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Only seeing one robin on our walk to the Deschutes was a surprise since less than two weeks ago, anywhere we went, whether a neighborhood or the Badlands, we saw robins, and not just a few but thousands. Prior to the first snow storm, robins amassed in the tall juniper across the street. It was a carnival of motion, of up-and-down flight and a tight circle of dense-packed robins scrabbling beneath the tree where juniper berries had fallen. Behind the house robins perched on branches eyeing a small bird bath with warm water (not ice). I counted seven robins perched around the edge of the bird bath, drinking, and one robin diving feet-first, kicked a robin off its perch, taking its place—to drink.

The next morning, there was snow on the ground and the street was quiet.

In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard writes of the flock of robins she saw “. . . only in the fall. They were spaced evenly on the grass, ten yards apart. They looked like a marching band with each member in place, but facing in every direction. Distributed among them were the fledglings from summer’s last brood, young robins still mottled on the breast, embarking on their first trip to unknown southern fields. . . I stepped into the field, and they all halted. They stopped short, drew up, and looked at me, every one. I stopped too, . . .” (250)

Dillard encountered the robins walking home (“. . . And one more event occurred that day, one more confrontation with restless life bearing past me.”) and the encounter produced a self-conscious moment when the robins stopped and looked at her “. . . I looked over the field, at all those cocked heads and black eyes. I’m staying here. You all go on. I’m staying here.” (251)

[Source: Annie Dillard. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York: HarperPerennial, 1974.]