Monday, February 11, 2013
A few weeks back, after one of our warm and rainy spells, I drove home from the clinic where I worked overnight. I took Post Road, through West Meade, and found the shallow roadside puddles and pavement alive with American Robins. They were all over the road, in the bushes, in the trees, some barely missing being hit by my truck. The wet spots must have been filled with unwary earthworms lured out by the brief warmth.
The southern garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence called these thrush visitors "Yankee Robins", for they migrate by the millions to the unfrozen ground south of the Mason-Dixon line. They also reap berries beyond number from the bush honeysuckles,privets, and ornamental hollies.
The privets and honeysuckles grow on the wood edges, on property lines, in abandoned fields. Park managers and homeowners curse them and call them invasive. The birds call them a banquet. The landscapers of apartments and subdivisions plant holly hedges,such as the one in front of my porch.
The Robin mob found them yesterday. The robins park themselves in the trees, then drop in squads onto the bushes, stripping the berries. They move underneath branches inside the hedge, and bring the hedge alive. They were absent, and the air was silent only briefly this morning when a Cooper's Hawk was perching and surveying-
Humans have been good to robins. Mowed lawns, ornamental berried hedges, warm side- walks that lure the red wiggler and the nightcrawler. To these birds Nashville is the Gold Coast, the Fortunate Isles, the Land of Plenty.
But only for another month or so. By then the hedges will be ragged, and instinct will send the robins north and aloft to the thawing fields of Minnesota and Michigan.