Robin Watch - Evening 3
At 5:00 pm this evening, I was on the Cowiche Canyon Uplands Trail...just
above the parking lot at the west end of Scenic Drive.
Robins were high and, generally, more distant. At first I detected some
Robins moving north but it soon became evident that the flow this evening would
be from west to east. Looking towards Mount Cleman, Robins were moving over
Naches Heights and, further out, easterly along Umtanum Ridge. Loose,
scattered flocks fairly consistent at 5:10 pm at about 100 to 200 birds per minute.
The coolest part of today's stakeout was watching individual birds dropping
out of the main flocks and diving towards the ground like mini-falcons. I
was amazed at how steep their dives were and how quickly they got to tree top
level. Some were dropping into a young orchard just behind the house that
borders the Uplands on the east edge of the sagebrush. They would finish their
dives with a corkscrew flutter and quickly settle into a tree. The orchard
quickly became engulfed in shadows as the sun neared setting but for a short
while, it was bathed in a reddish cast that complimented the roosting Robins.
Only a small fraction of the birds passing by elected to stop...most
continued out of sight to the east. Perhaps, 30 landed at the house itself, most
attacking the flat grassy areas for a quick snack, but this group soon
I left the parking lot at 5:45 and checked along Scenic Drive for Robins.
Few were encountered before the 7000 block and the Ravensgate neighborhood.
There Robins were almost a traffic hazard with dozens zipping through yards
and across the street at eye level. Small, bare deciduous trees were hosting
30 Robins each.
Perhaps someone could help separate fact from fiction. Most Robins migrate
south in the fall but in winter, Robins can still be found. According to
"The Birds of Yakima County", the Christmas Bird Counts averaged, through 1998,
420 Robins for Yakima and 350 for Toppenish. High counts were 2,309 and
1,652 respectively. Don't have post 1998 data at hand, but I think one count had
slightly over 3,000 in a mild winter.
Robins are an early migrant, typically with the first arriving in Washington
in mid-February. Prior to establishing breeding territories, Robins will
form large roosts at night.
The roost of 40,000 birds in 1988 mentioned yesterday followed counts of
1229 and 1174 on the CBCs. The birds forming that roost were observed flying in
from the northwest, perhaps after foraging in the Naches Valley.
Over the past three days, thousands of Robins have been observed flying at
dusk. Their direction of travel has varied from north, to northwest, to east.
In their migration to the Valley, is there any established pattern? Do they
follow the Yakima River? Do they skirt the Cascade foothills? Or will they
come over open country on a southerly wind? Or all that and more?
Monday's flight in particular was mind-boggling. If it was merely birds
moving to a roost, where were they foraging during the day and why select a
roost area to the northwest?
With the Great Backyard Bird Count starting on Friday, it seems that an
evening observer could put Tieton, Cowiche, Naches and/or Naches Heights on the
big red Robin map. Any Yakkers out in those areas?
In the past six GBBC, Yakima has posted the following totals for American
Robin - 150, 17, 86, 109, 8, and 50. Peoples...we gots to look up in the
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