Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Robin Buffet (or, What Would Aldo See?)

Determined to see the starlings, my favorite aerial dance troupe, I tore away from my desk at 4:30. Alas, not a single starling. So preoccupied with the starlings' absence, I almost missed the robins' presence.

What: About thirty American Robins, actively sifting through leaf litter for morsels
Where: Under the arbor vitae and in the leaf litter that collects along the stone wall that edges the courtyard.
When: ~4:30 pm
Observers: Abbie
Conditions: A day or 2 ago, this leafy buffet was covered with snow.

What are these American Robins finding to eat? Hidden in the leaves, what is concealed to me but entices a dense gathering of robins? At this point in the season, are there any arthropods or annelids for the birds to pick out? Or is it all berries and seeds? These questions remind me of a passage by Aldo Leopold I recently read:
"These golden grasses conceal, under their waving plumes, a subterranean garden of bulbs and tubers, including wild potatoes. Open the crop of a fat little Mearns' quail and you find an herbarium of subsurface foods scratched from the rocky ground you thought barren. These foods are the motive power which plants pump through the great organ called the fauna."Aldo Leopold

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This time last year. . .

What: This time last year, flocks of European Starlings graced our evening skies with dramatic and marvelous performances, as seen in the video above. So since last February, when that phenomena diminished and ceased, I've been eagerly anticipating their return. But so far, hopes are unrewarded. About four weeks ago, my boss sent me an exuberant text reporting that she saw the starlings over the Garden. I've made a few evening outings hoping to encounter the flock, but today was another miss. Here is what I did see:
  • 10 American Robins (high up in the Linden trees along the grande allĂ©e)
  • 4 American Crows (in flight)
  • 1 Downy Woodpecker
  • 3.5 Snowmen
  • 0 European Starlings
Where: Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
When: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm
Observers: Abbie
Conditions: Too cold for dress shoes! Should have worn my boots.