Robins might be more likely to appear on the season's greeting cards, but blackbirds - the colly bird of the traditional song - thrushes and redwings can perhaps make a similar claim. A random cotoneaster, hawthorn or rowan might have 3 or 4 perched on top, at various heights, vying for and defending this precious resource.
|St David's street food: blackbird on rowan; a pigeon joins in on some pyracantha|
There's also been a winter version of a dawn chorus, of sorts: I've heard robins starting up pre-dawn in fullish song before 7a.m. In the UK most robins are sedentary, but winter numbers increase with some migrants arriving from the Continent. The British and Irish subspecies is Erithacus rubecula melophilus, found across Western Europe and occurring as a vagrant in adjacent regions. Those that stay, or arrive, must keep and guard a territory throughout the season. Male and female robins do this, explaining why both can sing on winter mornings. The association with gardens and towns is a peculiarly UK phenomenon, not so readily seen elsewhere in the robin's range, where it is more of a shy scrub and woodland bird.
While the blackbirds and thrushes are partial to rowan and cotoneaster berries, spindle bush Euonymus europaeus, a classic Devon hedgerow plant, is said to be favoured by robins. In German the plant is Rotkehlchenbrot or 'robin's bread'. In mild years, the next breeding season can start as early as January. Apparently individual robins can be told apart from the red breast pattern, though this is a challenge.
Exeter's greenfinches, thrushes, blue tits, thrushes and blackbirds were also vocally evident during a Valley Park walk in the milder, almost sunny spell on Boxing Day. A hint of things to come, looking towards the Big Garden Birdwatch 2017 on 28-30 January.
Birds and Berries by Barbara and David Snow (T & AD Poyser, 1990)
RSPB 21 robin facts page http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/wildlife/f/13609/t/8957.aspx