Jan 06 2008
News of the huge robin roost first came from Scott Kinsey when he asked for help counting them. “To anyone who thinks robins flew south for the winter, take a look at this. I hope to figure out how many thousands are at this roost.”
Dave Wilton helped him count 25,000 but they didn’t have a good vantage point.
At dawn a few days later in a wooded valley, Dave Wilton witnessed a “100,000 bird explosion… in what can only be described as a nuclear detonation of birds roaring into the sky.” He had found the roost.
That evening Geoff Malosh watched “how utterly spectacular this robin roost in Allegheny County really is. …I am not at all uncomfortable in guessing that there are actually six digits worth of robins. …It really is an incredible sight.”
Birders flocked. I was there for both sunrise and sunset today.
In the dark before dawn, the robins called softly to each other but there was no activity… yet. About 1/2 hour before dawn they began to fly up, not by skimming the treetops but by shooting straight into the sky. They were not in tight flocks. They were everywhere. By dawn the whole sky was thickly peppered with robins flying in every direction. Thousands and thousands and thousands of birds.
It was over as fast as it began. By 1/2 hour after dawn, they were gone.
Dusk was different. Half an hour before sunset the flocks approached the site but did not roost. Instead some flew around it, some perched. By sunset all the birds were flying and again the sky was thickly peppered with an incredible number of birds. As I watched through binoculars I noticed the furthest birds were flying right to left, the nearest left to right. They were circling the roost counter clockwise!
As the sky darkened small flocks broke off and disappeared to roost in evergreens. By 1/2 hour after sunset, they were done.
This phenomenon leaves more questions than answers. Why did they choose this place? How did they find it? Do they come here every year? When did they begin roosting here this fall? How much longer will they stay?
And just how many robins are there? No one can say.
(photo by Chuck Tague)