For the Birds: Robins hunting is a good sign of spring

Photo by Chris Bosak An American robin perches in a tree in New England, June 2020. Merganser Lake.

I think we can officially call it spring now.

The myth that robins are the harbinger of spring has been debunked several times over. I have even mentioned that as being the case in this column several times. But, I’m going to backtrack a bit and say that I still consider the robin to be a harbinger of spring of sorts.

Many robins stay in New England throughout the winter, which is why it is not a true harbinger of spring as you can see them in January or February as well as March or April.

But the other day I saw what I consider to be a true sign of spring: a snowless field covered in robins. So to clarify the old adage, one or two robins in the woods with snow on the ground is not a sign of spring. But several robins hopping along the grass looking for worms in the thawed earth is, to me anyway, one of the most welcome signs of spring.

I have seen this on several occasions lately. At work, a small yard was teeming with robins. I would say at least a few dozen robins crowded into an area no bigger than an oversized patio.

Later that day, my son Will and I were driving past a baseball field complex. The outfield grass had so many robins on it that at first I thought they were leaves blowing around the field. If that is not a sign of spring, I don’t know what it is.

Of course, there are other signs of spring, traditional or otherwise. I’m sure we all have our own signs of spring that resonate with us. I had mentioned in a previous column that the return of the Eastern phoebes is one of my favorite signs of spring. For many, seeing the first osprey or pine warbler is their sign that spring has arrived.

Veering away from the bird world, crocuses or daffodils are another popular sign of spring. I have noticed forsythia in bloom as well, so there is another sign that spring has arrived. Spring peepers started doing their thing weeks ago in our wetlands.

I understand that this is New England and the elation we feel when spring arrives can easily be deflated by a late snowstorm or cold snap. March, the month in which spring officially begins, was not a very pleasant month this year, weather-wise anyway. It often isn’t. Even some of our Aprils lately have been cold and snowy.

But I will take these latest signs of spring and be optimistic that it has truly arrived. Early spring, of course, is just the beginning. Once we get into May, the woods will be filled with colorful songbirds and flowers. But patience is required to live in New England. Spring never comes as soon as we’d like, but it eventually gets here.

Photo by Chris Bosak Robins invade a birdbath.
Photo by Chris Bosak Robins invade a birdbath.

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