When I was young, robins were the harbingers of spring as we never saw them until March. This has not been the case for at least the last decade as they have adjusted their winter range northward. Last summer for the first time, I saw very few robins; where we used to have several mating pairs, we had none. In October and November, from the north many sizable flocks passed through and then a group stayed, roosting in the pines west of our property and flying out in search of food during the day. I see them eating mostly fruit – multiflora rose hips, honeysuckle, sumac, holly berries, and frozen apples.
This morning they were having a lawn party under the old Baldwin apple tree, which hangs onto its apples through the winter. It was quite covered with robins landing on the fruit, gorging themselves. When the apples fall off, they gather round to peck them to pieces. I imagine that they may get a bit drunk from eating rotten fruit and indeed a few looked a little mellow, puffed up, trying to stay warm while basking in the sunlight.
It is a treat to watch them even if they no longer portend a change from winter to spring. Spring in New England is a good two months away, but robins remind me that as the days lengthen, spring will come again eventually.
The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.
~ 16th century children’s nursery rhyme