Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Pepper and The Plague


19717123 - robin red breast

Nashville’s robins – thousands of them, locals and visitors – made quite a racket over the last few weeks. They spattered my car every day. They seemed agitated, dawn to dusk – or at least they made me feel agitated. I have never considered myself a robin hater, but my feelings were not as warm and friendly as the weather. “They’re as bad as the cicadas that show up every 17 years,” I muttered to Pepper.

Pep, on the other hand, loved the chance to scatter the flock in our yard every time she went out. “I personally feel very empowered,” she noted brightly.

“They feel like a plague!” I groused. “A plague of robins, that’s what they should be called. Other birds have group names – a gaggle of geese, a murder of crows, a parliament of owls, a charm of hummingbirds, a chattering of starlings – ”

“A plague of robins,” Pep agreed, “that is what we will call them,” for she is an agreeable pup.

Wednesday morning, I woke up and they were gone. I knew the moment I took Pep out for her morning affairs. The yard was strangely silent.

“Pep, did you notice?” I asked as we came in.

“Yes, it seems the plague has passed,” she replied. “You must be pleased.”

“I am!” I enthused.

Later that day, making our usual circuit around the yard, I noticed that the resident ravens had come out from wherever they’d been hiding. Cardinals, jays, and house finches went about their business. And yet…

“It’s awfully quiet,” I said to Pep as we trekked around. “I suppose, maybe, and in hindsight, those crazy robins were actually kind-of cheerful…”

“Obviously,” she said gently. “Driven by mysterious instincts to travel enormous distances, they nonetheless chat it up along the way, enjoy each other’s company, eat well, make a mess, and generally live life to the fullest. But it was time for them to move on, you know. And now it’s time for me to go say hello to that gorgeous Hotch,” she added, bounding off to flirt with the new German shepherd behind the great silver-chain wall.

Things come and go, I thought, and we don’t always see them very clearly. 


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For more than you ever wanted to know about robin migration, check in at American Robin/Journey North.

For an incredibly awesome chart of bird group names, see (including a flight of goshawks, a convocation of eagles, a clamour of rooks, and a pitying of turtle doves).

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One thing I do see clearly: the beautiful vibrancy of these photos by my friend and teacher Jack Barnwell…



(Photo copyright reserved by Jack Barnwell.)





  1. Thank you, Jennifer and Pepper, for reminding me that Spring is on the way. That is when our rafter of turkeys leaves our yard for cooler weather.

  2. Pepper really does contain multitudes. This post made me think of the Peanuts Christmas Special where Linus quietly steps into the spotlight, lovingly holds his trusty blanket, and casually explains the meaning of the universe.

  3. A parliament of owls — I love it. Thanks for the lesson, Jennifer

  4. Jen, I know robins can’t hold the same status as finches in your life. 🙂 I’m sure Pepper had lots of fun as a manic shepherd in the midst of the cacophony. Until Pepper gets her first vehicle, she really won’t understand. 🙂

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