Here’s a link to more surprising robin facts.
  • American Robins can become trusting of humans; European Robins are not.
  • Even though robin nests look trashy, they are quite clean. Robins keep their nesting area and the nest itself cleared of insects.
  • The jury is out on when and how much the male robin is involved in caring for the young. Apparently it depends on how many babies hatch. Stay tuned. I’ll report on what I see.

I just love learning little things like this. Like Mrs. Red Breast, I am in the stage of anxiously/eagerly awaiting news of my novel, tentatively titled All She Ever Wanted.  This week, I gave draft copies to beta readers. This is the first time I’ve put my novel in front of readers who know nothing of the story and who I trust will give honest feedback on how or if the story works, whether the characters have depth and are believable, how well I’ve established the setting of rural Iowa during WWI.

While I wait the next month for my readers to read, I’m figuring out ways I can distract myself from my Chief Novel Worrier role and do something productive. One thing I’ll be doing is working on a one-page synopsis of the novel as well as the critical cover blurb. Both of these tasks will require research and study and no doubt the help of others who’ve walk this path.

Writing novels and nesting birds. There are just so many similarities to these experiences. Don’t you think?

Other Robin posts: A Bird’s Eye ViewAnd Then There Were Four

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  1. Richard Abbott on May 5, 2013 at 3:02 am

    I have been following these posts with great interest from the UK. So there is just one of your interesting robin facts that needs amending! “American Robins can become trusting of humans; European Robins are not” – in fact European Robins are renowned for their willingness to get close to people. Right here in our London garden our own pair of robins are the first to appear if we go out into the garden, and think nothing of snacking on the bird feeder with us quite close. I once took a phone picture of him/her only a couple of feet away.

    One of the stereotype images of rural times of old is the agricultural worker eating some food with a robin perched on his spade just beside, waiting for a share!

    All the best to you and your guests!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 5, 2013 at 10:09 am

      Glad you’re finding the posts interesting, Richard. The question of robins – American or European – being trusting is a subject of debate on a LinkedIn site where I shared this post. Apparently, the answer to the question of trust lies along a spectrum – as it does with all of us. I like the image of an ag worker with a robin on the spade. The stereotype image of the American Robin is of the bird pulling a worm out of the ground.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 6, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      There seems to be quite a spectrum of opinions on robin trust – perhaps not unlike the the spectrum of trust related to humans! A sterotyped image of American robins is of them pulling worms out of the ground. They are very good at it!

  2. Kathleen Pooler on May 5, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Carol, I’ve enjoyed following (actually am hooked on) Mrs Red Breast and her clutch! I know you’ll keep us posted on how she and her eggs have weathered the freak snowstorm. Yes, I do think writing and life are intermingled. It seems all we have to do is look around and we can find lessons that relate to our writing life, as you have shown so well here. Congratulations on releasing your manuscript to your beta readers. Just as the life cycles of nature are predictable, your book is cycling through the necessary stages in preparation for its birth and release out into the world.
    Best wishes,

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 5, 2013 at 11:36 am

      This shows the wisdom of writing in a series, doesn’t it, Kathy! Nature is full of lessons and fortunately, she keeps repeating them so I can hear the right one when I reach the right point.

  3. Sherrey Meyer on May 6, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Carol, a couple of weekends ago we were visiting family where a robin had nested just off their kitchen deck. Mama Robin was quite trusting even when we walked out, leaned against the rail, and then leaned out to look at her nest in a nearby shrub. Most interesting was watching her protect her clutch when high winds came up and stayed up for 2-3 days, blowing so hard the bush swayed back and forth. Today we learned that three babies have appeared and another adult has presented at the nest, likely Papa Robin. It was hard to leave and come home and only know of progress through emails. I envy you your perch!

    Also, in the event you’re ever looking for beta readers again, it is something I’m willing to do and enjoy. I’m also a well trained proofreader, any time you need another pair of eyes.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      It is such fun to watch birds nesting. You’re the first person to have seen a papa robin involved. Someone suggested that the males help with feeding when there are more than three eggs. I have yet to see a robin with either of our nests.

      Thanks for the offer of beta reading. I have a group engaged right now and once I receive and rewrite, I’ll be looking for more readers. I’ll definitely keep on you my list.

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