Tuesday, March 20, 2012
The Robins of Bowman Bay
The lawns of the picnic grounds at Bowman Bay in Deception Pass State Park provide a forest edge/open woodland habitat. This is exactly what our good old American Robin (Turdus migratorius) likes. That Latin name literally means "migratory thrush."
We had some nice, sunny weather in early February. Since then, it has been cold, windy, raining and even snowing. Yesterday, after some local, spotty snow, the sun finally came out, sort of. I took the opportunity to hike the Bowman-Rosario Nature Trail in the park.
I spotted a lot of wildlife, but the lowly, taken-for-granted Robins put on the best show of all. I don't recall ever seeing so many gathered in one place.
The lawns at Bowman Bay were literally alive with dozens of these common thrushes. They were all busily stalking their annelid pray among the blooming English Daisies growing in the grass. The birds cock their heads as if listening for the sounds of earthworms moving through the ground. From what I observed, the technique is nearly foolproof.
Perhaps this behavior explains why a group of Robins is called a "worm." The pickings must have been pretty good, a testament to the park's low impact lawn care methods.
The bird in the photo above did more resting than hunting. She looks just about ready to lay a clutch of eggs and probably finds it a bit difficult to get around.
There was also some scrapping going on. When such a large number of birds gathers in a single place, territorial disputes are likely. Outside of the breeding season, Robins form congenial flocks, but this time of year, tempers may run a bit thin.
I have observed a variation of this stalking behavior among the Robins in my own yard. When I am out gardening, digging and planting, the birds have learned that I might also kick up some goodies. They will gather on a perimeter at a comfortable distance. The minute I step away, they come right in to collect their prizes. In this case, I am the one being stalked.
Also spotted during my hike was the Rosario clan of California Quail. A Bald Eagle rode the brisk winds over Rosario Head. Another Douglas Squirrel was cleaning up the last of the Nootka Rose hips on the Rosario tombolo. A Pileated Woodpecker was heard but not seen in a grove of firs. A "murder" of Northwestern Crows appeared to be exercised about something happening on Rosario Beach. Song Sparrows were concertizing everywhere along the trail. With all that happening, however, the most impressive moments of the day were provided by that large gathering of Robins at Bowman Bay.