For the Birds Radio Program: Last Robin of Winter

Original Air Date: April 8, 1988

The winner of this year’s Last Robin of Winter is announced.

Duration: 3′33″


First Robin of Spring

(recording of a robin)

Today is the day that at least five listeners have been waiting for–the day we announce the winners in our Last Robin of Winter contest. Although this was a relatively mild winter, with Bald Eagles spending the entire season in the Duluth harbor and a record number of species on Rochester’s Christmas Bird Count, not many robins wintered in the Northland. Not one KAXE listener found one, which sure seems like a rooky deal to me. I’ll send the KAXE prize tapes to the first two KAXE listeners to send me a creative explanation of where their robins were all winter. Plausibility will not be a factor in the judge’s decision. Meanwhile, the robin-less people in the Grand Rapids area can console themselves with their Pileated Woodpeckers, which seem to be a lot more numerous there than they are in Duluth. If I had to choose between seeing a robin and a Pileated Woodpecker, I’d take a Pileated any day.

(Recording of a Pileated Woodpecker)

I heard from three Wisconsinites. Peter Sockness spotted two robins about 3 miles from Washburn way back on Feb. 24–I’d bet that those two were birds that spent the whole winter up in the Northland, and were most assuredly the last robins of winter in Wisconsin. Doug Fields tallied 2 robins on March 11, a day after he found several Red-winged Blackbirds in Withee, Wisconsin. Doug’s robins were probably genuine first robins of spring. Since Doug and Peter saw two robins each, they tied for first place among our Wisconsin listeners, and will both receive a cassette tape of “For the Birds” programs. I also conducted a random drawing of the remaining entry from Wisconsin, which was rather easy to do since there was only one–Terese Melis reported zero robins counted during the contest period, which was of course a valid entry–I’m sort of surprised more people didn’t report none. Terese’s three children spent a lot of time looking for robins, so their total is a significant observation.

In Duluth, the Sea Grant Program’s robin-counting team binoculared its way to an easy victory with 3 robins on Wallace Avenue most of the winter and one more at UMD. And Joyce Fairbanks won Duluth’s random drawing with her first robin sighted on March 10 near Hartley Nature Park. Again, this was an easy drawing to conduct, because there was only one remaining entry. Winners will receive their tapes as soon as I get around to making them, which will probably happen before the robins leave for the south again.

Of course, now that the contest is over, robins are sprouting up everywhere. Migrants have been seen in several places in Duluth since March 24, and in Port Wing, Wisconsin since the end of March. The weather’s been hard on them– freezing rain is the absolute worst a bird can face. And until the ground thaws, robins will be finding earthworms in the “frozen food” section of backyards. Fortunately, robins are big and hardy, and the vast majority of them survive the rigors of early spring to increase and multiply, filling the Northland with their song.

(Recording of a Robin)

This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”