Road Blog: Mendocino Vineyard

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Back home in Berkeley tonight. But at noontime today, we stopped on our way south at Toulouse, a vineyard and winery along Highway 128 in Mendocino County. We went into the tasting room and bought some wine, then walked up through the vineyards briefly. One bird note: We see robins down here, of course. They’re everywhere, right? But up at Toulouse today, their presence was a little more than we see around the city. hundreds if not thousands of robins filled trees around the harvested vineyards. Checking one Mendocino birding site, the county seems to be a major wintering locale for American robins (Turdus migratorius; yes, “Turdus”; it’s Latin for “thrush”; you know there’s a whole story about why it’s called “robin,” but some of us can’t stay up all night to tell it).

A general explanation for the robin swarm around the vineyards comes from Cornell’s Birds of North America: “The diet of the robin is … highly variable, changing from primarily soft invertebrates, especially earthworms, in spring and summer, to primarily fruit in autumn and winter. During the nonbreeding season, large flocks of hundreds or thousands of immature and adult birds migrate to lower elevations and latitudes, where they form roosting aggregations from which they track sources of berries.” Cornell also notes that the robin is a relatively recent arrival in much of California west of the Sierra foothills, not pushing into other parts of the state until irrigation and well-watered lawns (and thus a richer supply of earthworms near the surface) made it possible for the bird to extend its range. And one more note from that Mendocino County site: robins (and some other abundant songbirds) are favored prey of some raptors (peregrine falcons and sharp-shinned hawks, among others).

The sound of the birds near the vineyard was remarkable enough I recorded some audio and will try to post that later.

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