Sunday, January 19, 2014

Robins in winter...


I’ve never seen a robin in the dead of winter, but this year I saw a flock chirping together in a downtown Bridgewater tree while snow fell. When I saw another large flock on Plum Island, I added robins to my “Google list”—a mental list I keep of topics I want to know more about. 



I’ve never paid much attention to robins. They’ve always seemed aloof to me, hopping along by themselves with one eye to the ground, scouting worms.  Before the ground is frozen or snow-covered, they’ve flown south where the worms are still churning the soil.  They follow the worms, I thought. So why are they still hanging around?

It turns out that the robins that nested in my fruit trees have flown south to a more comfortable zone.  The birds I’m seeing now have most likely come down from the Canadian Maritime provinces. Massachusetts certainly provides more tolerable temperatures in the winter for these guys.



The robins clearly aren’t digging up worm popsicles from under the snow and they aren’t the least interested in my bird feeders. In fact, if a robin ate seeds, he’d have the same kind of tummy trouble we'd have if we ate nuts and bolts.

What they do eat in winter is fruit and berries--this leads them to the woods and explains why we don’t usually notice them. But with more people planting shrubbery with winterberries, we’re more likely to see these “harbingers of spring” in winter.


I’d always assumed the red berries were poisonous because I'd never seen a bird touch them in late summer or fall.  But the fact is, the berries are pretty bitter as they ripen, so the summer birds ignore them. Not until they’ve frozen and thawed several times do they become tasty to birds. And that means the berries don't get eaten before the winter visitors arrive. Pretty cool how things work!


One thing crossed off my Google list. One hundred ninety eight to go...
~~~~~

The free bird thinks of another breeze 
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn 

and he names the sky his own.  ~Maya Angelou

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Ruth,
Again such beautiful pictures and words. Ahhh to have such talents.
Thank you for sharing.

Lynne

Ruth D~ said...

Thank you, Lynne! And remember...you have talent, too. For sure. Hope you're feeling better.

wilmasanders said...

Ruth, I always enjoy your writing and photography. Thanks for sharing with us.
Mental google list? Jeez, I have to write everything down, fast, before I forget it. You have a good memory girl.