This box is at the service entrance of the zoo. This is where you go if you are bringing a truckload of meat or pine shaving to the zoo. The box has a button and a speaker on it to talk to Security to have them come and let you in. None of this activity seems to bother the American robins who built a nest on it and raised some chicks there.
( More Urban Wildlife!Collapse )
- Current Music:The drone of an oscillating fan
Species #13, Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) looks for morsels on the freshly disturbed ground near one of our perennial beds. Juncos are ground-feeding sparrows that migrate south to our area in winter. Apologies for a less than stellar set of photos, but I figured I'd better post while they are still here. However, it's still pretty cold here, and the juncos don't show any signs of leaving for good. Alexis curses at the juncos, whether she sees the flash of their white tail feather margins or hears their distinct high chitter, because they are living symbols of winter's lingering.
Dark-eyed juncos appeared in this blog previously at 365 urban species #12.
Near the same patch of yard, in front of the snowdrops, an American robin (species #14, Turdus migratorius) looks for worms and insects moved by our shovel. At our old place, we saw robins year-round. The famously migrating thrush doesn't bother to go anywhere in parts of the city that have amble fruiting shrubs to feed on through the winter. We would laugh to ourselves when people would cry in amazement that they saw their first robin of spring, whether it was in April, March, or December. But we were in our new house for a month before we saw our first robin in the yard--I guess they really do go south for the winter and come back in the spring!
The robin and the junco were photographed on the same day, which shows the ambivalence of New England seasons. The American robin was 365 urban species #30. (I think the article I wrote for that entry is one of my better ones--I probably didn't write it with a head full of cold symptoms like I am doing now.)
The song sparrows (species #15 Melospiza melodia) have probably been around all year, but I've just started hearing their songs lately. The song has distinctive tones but variable melodies, here's a nice example of one. I often find what I think is a new-to-me sparrow species, photograph it, then examine the photograph at home to find that it's a song sparrow.
The song sparrow was also 365 urban species #357
American robin in Olmsted Park, Boston. by cottonmanifesto
Urban species #030: American Robin Turdus migratorius
A great many of the species for which human land use has been a blessing rather than a curse, are not well loved. There are "pests" like mice and rats, and introduced plagues like house sparrows and starlings, but even charismatic native species are often disdained when they become too familiar. Squirrels and crows, raccoons and deer, woodchucks and bats, all are studied in the interest of controlling them--each is treated by worried suburbanites as a troubling problem. Rarely if ever is the American robin seen this way. In my time spent at the wildlife sanctuary, I often hear wildlife-related grievances, but never have I fielded a robin-related complaint: "Those damn red-breasted birds, you know the ones I mean, they're always on my lawn, taking away my valuable earthworms!"
What's to object to? Their song is sweet and pleasant, unlike the harsh screams of gulls and crows. They don't aggressively defend their territories, swooping at your head like mockingbirds, nor do they raid birdfeeders like jays, stuffing their crops full to cache away seeds. Robins are celebrated. Poem and song exalt them, though they are heirs to praise earned only through faint similarity, and an accident of misnaming. Any praise given to "robin" before North America was colonized belongs to the English robin, a smaller bird and distant cousin. The American robin was so named not for any close kinship but because the bird vaguely reminded the Europeans of their cherished bird, in breast and behavior.
Both birds are marked with reddish fronts, and both birds have learned that human activity turns up invertebrate prey. Robins of both sorts watch gardeners and farmers turning the soil, watching for exposed grubs and worms. American robins also like to hunt earthworms in the close-cropped lawns favored by American humans. They like to nest in the kind of small trees and tall shrubs that are found next to houses, and feed on the fruits of ornamental bushes and trees. A better name for them might be "lawn thrush" or even "house thrush." They are the most common and most widespread thrush in North America. Though robins are famous for appearing in the spring, they are present year-round in Boston. [edited to add:] Cities in milder climates may see the arrival of huge migrating flocks of robins as a sign of winter.
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