Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February 20: Birthday Robins

Some years on my birthday I've tried to see the number of species that equal my age. The older I get, the less easy it has been to approach this goal--especially given that my birthday falls during a time of year when it's not easy to find 20 species, let alone a number in the high 40s. Today I didn't even try.

But I did experience a cool bird moment. My friend Brian and I hiked up Beech Hill in Rockport and spent the entire walk virtually surrounded by robins. We first noticed a big cluster of them--we counted close to 50--feeding in a patch of sumacs. Then when we got to the stone hut at the summit, we observed them in the field below us which the wind had swept clear of snow, carrying on that "walking and listening" thing that they do in our yards in the spring and summer. Granted some patches of ground were soft and had clearly thawed, but there couldn't have been much in the way of worms to be found.

As we walked back down the hill, we were in a sense following the flock as they flew around us to a lower, cleared field, clucking and making soft trilling sounds. We noticed a tight cluster of about a dozen huddled together under a trailhead kiosk, kicking at piles of dead leaves. I'm sure they were getting lucky finding caterpillars and grubs that seek winter shelter among the leaf litter. As we approached this kinetic flock, it circled around and flew back up the hill to renew its progression through the fields and wooded edges.

American Robin perched on remnants of the historic stone gate at Beech Hill, Rockport.  Photo by Brian Willson.

Winter robins' breasts so red
in the barren fields.
I think of my heart.

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