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Re: [Mendobirds] robins & starlings - don't miss it

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  • Kate Marianchild
    I went to see this spectacle and audacle and it was truly wonderful. At 4:15 pm yesterday, 1/20, I was talking on the phone with a friend whose house
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 21, 2003
      I went to see this spectacle and "audacle" and it was truly wonderful.

      At 4:15 pm yesterday, 1/20, I was talking on the phone with a friend whose house overlooks Lake Mendocino on the west side (Lake Ridge Drive). He has been seeing thousands of robins flying north across the lake around sunset every day since December 16. He was on the verge of asking if I had any idea where the robins go and where they spend the night, when I said, "I got an email today about robins and starlings that appear to roost at the north end of the lake." I proceeded to read Vishnu's email to an astonished him, and we quickly decided to head down there. Another Lake Ridge Drive resident joined us, and we got there at around 5:15 (5:00 would have been even better). As we approached the Kyen Campground we were stunned by the sight and sound of thousands of birds. The robins were mostly already noisily settled in trees but explosions of starlings were still swooping around. The sound of their wings mingled with the vocalizations of the robins was unlike any sound I have ever heard.

      My Lake Ridge Drive friends say the robins fly south every morning. I am wondering if they actually fly in all directions away from the Kyen Campground area, and converge from all directions in the evening. Vishnu hypothesizes that they head for grape fields during the day, and that this phenomenon may be more remarkable this year than in previous years because of the numbers of unpicked grapes. (My friend who has lived above the lake for 3 years claims to have never seen robins crossing the lake in such numbers before). Or, maybe it has nothing to do with grapes, but is one of those migrant irruptions that happen cyclically, usually due to adverse food conditions in the summering areas.

      Next time anyone heads over there, please check to see if robins are coming in from all directions.

      I am hoping that this website is a suitable place for discussions of bird behavior as well as unusual sightings of species. Any thoughts on that, George?

      Speaking of which, a red-shouldered hawk was calling repeatedly and vociferously for a week or so around where I live (NW of Ukiah in the hills at Round Mountain Ranch). I thought it was either territorial calling or mate-attracting calling. Now I am no longer hearing it, and I found ten tail feathers that look like they might have belonged to a red shouldered. Anyone have any thoughts on non-human predators that might be responsible?

      I saw my first wood ducks, male and female, yesterday at Lake Pennyroyal.

      Kate Marianchild

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: vishnu
      To: Mendo RBA
      Cc: Nick Huard
      Sent: Sunday, January 19, 2003 8:17 PM
      Subject: [Mendobirds] robins & starlings - don't miss it

      Hello Mendobirders,
      Tonight, Sun 1/19, just before 5 pm and just after sunset at Lake Mendocino
      2 very common birds (and one of them much maligned) began to make their
      appearance at the north end and what ensued in the next hour turned into an
      amazing spectacle. The robins came in low, over and in between the tree
      tops, in smalll flocks of 20 or so birds and began alighting in the tops of
      the bare trees, As this steadily continued flocks of higher flying
      starlings started to gather numbers and circle overhead in their
      shape-shifting flight. I was in the Kyen campground between Marina Dr. and
      the lake and the ever increasing robins became a colorful foreground for the
      large flocks of dark starlings that were putting on an acrobatic show above
      and then in whistling flocks careening over the treetops just where I was
      standing. At about 5:15 what appeared to be the combined starling flock
      suddenly dove into the top of a nearby live oak and I thought, "wow, that
      was impressive" and I assumed the show was over. Three minutes later,
      though, that whole flock erupted from the tree and began flying again,
      staying low. For some reason while watching and listening to them I happened
      to look up high and gasped. The whole sky was filled with a truly immense
      flock of starlings (5X the original flock) who joined, split apart and
      rejoined with each other for the next 5 to 10 minutes. All this time the
      robins continued to arrive in their separate smaller flocks.
      When the starlings finally settled in about 5:30 all the trees on both sides
      of the road and for blocks along the north shore of the lake were filled
      with very talkative robins and starlings. It was like being in a huge, noisy
      zoo aviary hundreds of yards long. I don't know if they put on the same
      roosting show every night but this spectacle definitely compared with the
      September massing of Vaux's swifts in Healdsburg, IMHO.

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