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Don't Rush Me

Climate change?

Maybe the robins know something.

February 20, 2013 - Mere mortals, one and all.

That's us in the Great Lakes State. And as such, we can only wait and let nature complete its cycle. We are powerless against Jack Frost, Old Man Winter, et al.

Well, that's the way it used to be. Back in 2003 I wrote about more and more robins staying in Michigan year-round. Was that a portent of things to come? You decide.

* * *

Feb., 2003 -- Hope springs eternal in the hearts of Michiganians everywhere because we can dream. And in our dreams during the cold winter months, we look for signs of impending warmer weather wherever we can. In February we turn to the groundhog. If the marmot doesn't see his shadow, spring is on its way. If he does see his smackin' frackin' shadow, we have six more smackin' frackin' weeks of winter.

And when that prognostication doesn't work out, after long, drawn out weeks of cold days and colder nights, we look for the surer sign of spring -- we look for our fine feathered friends, our state bird, the red-breasted American Robin. Community newspapers like this, used to print sightings of the first robins.

"John Doe of Malarky Street reports he and his wife Jane looked out their kitchen window early Monday morning and saw not one but two robins. Spring has sprung!"

Say good-bye to those thrilling days of yesteryear. Mother Nature is a cruel mistress. Last week the dear boys spotted an entire flock of about 20 to 30 robins in our backyard. But don't pack the parkas nor haul out the Hawaiian shirts just yet.

Call me kooky, but my guess is that spring might as well still be a million years away. I know, I'm whining, but...

... If it's gonna' be cold, we might as well have snow to play in -- like we used to have snow. I know I was shorter when I was a kid, so snow up to my knees isn't as deep as snow up to my current knees, but we always had snow in the winter.

I know, because we used to sled all winter. We played, made snow forts, snow men and had snowball fights. We stayed out until our moms called us in -- not because we noticed frostbitten ears, noses, fingers and toes. We braved the elements because it was, plain and simple, fun.

Winter in Michigan has changed and the robins (and anybody over 30 years old) know that.

They know there's less snow and ice, which means it's easier for them to find grub (grub as in food, not beetle larvae -- which could be food in the early spring, but that is a different column). So, more and more of them are opting to stay in Michigan during the winter, versus flying south.

They like Michigan winters better than southern winters. (Hey, nobody ever said robins were "smart birds.") While the easier Michigan winters may be good news to robins, it may put an end to the ploy to oust our red-breasted friends as state bird. A few years back a group of folks wanted to make the state bird, I believe, the chickadee.

The reasons stated were when things get rough or cold, robins abandon the state in favor of warmer weather while the earnest, stalwart chickadee sticks it out, braves the cold and stays in Michigan year-round.

Too bad, chickadee. Hail to the robin.

* * *

I found out that North American Robins like to live on the forest's edge. They prefer the woods opening to the deep, shadowy area inside the forest. This is why there are so many in suburbia. They like the fact we have trees spread out and open lawn areas.

Logging and urban sprawl have actually helped robins, while at the same time wrecking things for other critters. Robins are also opportunistic when it comes to food. During the spring, they eat more worms and bugs than plant stuff -- only 20 percent of their diet is vegetarian. In the fall, when there are plenty berries and grain, robins switch their eating habits to an 80 percent vegetarian diet.

Comments for bird watching Don can be e-mailed to

Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at:
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