Where Have all the Robins Gone?
We have several Holly trees that, since we planted a male tree six or seven years ago, are loaded with bright red berries every fall. And every November I would remind myself to cover a few of the heaviest fruited branches with netting to keep the birds from eating them. I always forget, and ended up with a beautiful bushy branch nearly devoid of crimson berries, not much of a decoration. [The Holly branch, among other nostalgic decorations, reminds me of childhood Christmases in England.]
This past autumn the Holly trees were absolutely covered with berries, but, as in previous years, I neglected to cover them. But, unlike other years, last year the birds were strangely absent or else had filled-up on better fare, and I harvested to my hearts content. Right through the holiday season I could look out the upstairs windows onto Holly trees that were more red than green. I didn’t give birds a thought.
Then, on January 7th, around noon, I looked out and saw the holly tree branches dancing in the light snowfall and 10 degree air. The trees were alive with robins! They seemed to be working in two shifts of two to three dozen each. It was frantic behavior. While one group was gorging itself the other group rested in some nearby hazel nut shrubs. In the picture there are at least nineteen birds. By late afternoon they had stripped every berry from the trees. And then they were gone. As suddenly as they appeared they left. Where they went, or where they came from I have no idea. The robins usually arrive early in the spring and for a few days will fill literally cover our lawns as they forage for worms and emerging insects. What brought them here in the middle of winter I can’t imagine. If they are heading south they are getting a very late start, and where have they been for the past few months, further north? If they are responding to the 37 degree isotherm they need to recalibrate their sense organs as it has been in the single digit or low teens for weeks. And if they are responding to the suns position in the sky the same applies. I can only surmise they were a flock that overslept and are now desperately seeking a milder climate to the south. Holly berries are usually not a birds first, or even second choice. Well, they were a delight while they were here.