I added a Misc category to Silver Bullets today. A place to gather miscellaneous thoughts that have no agenda or form or purpose. Random thoughts, daydreams, fragments, speculations. Everyone needs a ‘misc’ category in their lives. There are so many things that don’t fit neatly into convenient slots.
For instance, on the topic of Change, I’ve been thinking about robins: the North American robin, misnamed by homesick Englishmen who settled in the new world, but dear to us nonetheless. Our robin is actually a thrush and bears little resemblance to the cute English robin, or ‘Robin, The’ as it’s listed in UK bird guides.
The thing about robins, if you live in Canada or in the northern United States, is that they migrate south in the winter. Or they’re supposed to. Keen birders who participate in the annual winter census of local birds have always turned up a robin or two — some robins try to winter over. Whether they make it or not, eking out a tentative existence on berries and other food sources, is unknown.
But these past few winters I’ve noticed more and more robins in my neighbourhood where they wouldn’t normally be. A day or two back I saw six or seven of them. I hear their clucks early in the morning when I go for a walk. Why the change from previous years?
My uneducated guess is global warming, one of the biggest agents of change the planet is experiencing. If the winters are, on average, a little shorter and a little warmer, I suspect more of the overwintering robins survive. When spring comes, they’re already here, perhaps staking out the best yards for territory. Maybe, after a few generations, the overwintering robins lose the genetic instinct to migrate south.
Mere speculation on my part, but in my lifetime I’ve seen a precedent: the Canada Goose. Back in my boyhood when geese were truly wild, and hunting and eating wild game and fowl was still fashionable, geese migrated south in the winter. Their famous V-formations in flight are to this day the archetypal symbol of migration.
Then times got easy. People quit hunting them and they became tamer. People fed them and they multiplied. Large numbers of them, especially in urban areas, have simply forgotten how to migrate. They’ve become overpopulated pests.