OCMcG & His Shrinking Territory Update 26th October


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OCMcG & His Shrinking Territory Update 26th October

  • Some of you will have seen photos of the College Robin, OCMcG (One Claw McGraw) over the past few years. He is at least six years old and only has the rear claw on his left foot. Up until this year he had an extensive territory that circled the open sides of the building. The only other Robins in the area were to be found in the gardens backing on to the rear of the college and each year, his female mate. OCMcG always managed to repel any intruders into his territory, despite it being spread out around the building. Last Winter he was in a bad way and I thought he would not survive. At one point he was unable to stand up and used to lay flat on the wall as a result. I visited him over the Christmas break to feed him wax worms and mealworms and somehow he survived. About two months ago his behaviour changed and he suddenly started feeding from my hand, landing at my feet and on a few occasions he came close to flying in to the college. He would spend hours fluffed up and motionless on a small branch next to the window near to where I work. I thought he was on his last legs but he returned to good health a few weeks ago. Since then, there has been an influx of Robins from across the road by the Hogsmill River and from the gardens at the rear of the college. In all, I have identified five Robins that have established territories in what used to be OCMcG's domain. His own territory is now one small raised flower bed which is full of bushes and shrubs. The Blackbirds also reside there on occasion. OCMcG has been looking very forlorn this week and he has signs of having been in a fight with his rivals. There is much ditting, posturing and territorial singing going on as OCMcG is driven out of his large empire into a small enclave. Last week I saw him chasing and being chased by at least two Robins on opposite sides of the college. He clearly lost out to both rivals. I have annotated a Google Earth map to show the before and after territories. I'm not sure how long he will survive in that corner.

    This photo shows his former territory

    All he has now is the small area in the bottom right corner

    I have been unable to get photos of Robins 'B' or 'E', they don't show too often. The other three are easier to spot. 'D' seems to be the most aggressive of the lot and I suspect is the one that gave OCMcG his battle wounds. However, he has been in a recent conflict with Robin 'E' who has encroached into his territory, meaning that 'D' is now fighting on two fronts. Too many Robins, not enough space. There will be casualties I'm afraid.

    Here are the Robins involved in the turf war. Firstly, Robin 'A'. This was the first new Robin to move OCMcG out of part of his territory.

    Robin 'B' has yet to be photographed, so next we have Robin 'C', who is also fighting on two fronts and keeps under cover for most of the time. I had to lure him out with mealies.

    Next we have Robin 'D', who is the most vocal and visible of all the combatants. His territory borders that of three other Robins, which might account for this extrovert behaviour.

    First thing this morning, facing the territory of Robin 'E'

    These three all appear to be first year Robins, but I have yet to get photos of their tails to be certain.

    Finally, OCMcG...

    The body language alone tells a tale

    Poor little soldier

    Responding to Robin 'C'

    Not sure exactly what had his attention. The only bird in that direction was the male Peregrine. Maybe OCMcG is going to enlist his help...

  • Oh dear MC, a sad tale but so well told & supported with lovely pics ... trouble is they are all such lovely birds & it's a shame there's no harmony ... be great if they bucked the trend & started the very first Robin commune, looking after OCMcG as an elder statesman!!

    All very pie-in-the-sky but one can dream!

  • Oh dear, doesn't look good for OCMcG.

  • As expected, prime spots in the greater London area are in high demand lol    at least OCMcG still has part of his territory, probably as much as he can cope with being an older robin and I'm sure with the help of mealies and waxies from his buddy he will continue as well as could be expected for a pensioner - he's in his 90's in bird age so bound to look a little worn, bless him but he will remain a firm favourite on this forum !  

    Lovely set of photos and hope you find the missing rogue's gallery robins so you can add their portrait !

  • Wow, that was a sad read Paul, I do hope OCMcG manages to hang on to what he has left of his empire :(


  • He was on the ground with a couple of Wood Pigeons this morning, trying to get some crumbs from the piece of bread that they were eating.

  • Guessing you had plenty of mealies and waxworms for him !  He's such a popular robin on here.

  • That is sad news MC, are Robins the only bird that battles so much for their territory?  OCMcG has done very well to be around for so many years and could surprise you by managing once more to stay around over the winter, I think the Robins tend to accept another nearby when the weather gets cold so he might stand more chance then.   Here's hoping.

  • I'm hoping that at least one of the adjacent Robins moves on so that OCMcG can expand his current territory. I imagine there are other territorial birds, but given the size of the territories that they defend, Robins are much easier to observe than say Raptors, such as Peregrines for example.

