Monday, October 25, 2010

October 25: On the Move

Released from the pair bonds necessary for nesting and raising young, most birds move in flocks during migration. This morning at my office I could hear a small flock of robins clucking in the trees at the edge of the lawn. Robins don't migrate far--usually a few hundred to a thousand miles or so south of where they nested--but they constantly shift around in itinerant flocks searching for food. Robins from northern Maine and Canada, sometimes even accompanied by bluebirds, will pop up here throughout the winter to feast on crabapples, winterberry, mountain ash berries, and other wholesome fruits. It doesn't mean spring's coming early. It means there's something to eat in your yard.

Later in the day a flock of a dozen or more juncos passed through, scuttling in the heaps of fallen leaves, trilling in the pines. Juncos are often accompanied by sparrows, but all I had were my lousy office binoculars, so I couldn't pick out anything but a junco in the bunch. These pert grey and white birds with pink bills will also appear intermittently throughout the winter. My grandmother used to call them "snowbirds."

A birder friend in southern Maine reported literally thousands of cormorants migrating off Biddeford Pool and Eastern Point this morning, including one single flock of 2,500 to 3,000 birds! Cormorants fly in big vees like geese, although often in much more dramatic numbers and more quietly--endless skeins of birds flapping their wings with purpose.

These crowds of feeding, flying creatures moving overhead or in the underbrush add to the overall restless and unsettled mood of this season of transitions. I find myself jumping out of my office chair, useless binoculars in hand, walking from window to window and then outside, wanting to follow the birds. Not far--just enough to get a sense of where they're going. Although as darkness closes in so early now and a chilly fog shrouds the mountaintop, heading south to warmer climes appeals to me more and more. I'm not prepared for winter.

Restless birds fly south
ahead of snow. How I long
to grow wings, follow.


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