essays

The Backyard Ecosystem    

robin in treeOh Good, the sun is out, the breeze is gentle, and I haven’t begun to sneeze. I woke up gently and cozily under our (always hopeful) spring sunshine sheets and (more realistic) white down comforter to see a fresh dusting of snow on the ground, sky somewhat grey, big hunk of white mountain, and an enormous amount of bird  activity in the patio. It wasn’t cold apparently, and there was water on the pool cover being enjoyed by hundreds (well, at least dozens) of robins flitting, sipping and splashing around, flicks of red zipping here and there. I’m not often such a huge robin enthusiast at this time of year. They seem to spend the day in the junipers eating the berries which I guess makes them sort of sick, or drunk at the very least. The result is a depressingly large number of suicides as their dizzy flight patterns cause them to slam into the living room windows. I thought about jumping out of bed and spreading bird food around but I just couldn’t move.

juniper berriesI had another marvelous aesthetic bird experience last weekend. I had plopped down on the chaise lounge in our sunroom just in time for sunset so I could check out the view through our new glass roof. Just outside is a Pinon and a Russian Olive tree. The mountain was doing its extraordinary pink, purple, gold, and silver against white evening symphony, and quite suddenly the immediate patio sky was full of resident robins flying in to the top branches of the trees, several at a time. I suppose they do this every night, but I had never seen the ritual.

At one point I counted 18 of them in the Russian Olive and couldn’t really see how many in the Pinon. I know there were far more than 18 because they just kept coming and coming. The sun was glinting robin bathoff their red breasts. More and more of them would arrive from somewhere mostly south and settle temporarily in the top most branches fluttering and puffing out their red breast feathers which really did sparkle in the waning sunlight.

I used to think the western robin was kind of dull, but he certainly isn’t dull at sunset. It was an incredible celebration of the end of the day.  Once the sun sunk below the horizon it was as if they were called by some mysterious instrument only they could hear. They all took flight at once—to where, or which tree, I have no idea. But then there they were bathing, primping, and chirping about this morning in the early morning sunlight. I guess the patio has its own ecosystem. What a marvelous spectacle for lazy me!

Lucy Noyes is co-founder of La Puerta Real Estate outside Albuquerque, New Mexico and has a million stories in her head, just waiting to get out.

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