American robins come calling

A small flock of American robins (Turdus migratorius) came calling on February 11 to sample the berries on the Sparkleberry winterberry shrub. The high temp for February 11 was 42° F., so the 37° theory may have been a factor. (The theory being that robins come back when the temps reach 37° in springtime.) But I tend to think this small flock of robins never left the area this winter. I saw robins in thickets in the park across the street many times this winter, particularly in December, when we had record warm temps.

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Red berries can be seen lying on the snow in the photo above. Perhaps the robins shook the berries down. Also, please note the dark-eyed junco sharing the photo above in the upper left-hand corner. Juncos are so cute.

An old robin showed up all by his lonesome a year ago in March and sat under the Sparkleberry winterberry shrub. The winterberry was quite limber and not capable of bearing the robin’s weight. He sat around under the bush at various times for several days. I finally started picking the berries and leaving them on the ground under the bush. He ate them. Then, since there weren’t many berries on the little winterberry shrub, I brought home little crabapple fruits from a local park that I had watched other robins gobbling up. The old robin ate the little dried-up crabapples, too. After a few days he left.

It’s fun to think that same old robin might have led his little flock back to the gardens for a taste of the winterberries this year. I’ll never know, of course. The Sparkleberry shrub is bigger and stronger this year, and the robins can perch on it to eat the berries, or at least to shake the berries off.

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In the photo above, a few berries can be seen, but most were quickly eaten. I bought another winterberry this winter, a Winter Red seen below, but its berries don’t seem to be edible as yet since the robins ignored them. There’s also a Jim Dandy winterberry shrub, which is a male. Females need a male in order to bear fruit.

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I have big plans of planting some crabapple trees this spring, and perhaps more winterberry shrubs. It’s such fun to have the robins around. We had sub-zero temps on February 13 and 14. The robins disappeared, either back to the thickets across the street or perhaps they did a local migration to a warmer place. Today, February 16, is warmer with temps in the 50s. What a strange winter this is. Too warm. Then too cold. Then too warm again. Hope the robins are OK.

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When Daisy, my 4-year-old Labrador retriever, was a puppy, she killed some baby robins by carrying them around in her mouth and “playing” with them, so I worry somewhat about encouraging robins back into the garden with tasty berries. Of course, Daisy’s actions were indefensible, but then, she’s a dog. Now that she’s older, I may be able to keep her away from the baby robins for the few days that they are on the ground and vulnerable. To Daisy’s credit, she’s good at chasing the neighbor’s cat out of the gardens, keeping the cat from stalking and killing ground-feeding birds under the bird feeders. So she has her good characteristics too, so far as the birds are concerned.

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The robin at left above has a berry in its beak, I think.

I once lived in a 2nd-floor co-op that was rather removed from nature except for a crabapple tree outside the living room window. Each spring, I could watch a robin’s nest in the crabapple tree from my window. What a wonderful thing. So, if I plant crabapple trees outside my windows, invest in more winterberry shrubs, and convince Daisy that robins are our friends, I may have lots of future fun observing the robins.

 

 

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