Monday, March 19, 2007

An Appetite of Robins?

Most of us know to call a large group of loud black birds a murder of crows, thanks to the 1999 movie starring Cuba Gooding. But how many of us call the large group of starlings we see wheeling through the sky a murmuration? I don't know who chooses the collective nouns to identify large groups of animals, but I am always fascinated to read them. I understand an ostentation of peacocks, and a charm of finches, even an instrusion of cockroaches. But a bouquet of pheasants? A business of ferrets?

On Sunday afternoon, I glanced out the window here by the computer, and noticed a large number of robins perched there. We had snow on Friday, and there was still quite a bit on the ground, so I assumed the robins were waiting hungrily for a patch of ground to thaw out so they could eat some worms.

A bit later we went upstairs to fix dinner. As I washed my hands at the sink, it looked to me as though the hollybush in the backyard was getting ready to pull up roots and walk off; branches were trembling and shaking, the whole tree seemed to be in motion. None of the other trees in the yard were moving, so I looked more closely.

The holly bush was full of robins, feasting on the hollyberries. The tree is large, at least 10 feet tall, and big around, and I estimate there were 50 or more in the tree. You can't see them well in the picture, but if you look at the midpoint between the clothesline post and the red thing on the dog run, you can make out a stack of 4 birds, one on top of the other, as if they were sitting on a ladder. The tree is thick with them.

Today however, my tree is as empty of robins as it is of hollyberries. What better to call a large group of robins than an Appetite? If you would like to learn more animal group names, check out the San Diego Zoo animal group names page.

Despite the snow and the miserable head cold that struck me down over the weekend, it seems that spring is here. On the garden front, the leeks are growing valiantly in the greenhouse window, holding thier own but still looking like nothing more than tiny blades of grass. The tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds are luxuriating on the waterbed; planted on 3/14, only the Flame tomatoes have sprouted, everything else remains stubbornly under the soil.

I got my last shipment of seeds today, two kales, Black Tuscan and Red Russian from Sow Organic, in Oregon. I'm frustrated by the snow and cold. I want to plant things. In other years we have been able to get our potatoes in the ground on St. Patrick's Day; we weren't able to do that this year. I am thinking of starting some lettuces in a window box planter and trying to grow them in the window greenhouse. I tell myself I should be taking a more Buddhist approach and appreciate the end of winter without wishing it away. So I watch the robins and think about the purple flowers of the hellebore, buried under the snow near the waterfall, invisible for now, but there none the less.


sher said...

Willa!! Jeesh! I've been trying to access your blog and that &*@#^ Blogger wouldn't let me! It kept saying your weren't being served by Blogger. What nerve.

It's exciting to get seeds in the mail. It's like a little package of hope!

Willa said...

I wonder if I offended the Blog gods somehow!

Yes, it is so exciting to get seeds in the mail. And it's so hard to only get the number that will fit in your yard!