Monday, March 15, 2010


The Field Guides report that the American robin is a common winter resident in south Florida but, for reasons that surpass our comprehension, we see robins in our neighborhood only at migration time, and even then, as a sometime event.
This spring, however, was very different. The sightings at migration time began the same as other years. A sizeable flock of robins appeared on the lawn and hopped about searching for food. We have three bird baths grouped together under the branches of a Senegal date palm (phoenix reclinata). Robins drank and bathed in happy communal groups and then exchanged places with those foraging on the lawn.
I saw that the water level in the baths was almost nil for the intensive use they received, but I was reluctant to refill them for fear of scaring the birds away. I was starved for the sight and sound of robins and I knew that, as in other years, once this flock was gone there might be no more until fall migration.
Then commerce intervened. A landscaping company, contracted to care for my neighbor’s yard, appeared with their roaring mowers and noisy blowers and whining trimmers. The songbirds fled.
I went outside to scrub and clean and refill the three baths. I told myself that another flock might come along in a day or so.
The landscapers finished and withdrew. An hour passed. Then - the robins were back! They were everywhere and the baths were crowded again! They seemed happier and more excited by their good fortune than they had seemed in the earlier visit but I may have been projecting my own feelings onto them.
I enjoyed their company until twilight when they began to drift away. Just before dark, I cleaned and refilled the baths for the resident birds to use in the day to come. Looking northward for a few moments, I visualized the robins in flight in the night sky, thanked them for their company, and said farewell.
The next day began with another flock of robins.  Or perhaps it was the same flock.   I say that because we had robins for a total of nine consecutive days!  This has never happened before and I believe it was the weather and that mysterious signal system which tells birds when it's time to migrate to nesting grounds.  It seems improbable that nine different flocks would stop in the same back yard for nine days in a row.
For the nine days the robins were here, south Florida had unusually cold weather with frost in the interior region.  Simultaneously, in the north, there were numerous snow storms including the record-setting snowfall earlier this month.
In any case, I was kept busy cleaning and refilling the bird baths.  I discovered that my doing so did not frighten the birds at all.  They simply pulled back and waited for me to leave.
All over now.  Great enjoyment while it lasted.

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