We are so fortunate in Gloucester to have not one, but two, terrific garden centers, Wolf Hill and Goose Cove Gardens (and Corliss Brothers in Ipswich isn’t too far off the beaten track, either). Barbara and her team at Goose Cove are phenomenal as is the team at Wolf Hill–Kate, Joe, Ben, Dave, Jake, and all the guys. Both Wolf Hill and Goose Cove take wonderful care of the wildlife that makes their home in the very inviting environment of their nurseries. Last year Kate kept me well supplied in butterfly eggs, which had been deposited on Wolf Hill plants, and whenever I shop at either garden center, a frequent topic of conversation is the robins because they oftentimes build their nests smack dab in the middle of a plant, or group of plants, that are for sale. Robins especially like to nest in hanging flower baskets. This year was no exception. Today when at Wolf Hill I spied a mama robin zooming away from a balled and burlapped tree. The nest was at eye level! I ran and got my cameras but filmed for only a moment because both parents found it highly disturbing. The babies were hungry, with wide gaping greedy mouths, and it was clear my presence was keeping them from their breakfasts. As soon as I turned away, the parents resumed feeding the babies.
Tag Archives: American robin
Fun Video of Mega-Crowds Gathered to See First Sighting Ever Recorded of an AMERICAN ROBIN in the NETHERLANDS!!!
An American Robin (Tudus migratorius), or a Roodborstlijster, as it is called in Dutch, was first spotted on sand dunes before moving inland. I love the video of the crowd of birders waiting to catch a glimpse. It reminds me of the backshore, times ten, whenever a rare bird is seen on our shores!
Both videos were originally posted on Dear Kitty. Some Blog: American Robin in the Netherlands. Dear Kitty often reblogs my posts, sending new readers to GMG. Thank you Dear Kitty!
I feel a little sad for the lonesome fella and can only hope another was carried off course, too.
See recent GMG posts about the American Robin:
I Love Sumac
Robins do not eat bird seed. With very little fruit remaining on the branch and the ground once again covered in snow, I made a quick trip to Essex Bird Shop yesterday to pick up a tub of mealworms. Our resident Robins quickly found the little tray we had set out and it was clear that they were very hungry.
Oftentimes you’ll see a robin cocking its head, as if it were listening for earthworms. Robins have what is called monocular vision, which means their eyes are on the sides of their heads and that the eyes can work independently of each other. The robin is not hearing the worm, but seeing it! Worms make up about 20 percent of the American Robin’s diet.
The Robin is the One
That interrupt the Morn
With hurried — few — express Reports
When March is scarcely on –
The Robin is the One
That overflow the Noon
With her cherubic quantity –
An April but begun –
The Robin is the One
That speechless from her Nest
Submit that Home — and Certainty
And Sanctity, are best – Emily Dickinson
More about the American Robin:
Now that’s not an opinion you don’t hear very often. I try to get my clients to love it too or, if they can’t enjoy Smooth Sumac for its unusual beauty, to at least appreciate the shrub for the myriad species of wildlife that it supports.
Yesterday while walking through Halibut Reservation with daughter Liv, we encountered a very large flock of robins devouring seeds of sumac. The beautiful clump of sumac, with its bare crooked, leaning trunks and raspberry pink furry seedheads made a striking combination of shapes and textures against the windswept ocean vista. We disturbed the robin feast, but then Liv walked further down the path to photograph the Atlantic and I stayed behind, half hidden by an evergreen tree. The robins quickly returned to the ripened seedheads and I got to snap away until the next walker came along.
Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) is a shrub that naturally forms colonies; it can also be grown as a beautiful single-trunk tree. The yellowy-green flowers on female plants give way to deep rusty red berries held in erect, pyramidal clusters. What makes sumac so invaluable to wildlife? The fruits persist through the winter, providing nourishment for many, many species of birds and small mammals. Additionally, the foliage is a larval host plant for the Coral Hairstreak Butterfly!
