When you’re out chasing fall migrants and you either have a good internal compass or you’re somewhere it’s pretty easy to orient yourself to the cardinal directions, like the Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s not unusual to find mixed flocks of migrants moving in what appears, intuitively, to be a “wrong” direction. You may find groups of birds moving north, or east, or west rather than the general southwest route we expect here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. These early morning flights — usually just after sunrise — are called “redetermined” flights.
Our elementary school primers were populated by robins pulling worms out of holes. They appeared on television screens on Saturday mornings, hopping about in Disney cartoons that represented “the idea of a bird.” We know what a robin looks like in outline, but do we know much about the real thing?