Last year my constant winter companions had been flocks of Robins residing on the lower levels of Hot Springs Mountain. Apart for the random single bird I had not seen a flock of Robins since last spring. Today as I entered the park Nature decided to bring several flocks with the winter snow. I was surprised to see Sparrows and Cardinals huddled under the gazebo. It is not until I begin to head up the Tufa Terrace ramp that I understand why, nearly every Tree is occupied by 10 or more Robins. I imagined this would not be a place anyone who is afraid of birds would want to be standing, they are everywhere and often flying back and forth across the trail.
When I reach the top of the ramp the Promenade is covered in snow and Robins. They are in all visible Trees and along the snow covered areas leading up the second section of the Tufa Terrace. More birds are flying up from the city below adding additional wings to the Trees and snow.
I hike up Hot Springs Mountain on the beautiful snow covered Peak Trail. It always amazes me how an inch or two of white transforms the Forest making the trails seem new and unexplored. A breeze carries across the Forest a vale of snowy mist glittering in the rays of the morning sun. On the top of the Mountain it is glowing from reflections across the pristine snow. I feel a bit guilty leaving my imprints as I cross the picnic area to reach the Pagoda.
The valley below the Pagoda is sculpted by a still present layer of snow. It is as if winter has airbrushed the city and reshaped its streets and buildings. As I hike along the east side of Hot Springs Mountain I am once more casting the first footsteps into the snow covered trail. The sun is warming the snow in the Tree tops causing large clusters to fall with a soft whooshing thud. Further up the trail I can hear a familiar bird call echoing through the forest. In the distance I can see a Male Red-Bellied Woodpecker moving from Tree to Tree.
Hiking on the west side of Hot Springs Mountain and onto North Mountain I hear a commotion in the sky. I look up there is a large flock of birds passing overhead followed by a second and a third. As the last birds pass over I realize they have bright orange bellies, these are all American Robins. When I reach the Arlington Lawn near the entrance to the park I am drawn to a Tree covered in red Berries. It is a alive with the American Robins flying in flying out, they are ravenous and are eating the ripe Berries. At one point they are chased away by a single Juvenile Northern Mocking bird. It takes the flock a few minutes to realize they were run off by a single bird. When they return the Juvenile Northern Mockingbird vacates at rapid speed.
What a blessing to witness the return of the Robins, maybe spring is closer than we think :)