* * *
Liv submits apparition from Halibut Point
Right on schedule! Beautiful and welcome migrant flocks of American Robins arrive annually in Gloucester during the month of February, dining on local fruits, berries and fish fry.
During the winter months Cape Ann often becomes home to large flocks of robins, and we have had the joy of hosting numerous numbers in our garden. I can’t help but notice their arrival. Their shadows descend, crisscrossing the window light, followed by a wild rumpus in the ‘Dragon Lady’ hollies. This pair of hollies is planted on opposing sides of the garden path, alongside my home office. I have learned to stealthily sneak up to a window, as any sudden activity inside startles birds that are investigating our garden, and they quickly disperse. Dining not only on berries of the ‘Dragon Ladies’, but also the ‘Blue Princess’ Meserve holly and winterberry bushes, I find dozens of noisy, hungry robins.
These winter nomads flock to trees and shrubs that hold their fruit through January and February, feasting on red cedar, American holly, Meserve hollies, chokecherries, crabapples, and juniper. Robins traveling along the shores of Cape Ann also comb the shoreline for mollusks, and go belly-deep for fish fry. Depleting their food supply, they move onto the next location. Gardens rife with fruiting shrubs and trees make an ideal destination for our migrating friends.
Habitat Gardening Tip:
The garden designed to attract nesting pairs of summer resident robins, as well as flocks of winter travelers, would be comprised of trees and shrubs for nest building, plants that bear fruit and berries that are edible during the summer and fall, and plants that bear fruits that persist through the winter months. Suburban gardens and agricultural areas provide the ideal habitat, with open fields and lawns for foraging insects as well as trees and hedgerows in which to build their nests.
The following plants, suggested with robins in mind, will also attract legions of songbirds and Lepidoptera. The list is comprised primarily of indigenous species with a few non-native, but not invasive, plants included.
Trees for nesting ~ American Holly (Ilex opaca), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida).
Summer and autumn fruit bearing trees, shrubs and vines for robins ~ Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Blackberry (Rubus spp.), Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida), Gray Dogwood (C. racemosa), Red-osier Dogwood (C. sericea), Silky Dogwood (C. amomum), Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), Apple (Malus pumila), Virginia Rose (Rosa virginiana), Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), Wild Grape (Vitis spp.).
Trees and shrubs with fruits persisting through winter ~ Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana), Crabapple (Malus spp.), Sargent’s Crabapple (Malus sargentii), American Holly (Ilex opaca), Meserve Hollies (Ilex x meserveae), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Common Juniper (Juniperus communis), Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra), Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina).
Bird Food: Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus viginiana)
To read more see previous posts:
My regular readers are aware, as are my fellow GMG contributors, that I write a monthly column/newsletter on gardening, with a focus on designing welcoming habitats for birds and butterflies. My readership has grown steadily, I think largely based on the fifteen or so habitat garden design lectures that I give each year (See the Lecture Program Page on my blog) and the newsletter is now read mostly in New England, but also throughout the US, England, Canada, and Mexico. As does my book, the columns contain a wealth of information on creating habitat gardens, how to attract birds and butterflies to our gardens, and stories about local wildflowers and wildlife. Oftentimes readers write and I find it wonderfully gratifying when they share their success stories with what they are feeding and planting to attract birds and butterflies to their gardens.
The newsletter began awhile back while I was writing a bi-monthly column for the regional newspaper the North Shore Planet. Reader’s who lived beyond the area of distribution of the newspaper became interested in the columns and it was easy to send the columns via email. The columns are in the process of being archived and they will eventually be featured on a page of their own on my blog. If in the meantime you would like to receive via email my monthly column, please email me at email@example.com.
Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden is available through my publisher’s website at David R. Godine, Publisher.
Sunday morning I was planting my friend Janet’s butterfly garden over at Beach Road. She has the most beautiful native cherry tree (Prunus) growing alongside her home. The tree was planted by her parents and has been beautifully maintained over the years. Black Cherry and Chokecherry are often thought of as weed trees however, when they are well-cared for, they will reward you with lovely boughs covered in racemes of tiny white five-petaled flowers. Cherries are a caterpillar food plant for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and while at Janet’s, we saw several Eastern Tiger Swallowtails investigating the foliage and racemes. The fruits, too, of the cherry are much loved by the songbirds.
