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The American Robin is, a more sure harbinger and prognosticator of spring, than Punxsutawney Phil the ground hog, could ever be, in his or her, wildest dreams.
Robins are actually, part of the family of thrushes. They received their familiar name from homesick European settlers in the United States, many years ago. They were reminded of their beloved and familiar little Robin Red-breast, which has a color pattern brighter, but somewhat similar to our robin, even though the two are, not closely related.
Years ago, there was a median strip between our home (then) and our neighbor’s property. In the middle of this strip of land was a Hawthorne tree with long and potentially hurtful thorns. Trust me they hurt, having been pricked by them, more than a few times. The berries are bright red orange and often stay on the tree throughout the winter. The reason for this is quite simple. Their berries are not considered to be, culinary fowl fare or bird yum yums. 🙂
Most wintering critters and birds don’t care for them, that is, until one snowy wintry, February morning. I happened to look outside our bedroom window and right below in this Hawthorne tree was, at least a hundred robins. In about a half an hour, they picked the tree clean. There was not a single berry left. I was astounded!
I had never seen so many robins before and I did not know they would group like this. So, I did some research.
I suppose, I never really thought about where robins go in the winter? I guess I never entertained the idea that they migrate, but they do. Curiously, first of all, some, for some unknown reason, will winter farther up north in Canada (We live in NY). But others, will migrate thousands of miles, from Vancouver Island to as far south as, Guatemala. Some will just hang around where they are.
Robins are of only, just a few type of birds that change their diet. They will eat nuts, seeds and berries (even those nasty Hawthorne berries), insects and grubs and their favorite delicacy, earthworms. Obviously in February, it was still a little cold for earthworms. But the interesting thing I have come to understand about the robins I saw in February is, they were all male. The males return before their females to begin building their nests, scoping out new or defending their territory. And how do they defend their turf – by singing, sometimes fighting, but a good song seems to be, what works best, most of the time.
After the male robins first appear, the spring rains begin soon thereafter. When the grounds become saturated, the earthworms come up for air. From the time the males show up and the rains fall is, around two weeks. Right on cue, about two weeks after the males, the females arrive hungry from the long flight and earth worms are easy to find. Contrary to what I thought and perhaps many others as well, robins do NOT hear the earthworms underground, they see them on the top of the waterlogged soil. I know, we’ve all seem them pecking on the ground when it looks like there’s nothing there, don’t they really hear the worms? Just remember, their eyesight is far superior to ours. They can see the smallest movement of leaves and earth and KNOW, something alive is moving!
So dear friends and family of, The Gathering Place, robins are, the sure sign that spring has sprung! 🙂
Robin Song on YouTube
The following poem which inspired by these robins was, posted on another one of my blogs at: Dahni Daily, Februrary, 21, 2010. It was written right around the time the robins first appeared in the Hawthorne tree. They did come back the next year, but only around 30. That was the last time I saw them in such numbers or in that tree. We moved to where we live now at: The Gathering Place. But we still see robins here. I can’t wait to see them soon and report that spring here, has definitely arrived! I hope you enjoy the following poem.
A Sure Sign
By Dahni, © 2010, all rights reserved
The Hawthorne berry bright red
Seemingly an attractive fruit,
But most unsavory,
For they last the whole of winter,
Undisturbed and uneaten.
A robin one or two or few,
A sure sign of spring,
Though long after the snows melt,
And the rains come,
And the worms surface.
Two years ago, about a week,
Before the end of February,
Hundreds of robins picked the Hawthorne clean,
Their migratory mates followed two weeks later,
And brought spring with them.
Today, about a week,
Before the end of February,
Many robins sat in the Hawthorne;
My heart was lightened,
Though snow still upon the ground,
And in the air,
Surely their mates are on the way,
And bringing with them,
From the collection: ‘As it Happened – Collections of Recollections, by the same author
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So, what is, your robin report? Are they where you are yet? Is it spring where you are yet?