No sooner had I finished reading Armistead Maupin's Significant Others and sat smiling out the bus window (reader afterglow) than I spotted a flock of birds in front of the Vartan building that's home to Cumulus Broadcasting. They didn't look like the birds I see all winter, so I looked a little closer and saw the unmistakable red/orange breasts. The robins have returned to central Pennsylvania. We'll welcome their return with a snow/sleet/ice storm.
When I worked in broadcasting, one of my friends was Mitzi Trostle. She always found it amusing that I got excited when I saw my first flock of robins for the year. Then she noticed that her mother was as happy about their arrival as I was. From then on, I received official word from York Springs on the arrival of the robins. Usually, that was a week before I'd see them here.
Robins aren't the end of winter weather, no more than the vernal equinox...and that comes Wednesday. Unlike the groundhog in early February, which few of us get to see, robins are a visible reminder that spring is on its way. Robins are the pansies and asters of the summer birds. I'm not a birder; however, one of the many things I enjoy about summer is the sound of bird calls. In winter we have crows, wrens and sparrows. Not bad mouthing them, but their calls tend to match the weather. As cute as a wren is, as proud as a sparrow is, as authoritative as a crow is, they sound like winter.
Then there are geese. They now hang out all year, too. They have for quite a few years. The flocks around home tend to fly in the morning and evening, their daily constitutionals, I suspect. I tend to stop in my tracks when I hear them. I'm not sure why. I admire them, even if they can be a pain in the tush. They don't need to attain great altitude when they make their daily passes. On the other hand, before last Sunday's Gay Men's Chorus Cabaret, I sat on a bench by the Susquehanna and a huge flock of geese flew overhead. I panicked a bit when I saw them flying south (in March!?!), but then they hung a left and, I assume, circled north. Compared to the few in our flocks, a migrating flock is huge and thrilling.
In fact, one of my favorite memories is of a flock of geese I saw on the Juniata River years ago. The Juniata has a fair current most of the time, so I assume they were resting, watering, feeding. I didn't even see them at first; they were south of where I stood. Then I heard them. I looked up, conditioned that the sound of geese means they're in flight. Nothing was overhead. I looked downstream and saw the most astounding sight: a huge flock of geese rising from the Juniata and then circling once, twice, three times and finally attaining enough altitude to clear South Mountain and head south. I'd never seen anything like that. Because I tend not to believe in coincidences, I feel I was supposed to see it. I don't know why; I'm grateful I did.
So, the robins are here. I've noticed my daffodils have started their upward push. They don't get enough sunlight to bloom, but they've been there for more than the 33 years we've been there, so I suppose bulb plants don't need to flower to return. I, on the other hand, need my robins, and they've returned.