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Evening gathering - Alewife Reservation birds
by John Sharp, Arlington, MA
November 16, 2008, from Arlington Birds
At the Alewife roost this afternoon I tried to count the starlings and robins as they came in for the night, to the west of the buildings along Acorn Park Drive. When I arrived at 3:50, it was about 46F and the wind was gusting enough to make the robins lose their balance in the treetops as they drifted in, arriving in 5s, 10s, and 20s every 10 or 20 seconds. At the same time there were much larger tightly formed groups of starlings, from about 50 to 250 birds in each group. They would swirl around, starting to come to rest in a treetop, then immediately taking back to the air. Maybe they sensed it would be precarious up there in the wind. Often they have adorned the trees almost as thickly as the leaves that have recently disappeared. As they swirled around, smaller groups of a few dozen would split off and drop down into the phragmites, while the rest rose back up for another go-round. Meanwhile the pace of arrival of the robins kept accelerating right up until I left at about 4:30 (sunset is officially 4:20). It is impossible to count these birds accurately. My estimates are that about 400 robins and about 500 starlings came in and bedded down this evening, but I have no idea how many I may have counted more than once, as they swirled around flying this way and that, or how many others I may have missed. I walked briefly back into the woods on the south side of the road, and the leaves were abuzz with robins enjoying their pajama party. At one point a lone cormorant struggled westward against the wind, turning left and right to get a better angle of attack. The usual blue heron I often see flying into the sunset did not appear tonight. It will be interesting to see if this roost reaches the count of several thousand that has been seen there in recent years. They usually stay in good numbers well into January.