Questions are like doors that lead to more knowledge on a subject and they work both ways, for readers and for me. When a question is asked and the answer isn't readily available, it means research on my part. I enjoy research. It's also satisfying when an answer comes readily to mind. The variety of questions can be amazing, but some of the same ones are asked repeatedly.
“Should we have robins at this time of the year?” That’s a familiar one and the reason for it makes sense. Haven’t we always heard about the first robin of spring? The general consensus over most of the country is that the robins migrate south for the winter. They do but not in the Northwest. Yes, some of our robins move south but others from up north where there is plenty of snow and cold consider this region “south.”
We can have large flocks of robins show up in our yards in the winter. They travel together searching out sources of food. Robins do suffer when we get a hard winter with lots of snow. When worms and other insects are scarce, the least favorite berries disappear. Any winter apples that are still around also attract robin flocks.
“Do we have true ravens in this area?” That’s another question that pops up from time to time. It also makes sense. The Northwest’s crow population is huge and the birds vary in size from quite large to pretty small. The common crow can look as big as a raven – until you see a true raven. Historically, ravens in the Northwest have been observed in the mountains, mature forests and in open, less-populated areas. Now they are being seen more often in places where crows once ruled. We appear to have a growing population of ravens and that means some pretty upset and angry crows.
When a raven flies overhead, the easiest way to identify it is by looking at the tip of the tail. A crow’s tail has a rounded end. The end of a raven’s tail is wedge-shaped. It also has a large and heavy Roman-nosed bill.
“Where do gulls sleep at night – or do they?” I’m sure they do sleep at night – part of the time. They also sleep during the day. They don’t turn in for hours at a time. It’s more like several minutes and even then they only doze. Deep sleep is dangerous when you are a bird resting on the open water or perched on a roof or piling. Gulls “catnap” and sleep with one eye open.
Not every question is solely about birds.
“Do bears hibernate in this area?” After three destroyed feeders and one badly damaged one, I’d been asking myself the same question. The number of bears attacking feeders this winter has been unusually large. The theory is that they are hungry and the low natural food supply has made it difficult for them to fatten up and go to sleep. As a consequence they are still looking for food and refusing to hibernate. Perhaps. I’m more than a little apprehensive that squirrels, raccoons and opossums aren’t going to be the only pests who consider feeders a food source.
Questions from readers are great and no question is dumb. If you don’t ask, how are we all going to learn something new?
Write to Joan Carson, PO Box 217, Poulsbo, WA 98370. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. (Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)