Sunday, February 13, 2011

Robin Returns

Saw a flock of robins on the road and remembered that Spring is not far off.  Then later, among daffodils and English daisy, the flock came up on the hill and began looking for food, running and stopping, overturning leaves and dirt for bugs.  Spring seems early here, perhaps because it has been a mild Winter.  The progression of seasons is powerful enough to change behavior.  In Winter, robins migrate south to warmer climates.  They roost together at night in trees.  When robins return to their Spring nesting grounds, they become territorial and don’t tolerate each other.  They chase and make noise to intimidate their neighbors, keeping nest territories clearly defined.  Turdus migratorius, migrating thrush, is the quintessential early bird.  Their song is first in the morning, a cheerful chorus. Robins were the indicator species warning Rachel Carson when she wrote Silent Spring about the effects of DDT pesticides on birds.

Now in the transition time, robins stay together as they migrate into Spring and nesting.  Flocks will pass through for a month or so and then birds will take up residence and nest.  Seeing this change from friendly flocks to agonistic territory defense, reminded of the fluid nature of behavior so dependent on seasons and resources, nests, mates, and food.  We humans have these seasons too, yet choose to ignore them and remain remarkably resistant to behavior change.  We think that animals are inferior to us, maybe because we can gossip, hold grudges, and wage wars when animals don’t.  They simply observe the changes of season and go about their migrations and living rituals without clinging to rigid patterns of spiteful behavior.  Humans isolate themselves from seasons and changes, fearful of losing their differences from animals.  Humans can become the unchanging avatars of war and conflict, resistant to the bending forces of nature.  We have not always been this way and perhaps we will again enjoy the power of seasons in our cultures.  Holidays seem to be the last holdout of season effects on our behavior.  Christmas and Valentine's Day can remind us of love and generosity.  Thanksgiving reminds of gratitude and enjoyment of bounty.  Halloween reminds of spirits and the power of Fall and decay.  

These changes in season signified by animal migrations and floral phenology lighten us up and remind us of the joy and beauty of change and the oscillation of sounds to make music communicating love and compassion.  The seasonal changes in behavior and hormones support our need for renewal and life.  Paying attention to these changes charges our spirit.  Remaining the same without seasonal patterns deprives us of the vitality of wildness and place.  We forget our birthright and dwell in the darkness of fear and aggravation.  
Posted by michael

1 comment:

dcp said...

Great timing for this post, Michael. I think I saw my first robin last week. And pitchers and catchers report to spring training today.