Robins and the Endless Winter

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I’m seeing flocks of migrating robins in thickets and sheltered creek drainages. They’re back, but food is scarce in our snowy, semi-frozen landscape. The persistent fruit of staghorn sumac is a staple this time of year, for many species of birds. It is an emergency ration that helps keep them alive when winter refuses to let go.

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Photos by NB Hunter (4/5/2018). © All Rights Reserved.

 

Winter in Spring

In winter, eight inches of snow, freezing temperatures and numbing wind chills elicit a “Ho Hum”  from friends at the coffee shop. The same conditions two weeks into the Spring season evoke a full spectrum of responses, from grunts, groans and expletives to happy thoughts (not the majority).

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April snowstorms are unique because the flora and fauna are undergoing seasonal change and the transition to Spring is well under way. This storm crushed Glory of the Snow in full bloom and halted the opening of daffodil buds. Red Maple, aspen, hazelnut and other woody plants were in various stages of bloom and suffered some degree of frost damage. Blackbirds and robins, recent arrivals from southern wintering grounds, lost access to grain fields and worms, respectively. Hundreds of blackbirds appeared at bird feeders – mixed flocks of red-winged blackbirds, starlings, cowbirds and grackles.

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Robins foraged on any bare ground they could find, including spring seeps and plowed areas.

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Earthworms became active during the mild weather and thaw that preceded the storm and the new snow retained some of the warmth. My snow shoveling gave a robin access to a fresh, juicy meal — despite the 15 degree (F) wind chill earlier in the day!

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One of the few woody plants to retain fruit this far into the new year is Staghorn Sumac. It is now feeding several species of birds, especially robins.

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Photos by NB Hunter. April 3 & 4, 2016. © All Rights Reserved.