  • Aw poor little OCMcG, I do hoes he will be okay, and that one of those newbies step up to the plate and look after him.

  • He's still making a point of being highly visible to the other Robins. 'C' spends a lot of time tucked away in the bushes, so that might give OCMcG a foothold.

  • Last Friday, I encountered OCMcG and Robin 'D' in the midst of a territorial encounter. I only had my mobile with which to film them, so it's not brilliant. You can hear some of the twittering and OCMcG can be seen swaying as he stands his ground. I made sure that I was close enough to film but not so close that my presence would affect the outcome. Eventually 'D' departed and OCMcG flew across the path to the post that is the border between his territory and that of Robin 'C'. Robins often use physical landmarks as 'border markers' for their territories. This might be a fence or a tree or a garden shed. In this case, the lamp post by the wall divides OCMcG and 'D' and the small post OCMcG from 'C'. 'C' is rather retiring compared to 'D' and is nearly always twarbling quietly in the bushes. As far as the others go, I have an idea that 'B' might not be there any more, but 'E' is quite vocal though he seldom leaves the garden of the end house in Oaklea Passage.

  • Golly, with all the passing traffic OcMCG has done well to survive six years.   He stood off the other robin and I bet you had a reward for him in your pocket.   He was looking better MC, here's hoping.

  • He s a wise, clever old boy that OCMcG.

  • Over the past two weeks or so, since I filmed his altercation with Robin 'D', OCMcG has been taking back some of his old territory. There has been a lot of loud singing in various parts of his former territory as he has moved out one Robin and established a boundary with another. I cannot be 100% certain, but he might now be sharing a territory with one of his former rivals as well. His behaviour has changed in that he has started to perch in very prominent places. When he initially lost his territory he was rather reclusive and remained tucked away in the shrubs at the end of the car park. This new behaviour tells me that he has taken the upper hand (claw) and the evidence would seem to support that theory. Here is what I believe to be the current state of play.

    Robin A is still in the same territory as before.

    Robin B has disappeared

    Robin C now appears to be sharing a territory with OCMcG

    Robin D is still in the same territory

    Robin E is still in the same territory

    There is also another Robin in the next territory along from 'E'

    The area marked in the solid orange lines is what OCMcG currently holds. The smaller area with the dotted orange lines is the area that he is currently disputing with A, as he seeks to consolidate his boundaries. The green area is what appears to be the area that he shares with 'C'. 'C' used to hide away in the bushes twarbling and seldom came out into the open. There was occasional singing, but always from under cover. Today I heard 'C' calling to OCMcG using the 'Courtship Feeding' call, or something akin to it. I suspect 'C' is a female. Only time will tell.

    I took a walk around his territory this morning and a few things caught my attention. Firstly, he was out in the open singing loudly in a tree at the edge of the orange line and the dotted line on the picture. He looked at me but remained where he was, even when I left him two piles of mealies. Territory was clearly the priority. From the droppings beneath his perch, it was clear that he had spent some time there. Further investigation showed a line of small white dots along the wall below the tree. At the end of that wall there were droppings on one side only. This indicated a Robin facing out from the territory and into that of 'A'. My thoughts are that OCMcG has been gradually edging his way across the old 'B' territory and has finally reclaimed his lost ground. I'm rather hoping that he will remain where he currently is and not try to move 'A' out of his territory. 'A' is very vocal, as is 'D'. That might be enough to retain the status quo. It will be interesting to see how things develop.

    Here he is, out in the open and making sure he can be seen and heard by 'A'

    Rather than hiding away in the bushes, as he previously did, OCMcG has been perching on this short horizontal twig (as indicated by the droppings below). This is a new spot for him (pardon the pun). You can see where he previously perched by the dots just a few inches behind. Maybe this new behaviour is related to his apparent paring with Robin 'C'?

    Another exposed perch

    The markings below his singing branch

    And more below that. Clearly he has been spending a fair bit of time here too

    The trail of dots on the wall leading towards 'A' and his territory

    They get closer together as he approaches the territorial boundary

    This would appear to be the boundary between the two territories. Droppings on this side, indicating a bird facing into A's territory

    Nothing on this side...

    It is fascinating to look for these clues and to see how OCMcG has changed his behaviour. He has also extended his territory beyond the other end of the car park and into the bushes near the Magistrates Court. His females usually nest there in the Spring.

    More updates as and when things develop