Sunday, 31 January 2016

Robins Fishing

     No matter how much time I spend in the wilderness, there is always something to surprise me. Today, after a hot tip from The Edmonton Nature Club blog, I head over to Hermitage Park, located in North-East Edmonton. I find a few trees festooned with bird feeders being mobbed by woodpecker, dark-eyed juncos and black-capped chickadees. They are being monitored by a gentleman sitting in his old pickup truck. I watch for a while but this is not what I came here for. When I ask, he offers to lead me to the destination I am curious about.
     "Just wander down there where that magpie is landing," he points. Along the edge of a small, frozen flood-water lake is a thin sliver of open water. "That's where you will find them. Don't wander out onto the ice," he cautions.
     I grab my camera, tripod and binoculars and wander toward the waters edge. Sure enough, sitting in a dead snag is an American Robin. This is January 31, the dead of winter in Edmonton, Alberta. It is -1 C., snowing lightly and robins are not supposed to be hanging out in this part of the world at this time of year.
Robin Caught Stickle-back

      I sit down and snap a couple of photos of the the perched robin then notice more of the red- breasted birds emerging from the forest around me and landing at waters edge. As I watch, they seem to be worming, like they do in summer time. They are hopping along the ice edge, cocking their heads to listen, then pull something from the water. Who knew that robins enjoy ice-fishing and are very good at it.
     I sit for over an hour watching in amazement as robin after robin appear and pluck tiny fish from the water. At times the open water boils with hundreds of small fish called stickle-backs. The birds are very adept at flipping the fish head-first and down the hatch they vanish.
Robin Fishing

     I don't know why there is a sliver of open water along the edge of the little lake in mid winter. Magpies also know about the fishing hole but are too shy to come near as I sit there.
Stickle-backs Trying to Avoid Robin

     As I am leaving, the bird-watcher is driving past and asked, "How did you make out? I have been watching the robins fishing here for five or six years." he tells me.
     Every trip to the park or the wilderness, no matter where can bring us very special surprises. Not everything can be explained and all rules can be broken by Mother Nature's critters.

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