Yesterday was a great day for butterfly sightings and Robins! Under the eaves of Janet’s porch is an American Robin nest. Pa and Ma Robin flew to and from the nest, scolding loudly each time I walked past as they were none to happy to see me.
Ma and Pa Robin conferring over my extremely annoying presence
What a sloppy nest by Robin standards! ~ I actually think it is interesting with the blue streamers
Each year we are visited by a breathtakingly beautiful migrant flock of American Robins. This year they arrived on leap day, many weeks later than is typical. There wasn’t much to eat as the Mocking Birds and Catbirds have eaten nearly all the berries on the Dragon Lady hollies. Fortunately, the winterberry had held its fruit. Unfortunately, the aggressive and pesky European Starlings were competing for what little fruit remained.
The widely distributed and beloved American Robin (Turdus migratorius) hardly needs an introduction. The American Robin is the largest member of the thrush family—thrushes are known for their liquid birdsongs and the robin is no exception. Their unmistakable presence is made known when, by early spring, the flocks have dispersed and we see individual robins strutting about the landscape with fat worms dangling. Unmistakable, too, is the male’s beautiful birdsongs, signaling to competing males to establish their territory, as well as to entice prospective females. Read more about the American Robin including suggestions of native plants that provide nourishment for resident and nomad.
Every year, in the United States alone, over 1,000,000,000—yes, that is one billon—birds are killed from flying into windows. Chris Leahy quoted this statistic at the talk he gave last week at the Sawyer Free Library. Coincidentally, earlier that day I had been speaking with my friend Kate who has this very problem of birds hitting her windows as her home is sited on a beautiful seaside meadow in Tiverton, Rhode Island. She wanted to share with my readers about spider web decals for glass windows.
I found a website that offers a range of innovative solutions to protect birds, for both the residential home and the commercial property, TONI Bird Control Solutions. Although based in Germany, the solutions are universal.
Spider webs reflect light in the UV spectrum and are a visible barrier to birds. When you think about it, we don’t often see birds entangled in a spider’s web. Taking cues from nature, the spider’s web is the basis for TONI’s ultraviolet bird pen, bird glass, and UV decals. TONI’s solution #2, the ultraviolet Bird Pen, is well suited for residential properties. Also, check with the Essex Bird Shop. I believe they carry ultraviolet decals, not visible to the human eye.
If so many birds are killed, why don’t we see the dead bodies? The answer is simply, scavengers. Migrant songbirds fly at night, hitting the glass in the dark and the very early morning hours. Scavengers like gulls, vultures, crows, magpies, rats, and cats know where to look for injured and dead birds. At city skyscrapers, building maintenance daily sweep up bags of, and sometimes during peak migration, barrels full of, dead birds every morning at dawn. The high death rate around skyscrapers is also due in part to the bright lights left burning all night.
Another solution is perhaps not wash your windows quite as frequently, or wait to wash until after the spring and fall migrations. Fortunately, we do not have the problem of birds hitting our windows because of our many weathered and wavy window panes dating back to 1851. We have a different problem. During warmer months, I like to take advantage of the harbor breezes and usually have the windows wide open, and without screens (until mosquito season begins). We’ve had finches and sparrows and hummingbirds flying around my home office, but then again, none fatally injured.
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
"Hope" is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops – at all -
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of Me - Emily Dickinson
Dear Gardening Friends, Please forgive when I am slow to answer your kind and thoughtful letters. I am struggling with an elbow injury and have had to limit my writing and photography somewhat (with extreme reluctance!!!). I love to hear about your bird and butterfly encounters, so please, keep your letters coming–just know that I am slow! Please see my blog for more photos of the beautiful flock of American Robins that arrived in our garden yesterday, as well as information about the upcoming Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend. Warmest wishes, Kim