December 10, 2010 by wcobserver
Robins have so completely occupied northwest Arkansas that we need to change our name to Robinville. Counting robins in cedar and honey suckle thickets, all across the trees and bushes of farms, neighborhoods and parks – I guess it would be like counting stars in the universe. A lot has changed: I assume it will come as something of a surprise when I note that, based upon earlier bird records, robins were unusual here a century ago.
The long mild fall with plenty of wild fruit has made our country just perfect for them. In my yard, robins are vigorously billing aside fall leaves for tasty bits below. See robins with swooping flights and sudden twists and turns among limbs and between bushes. Robins in twos in hard tight chases like spring. Flocks overhead in 12s and 20s. Robins in trees, colorful and animated on limbs now bare of leaves.
I’m no musician but that doesn’t keep me from trying to compose what I’m hearing: bek bek bek bek, gee g g g g geek! Cheery-up cheery-up, wah wah wah, ber ber, che-chet! Robinville is a mobile, seemingly limitless communal soundscape.
A fine male perches up close. His is a big dark eye framed by two clean white crescents, set into a black head and an artistic throat of wavy dark and light streaks, like life itself. The “red” breast is fall orange, a harvest orange. I can see his bill opening and closing, so I assume he is singing or I suppose he could be lip synching… Cheery! Cheery! Bick bick bick…
The singing and calling happily obscures highway noise in Robinville. But suddenly, silence falls upon the living earth of birds and deadly rush hour resumes it dominance. Why silence? I’m thinking it’s the little version of the Big Bang. I can see these robins exploding out from a distant spot; maybe not 14 billion light years back as with the big Big Bang, but at least in my neighbor’s yard and out of my sight. Robinville’s Silencer must lurk in the far distant vast thicket, probably a hungry Cooper’s Hawk. But Robinville returns to business-as-usual in a few minutes. Singing and calling, chasing, gobbling down bright red Amur Honeysuckle berries – that’s the main business today in Robinville.
Back in the 1930s, J.D. Black studied a robin roost at Winslow that he estimated to include 250,000 birds. Frances James studied a Washington County roost she estimated to contain six million birds. Banding records show that many of these birds are migrants that nested north of Arkansas. The roost may be just a convenient and comfortable stop over.
Birds in these roosts depend upon the available fruit (honey suckle berries, cedar berries, possum grapes, etc). The roosts tend to break up with arrival of prolonged severe cold and diminished food supply. There will still be robins here, but probably not millions.