The back garden bird cafe

Joe opened his eyes. The bedroom seemed different. The light was brighter than usual. Yawning, he pulled back the duvet and went to the window.

'Snow!'

Crisp, white snow, everywhere! He ran downstairs, past mum, who was already busy in the kitchen and opened the back door.

'Can I make a snowman?' he asked his Mum.

'Of course. But not in your pyjamas! You’re shivering already!'

As Joe closed the door, his eye caught a splash of bright red at the end of the garden. A fat little robin sat on the fence watching him.

'How does he keep warm?'

Mum watched the robin for a moment. 'He has his own winter coat,' she said. 'He grows special feathers for the winter and he can fluff them up, like the duvet on your bed, to keep himself warm.'

After breakfast Joe put on his warmest clothes. As he opened the door the little robin hopped on to the shed roof and looked at him. It shook its feathers. Joe couldn’t see legs because they were tucked up underneath.

'When birds do that,' said Joe’s mum, 'they are really cold. The robin is trying to keep his legs warm with his feathers.'

'Poor thing!' said Joe. Then, jumped into the fresh white snow.

All morning, Joe rolled snow into large balls to make his snowman. He scooped and piled the soft white powder, patting it into shape. He didn’t think about the robin again, until he stood back to look at his work.

Suddenly, the bird dropped down on the bare grass where Joe had scooped away the snow. He pecked at the frozen ground, looking for something.

'He’s looking for food!' called mum. 'Robins eat worms and insects, but they can’t find many of them when everything is frozen. I have got some worms here for you though,' she laughed, holding out a big bowl of spaghetti.

The kitchen was warm and sweet-smelling. Mum had been baking and clouds of flour hung in the air.

'What are all those?' asked Joe, pointing to lots of little cloth parcels on the work top. 'Christmas puddings,' replied mum. 'I’m making them to sell at the school fair.'

Joe hurriedly ate his spaghetti, keen to get back to his snowman. Then he noticed the robin again. It was pecking at the frozen bird bath on the lawn.

'He can’t even get a drink!' Joe said.

'Why don’t you help?' said mum and gave him a jug of warm water to melt the ice.

They watched the robin drink and splash in the bath until a blackbird appeared and the robin hopped off.

'I guess the robin’s not the only bird that needs a bit of help when it’s cold outside!' laughed mum. 'We’ll have all the birds here soon!'

The robin landed on the window sill and looked at them through the window.

'I think he wants a Christmas pudding too,' giggled Joe.

'That’s a great idea, Joe! We’ll make some Christmas puddings for the birds!'

Mum took a big bowl from the cupboard and poured in raisins and sunflower seeds.

'The birds will love those,' she said. 'It’s hard to find fruit when there’s snow everywhere!'

They added peanuts and grated cheese and mixed them with some other ingredients to bind it all together. Then they rolled the mixture into balls and put them on a tray in the fridge to harden.

'There! They’ll be ready in an hour,' said mum. 'We’ll have our own back garden, bird café!'

Joe jumped up. 'You’ve given me an idea! I’ve just got to do some more work on my snowman.'

He added two large flat stones for eyes and a carrot for a nose; he drew a big smile on its face and pushed twigs into the body for arms.

'Oh, you want some too do you?'

A large grey pigeon had landed on the drainpipe and was strutting along the gutter.

'Well, you’re just in time!'

He fetched the bird cakes from the fridge on an old biscuit tin lid and placed it on the snowman’s twiggy arms like a tray.

'The bird café is open!'

Joe stood back to watch. Soon the robin hopped onto the tray and started to peck at the balls of food. The blackbird joined it and the pigeon pecked at the bits that fell to the floor.

'I think it’s the best snowman I’ve ever seen!' said his mum.

'Oh, it’s not a snowman,' said Joe. 'It’s a snow-waiter!'

Play next

Same time, same weather
audio
Nature Explorers
audio
How Maui tamed the sun
audio