Like Pepper in the Sky

American Robins flock near the roost (photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Flocks are my weakness. 

I love to watch the grandeur and sweep, the beauty of wings in flight, the triumph of nature that thousands of birds represent.

So though I'm not happy that the days are getting shorter, the weather colder, the skies cloudier, I'm thrilled that this is the one time of year when I see huge flocks in Pittsburgh.

The excitement begins an hour before sunset.  Outdoors I look up to see groups of twenty to forty birds all flying in the same direction.  They're American robins and they're heading for the roost.

There are at least two roosts in Pittsburgh - one near the Bloomfield Bridge, the other near Holy Trinity Catholic Cemetery in Carnegie - but I'm not at either one.  I'm at a point along their flyway.

The robins keep coming, the groups get larger, but they will not land here.  On and on they come... and pass me by.  It hardly looks like a flock, but they're moving together intent on their destination.

They look like pepper in the sky.

(photo by Tom Pawlesh of American robins circling the roost in Carnegie last winter.)

3 thoughts on “Like Pepper in the Sky

  1. Beautiful photo. I was driving home from work this week and saw a flock of crows flying somewhere to roost. I was remembering a post you had in your blog a while ago about a study of crows and how they roost in lit areas to watch out owls so I was thinking they were going to roost near a highway bridge or something.

    I am glad you still have robins. This is the first year I have been paying attention to birds and I have noticed I still have quite a few robins in my yard here in Massachusetts. I have an old privet tree in my yard that is filled with berries and I think they are determined to strip it bare! I found this perplexing because I thought the robins would have headed down south by now. Do you know when robins typically migrate south?


  2. Robins take their time moving south. They stick around as long as there’s enough food available and there’s no snow cover. The two things are related – when snow covers their food, they will definitely leave.
    Your privet tree is one of the things that allows robins to linger in your neighborhood. The tree produces beautiful fruit, hoping the birds will eat it and carry the seeds elsewhere. The birds oblige.
    If your privet tree was able to keep its fruit all winter it would be a sad thing. It would mean there were no more fruit-eating birds.

  3. Thank you for the reply. Last year there were only a few berries left on the privet tree during late spring. I have a family of cedar waxwings that stick around all year but they hardly touch the privet for some reason. When I moved into this house I had that tree plus a mulberry tree. Many people consider them invasive weeds and suggested I cut them down but I wouldn’t dream of it as the birds love them.

    I also saw blue birds yesterday so they too are still here in New England this late in the fall.

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