Friday, Apr 27, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

First robin of spring can be seen all winter

Robins have been around for most of the winter, and judging by the comments coming to the outdoors desk that surprises some readers.

In fact not all robins migrate south and some of them usually remain in the region. That runs contrary to a popularly held belief, and it throws cold water on the much-anticipated if so-called "first robin of spring."

Individual birds on up to flocks of 12, 15, 20 or more are being reported throughout the region. The early mild winter no doubt encouraged some robins to stay on, but others invariably will tough it out regardless.

Some of the latter actually pay the ultimate price and succumb to the harsh elements. The species, on the other hand, is a regular in the various Christmas bird counts. Granted, robins have no earthworms or other insects - their favorite spring-summer-autumn foods - on which to feed. But they avidly search for such natural foods as high-bush cranberries, smaller crabapples and other remaining berries. They find heavy, well-sheltered cover in which to brave the worst of the weather.

"They're attacking the sumac right now like anything," said Julie Shieldcastle, executive director of the Oak Harbor-based Black Swamp Bird Observatory.

Individuals who maintain backyard feeding stations and who are determined to feed robins might try offering softened raisins, though these quickly will freeze in current temperatures. Mealworms, such as the types that ice fishermen use for panfish are a suggestion, Shieldcastle notes. "It's real expensive but some people do it."

As for their continued presence in the winter, she notes that most are males. "They want to be that first male on a [breeding] territory." Some males also migrate but tend not to go as far south as females, allowing for earlier return.

Ice fishing update: Northwest Ohio farmpond bluegills have not been put off by the cold, at least if you try catching them just after sunup.

That is the report from Jeff Iwanicki and Denny Johnson of Swanton. They have been taking "big slabs" from ponds in western Lucas County and Fulton County. "From 8 to 10 a.m. they've been on fire," said Iwanicki. "After 10 all you'll catch are a few stragglers."

The two ice anglers have been using spikes and waxworms to good effect.

Up at Long Lake in Hillsdale County, Michigan, former Toledoan John Wing had been making super catches of 'gills and some nice crappies. That was until last weekend's storm.

"Even with an ice shanty it's still unpleasant right in front of my place," Wing said, adding he wants to wait till the air temperatures get back to 15 to 18 degrees before he ventures out.

The Toledo Muzzle Loaders have scheduled a blanket shoot for 11 a.m. Sunday at the Clinton Boothby Memorial Range, 875 Schwamberger Rd. For details call Kent Snyder, 419-474-0113.

A workshop to train volunteers to observe bald eagle nests and their progress this spring is set for 6 p.m. Monday in Ohio Wildlife District 1 headquarters, 1500 Dublin Rd., Columbus. To register call Donna Daniel at 614-644-3925.

The nocturnal habits of Ohio wildlife are the focus of the 2007 Ohio Wildlife Diversity conference scheduled for March 14 at the Aladdin Shrine Center in Columbus. The discount registration deadline is Feb. 23.

The conference, which is open to the public, is sponsored by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Well-known field guide author and naturalist Kenn Kaufman of Ottawa County is scheduled to give the keynote address on changes in the way we perceive and appreciate the natural world.

Species drawing attention at the conference - "Wild at Night" - include coyotes, southern flying squirrels, bats and fireflies. For details or to register on-line, visit, or call 1-800-WILDLIFE.

A sight to behold? Brown snow. Did you notice it at all last weekend or since, during or after the high winds and blowing and drifting conditions?

That brown snow was colored by some of America's finest topsoil, prime farmland, being blown to the four winds. We can say all we want about soil conservation and windbreak programs, conservation tillage, and the like, but it is pretty clear that we, as a society, are not doing enough to conserve the soil, without which neither we nor wildlife and wild plants will survive.

It would be easy to simply blame farmers, as if they were careless or unconcerned.

But it goes a lot deeper than that. It goes to government policies and society's desires for cheap food, no matter what the price to the land and future generations.

Just something to think about while you while away the winter - and watch as the farms blow past the window, or coat the side of your house.

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