Karen Sampson Hoffman

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Robins outside my window

Posted on January 25, 2009 at 5:51 PM

One of the marvels of Maryland I am still coming to understand is the one of robins in January. As a Buffalo gal, I can't imagine a robin in the January snow, let alone the bird at the very beginning of the year. Robins don't return to New York State until March and their entrance is heralded as the beginning of spring.

The flock of full-bellied, red-breasted birds outside my window doesn't seem at all concerned with the my wonder and surprise. I guess for them this just part of the flight plan.

(My grey cat only seems concerned with his ability to catch one of the birds. He continues to be thwarted by the window and 30-foot drop between him and the robins.)

A few springs ago, I was walking up the long driveway at my former home and I heard the first robin rather than seeing him. It was early March and there was still snow and ice on the ground, though the day was warm enough for me to run around outside in a sweatshirt. The familiar call - chee-chee-chir-chir-chir - caught me by surprise. I scanned my surroundings, searching for bird. He was hiding in the bush at the edge of the driveway, singing either to let me know this was now his turf or to warn his mate up on the wire that possible danger was nearby.

It was a perfect early spring day. This bird coming home just made everything seem even more alive! The call of the robin on a spring day, the relaxing song during summer's sunset, the last whisper of the robin's presence at late fall - the song reminds you of all things good and hopeful. Robins bring summer on their wings and return it to the south when they leave in November.

Since robins travel ahead of the warming of the seasons, the early arrival of robins usually means an early spring. In the cold and snow, we especially welcomed them, but here in Maryland I have my own hopefulness at seeing robins. Generally, Maryland winters are mild and spring is naturally earlier at the lower latitude than in Buffalo. So, wrapping my head around the dozen or so grey and red birds in the bare tree outside my window is a bit tough for me. How can it be spring in January?

If there are robins, then it is spring. Warmth and longer days are arriving. We can open doors and windows soon and there will be flowers and soft pussy willows. They are newness and hopefulness and the memory of good things.

In the cold of January, we all need the reminder that robins bring: Spring is never truly far away.


A post script: Two days after I posted this blog it has begun to snow in Maryland. So my lack of imagination at robins in January snow has been helped by the birds now huddled beneath the bushes below my window while snow gently falls above them. I can't help wondering what they are currently thinking: perhaps which is the fastest way to get back to Florida for the next couple of months?

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