Of Winter Robins….

Back in the day the robins flew south for the winter and didn’t reappear until the first of March, often being the first harbingers of spring….

We rarely saw robins in winter until the late 70s and early 80s when it began to be noted that larger, chunkier robins seemed to be arriving in December and January. After a while it was determined that these were not our own summer robins but robins that traveled down from farther north to feast on our berries and enjoy our usually milder winters. If the winter was very harsh these robins continued south but many years they hung around.

Here on the Cape we have many things northern robins enjoy besides a milder climate. We have tons of berry laden bushes and trees and robins love berries. They especially love cedar but will move on to holly berries as well.

Some years there are so many winter robins that huge roosts of many thousands form, especially in the Sandwich and Barnstable area. Other years, like this year, there are lots and lots of robins around but the roosts are not quite as large. Some people speculate that this is because there is plenty of food available over a broad area so the birds spread out more.

If you have been out this week near any sort of trees or shrubs with berries you know there are lots of robins around. People ask me a lot if they are robins that are back early or what is bringing them here. No, they are not back early–those thinner, smaller and migration weary robins will be back as usual the first week of March. These heftier guys will either hang around while the weather is good for them and return to their own homes in the spring or they will head farther south if the weather hits a cold patch here. Like many wintering species, these birds are pretty opportunistic and will go where the food is and where the roosting is safest and warmest.

In the meantime, enjoy the ongoing robin show for it is in full force right now with dozens and dozens of birds showing up in lots of yards and other places.

Keep your eyes and ears open for often they are accompanied by other berry eating birds like the lovely cedar waxwings…

I hope this helps answer some of those robins in winter questions….

Robins at High Head

It’s a beautiful morning here on Cape Cod and I thought I’d share these pictures of robins sitting in the sun that I took up in the dunes at High Head in Truro earlier this week. As you probably know by now, these robins are visiting from up north and are eating berries from our cedars, privets, hollies, etc.They seem a little larger than the robins that nest here but don’t forget that birds puff themselves up to stay warm.
Soon they will moult and grown new, fresh feathers and their colors will be more vibrant.
By the time spring arrives they will be full of rich, beautiful color.

Robins, Robins, Everywhere!

Have you been noticing a lot of robins around even though it is absolutely freezing and there is snow on the ground? Every winter for the last 20 or so years we have been seeing more and more robins from farther north coming down our way as the winter closes in. Robins will eat berries when worms aren’t available and we have lots of berries here on the Cape, especially cedar berries.A few years ago the Christmas Bird Count listed thousands and thousands of robins in one location. Last year it was close to 100,000 birds. At dusk they fly in from all over. Some flocks are small, some are large and all are heading for the large stands of cedar where they will roost overnight.As the robins move in they settle into the trees around the edges of the woodland, even as hundreds more are flying overhead. I wish I could show you this. I took a video but it just looks like hundreds of black specks flying across the screen.

This is one of the groups. There are lots of predators, such as Cooper’s hawks, around to take advantage of all this. We saw several hawks on the hunt and some of the people I was with say they have seen a merlin here as well.

As the sun began to set in earnest more and more birds arrived. Those little black specks in the sky are all robins flying in…..really an awesome sight.

If you want to see the robins flying in to roost you need to be there about half an hour before sunset. They are in West Barnstable in the area around the West Barnstable Post Office, the railroad tracks, etc. You can also go around sun rise to see them as they leave for the day. We saw a large group settling in today in Hyannis where there is a lot of holly and cedar trees so you may see them just about anywhere during the day. These robins will hang around as long as there is food. They may travel a bit farther south in search of food but many will stay until late February or early March when they will return north. Our own spring robins, which are smaller, will return as these are leaving.