Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Flock of Robins

If I were organized enough to keep faithful track of when migratory birds pass through, I would write neatly and clearly in that hypothetical journal that on Friday, Nov. 25th, some exact number of robins, let's say 15, visited the backyard, accompanied by a few white-throated sparrows, juncos and chicadees. The robins busied themselves flipping over red oak leaves in search of delectable insects or worms hiding underneath. A robin's orange breast starts making complete sense as camouflage once you see it amongst the similarly colored leaves, as if one were the reflection of the other.

When I lived in the piedmont of North Carolina, there would be one day in the fall when hundreds of robins would descend upon the neighborhood and strip the dogwoods of their ripe, red berries. If we were lucky, we saw a green female scarlet tanager mixed in. I've often wondered how these migrations are fairing since an introduced disease greatly reduced the numbers of flowering dogwoods in the eastern forests, and whether the timing of berry ripening and the birds' arrival is being thrown off by climate change. Nature has adjusted to very gradual changes in the past, but the multiple changes--new species, new temperature regimes--we're throwing at it are by comparison very rapid.

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