BIRD WATCH: A fine, feathered intervention?

BEING INEBRIATED ISN’T a condition known only to humans.

Several days ago, I returned home to find my yard pulsing with creatures acting as if they had been over imbibing.

As I turned into the driveway, I saw birds flying in all directions throughout the yard.

As the car door opened, the din made by the revelers was almost overwhelming. Robins were everywhere.

My first thought was that one of the fall flocks had descended on the yard intent on stripping the mountain ash tree of its berries. There were no birds in that tree.

Other trees, with or without berries, seemed to be the object of their wild flying.

They landed in the madrone, the dogwoods and the crabapple.

Both the madrone and the dogwood have already had their berries consumed. The crabapple won’t be ready for another month.

The only trees in the yard covered with berries were the hawthorns and the mountain ash.

I couldn’t understand why those trees were being ignored.

While I puzzled over this, the robins continued to fly back and forth, from one part of the yard to another all the while scolding one another with loud calls.

A major gathering area was the bird bath. There were robins drinking from it, bathing in it and sitting on nearby trees and bushes waiting a turn.

Everyone appeared to have a great thirst.

Very noticeable was the plumage of these birds.

They all looked faded. It seemed as if they had gone from summer plumage straight into the middle of winter.

This faded look was even more puzzling than their behavior. I suspected they were drunk but why were they so dull-looking? The thought occurred to me that a flock of northern migrants farther advanced into winter plumage had stopped to check out the yard’s berry supply.

Robins aren’t the only birds that get drunk on over ripened fruit, but they are the most noticeable because it takes place when they are in their fall and winter flocks.

It is the number of these inebriated birds all squawking and flying haphazardly that gives you pause. Sometimes, they even pass out. This has caused people (more than once) to think the birds have been poisoned. Well?

These party-goers were only around for a day or two.

The yard returned to normal but a news spot on the internet caught my eye.

It was a short video about robins in Gilbert, Minn.

They were acting exactly like the birds that visited my neighborhood.

A reason given for their behavior was blamed on an early freeze in that region.

This brought the berry sugar content up and the birds couldn’t resist the sweet, fermented fruit.

It’s also why the robins staggering about my yard had ignored the mountain ash and hawthorn.

Perhaps their disappointment accounted for their drunken quarreling.

They must have been indulging on berries farther north and my fruit just didn’t taste right.

Taking into account the advanced winter plumage look, I am beginning to suspect the partying visitors were from northern climes and have been partying their way south for a while.

Now they are faced with the reality of sobering up. Either that or they may hang around, waiting for an early frost to keep the party going.

It’s a strange feeling to see that all the berries on the mountain ash remain even as a very active robin flock descended on the yard. I can’t remember this ever happening before.

It’s going to be interesting to see what takes place in the coming weeks.

________

Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email: joanpcarson@comcast.net.

More in Life

CutlIne: What beautiful long ears and adorable eyes he has! Meet Rio,  a mammoth donkey who grew to 16’2 hands tall.
HORSEPLAY: Want a donkey? A beginners guide to donkey care

GOT THE URGE to bring home a cute, adorable miniature donkey? I’ve… Continue reading

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith.
Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith will present “Heart Centeredness” at… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: Good habits build character for your garden

LET’S RECAP WHERE we are so far this year. I am back… Continue reading

“Against all Odds: Abandonment to Olympian, A Tribute to Joe Rantz” by Catherine Bilyard is one of 41 quilts on display in Sequim Museum & Arts through the end of March as part of the “Inspiration/Exploration” exhibit. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Joe Rantz quilt highlighted at Sequim museum

Tribute among 41 pieces in show

Sunday program set for OUUF

Joseph Bednarik will present “Sex and the Dictionary” at… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Cut away what holds growth back

IT’S FEBRUARY AND time to begin pruning the vineyards in Eastern Washington… Continue reading

Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News

A perch on the bowsprit affords these spectators a wide open view of competing boats in a previous year's regatta on Port Townsend Bay.
Shipwrights’ Regatta set for Saturday

The sailboat racing season opens Saturday with the Port… Continue reading

Mason bee lecture scheduled

Carrie Morlag will discuss raising mason bees at 10 a.m.… Continue reading

Work to learn in Sequim Saturday

John Hassel will demonstrate how to prune roses at 1… Continue reading

Geology lecture set Saturday

Brian Sherrod will present “High-resolution dating of a multi-fault… Continue reading

Wool spinning demonstration set

Dean Hyden will demonstrate the use of a spinning… Continue reading

Red, Set, Go! Heart Luncheon set for Friday

The Olympic Medical Center Foundation will host the 16th-annual… Continue reading