Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Murmuration

Though perhaps I personally notice it more during the warmer months of the year because I'm out later in the day than I am during the winter, an avid birdwatching friend assures me that (even in the winter) every evening just before sundown, American robins (Turdus migratorius) stream toward a wooded area adjacent to but separate from my preserve.  For 30 minutes as the sun is setting, robins streak across the sky - some singly, some in pairs, and others in large, loose flocks of up to 20 birds.  They are all flying toward the southwest.

The birds seem to materialize out of nowhere in the sky because they are flying relatively high, though I know they are just gathering together from scattered locations where they have been foraging all day.  They are silent - black specks all streaming determinedly in one direction.  It's easy to count hundreds of birds in only a few minutes of watching.  If they were all lumped together, it would be a spectacle, but since they're spread thinly in time and space, they constitute more of an imagined spectacle.  Nevertheless, I'm impressed every time I take a late evening walk.
Last week, I was treated to a real spectacle - only the second one I have ever observed in my life.  Looking over toward the roosting forest, the robins were swirling in the air in an amazing cloud of coordinated flying called a murmuration.  It only lasted a few seconds - alas, too short for Kali, who has weak eyesight, to get a fix on it - but I saw it happen and was transfixed for that moment.

(The images accompanying this post are borrowed from the Internet.)
My municipal historical society's newsletter recently republished a recipe for pigeon stew that first appeared in the local newspaper's October 18, 1873 edition.  The recipe concludes with the sentence, "Robins are delicious cooked in the same way."  Is it any wonder Passenger Pigeons are extinct?     


robin andrea said...

Wow! We've been seeing a lot of shorebirds do this, but never Robins. Must have been a truly wonderful sight.

Anonymous said...

Robin Andrea: I didn't know that shorebirds did this, too! It's so cool, isn't it?

Jain said...

I've seen conventions* of common grackles this large, but never robins. Nice!

* "Convention" is my own word for a gathering of grackles because it seems as though they're so purposefully coming together. :)

(I replied to your message over on Lakeside.)

Scott said...

Jain: Thanks; it's good to hear from you! I'd never heard of (or seen) robins acting like this, either, but they surely did that evening. Last Sunday evening, I went for an early evening walk and heard a raucous group of grackles in trees across the valley. The next thing I knew, a Peregrine Falcon came cruising near the grackle "convention," and the whole convention disbursed in a gigantic mass. I conservatively estimated that there were 300 birds in the flock for eBird, but I suspect there were at least a thousand.