Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Winter robins

This morning, as the dog and I walked down Canns Beach Road, we were accompanied by a flock of robins, crossing and re-crossing the road to fly through and then rest in the tall bushes on either side. I knew that more and more frequently robins winter over, so I wasn't about to gush over any early arrival of spring (it was also 15 degrees and snowing lightly). But I do tend to get a little fanciful as I walk in Maine, and I couldn't help thinking about their numbers - a couple of dozen - and why they seemed to be following us. Climate change probably accounts for their presence (easier to brave increasingly mild winters here on the coast than spend all that energy on migration?); I wondered if they were hoping for handouts of seed and suet from this example of the animal that caused them to be here in the first place, inducing guilt by a kind of piteous flying. Later, Google set me straight. Robins survive the winter by eating winter berries, those red and orange beauties of late fall and early winter, but the birds don't eat them when they're still bitter and even poisonous; they wait for cycles of cold and thaw to make them edible.Of course: a month or so ago, those bushes were startling, masses of berries in vivid contrast to the black and gray and white of bare branches and snow, a poignant reminder of the berries of summer. And now, fallen and tasty, the berries serve only the guiltless. The simple explanation, and solution, is usually the best.

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