I really enjoy those springtime walks into the woods. The air is still crisp but with the disappearance of snow and the lengthening of daylight hours there are signs of rebirth and life all around. So it has been these past few weeks as I’ve hiked along the trails and through the woods of Kensington Runestone Park. Looking downward among the packed and faded leaves, little sprigs of Dutchman’s Breeches or Dicentra cucullaria and Bloodroot or Sanguinaria canadensis are all ready daring to inch their way towards the sun’s warmth.
But wait, what’s that flash of light and color flitting about in the trees? Making my way through the undergrowth and peering through the thick layer of branches I spot a little dot of russet. I try to focus on it but it quickly moves on. Struggling to make little noise and yet somehow get closer to the little creature I move onward over the fallen logs.
Wait! There it is again with the late afternoon sun shining on it. Again I try to focus through the branches. A click and again it’s gone. The sequence continues a few more times. Finally, in a seeming gesture of kindness, the little bird settles on a fallen branch and basks for over a minute in the light and warmth of the filtered light.
It’s white chest with specks of brown almost has the appearance of a freshly opened pod of milk-weed seed. It’s pink legs and toes appear almost translucent in the light. As the little fellow turns on the log the russet colored tail and wing-tips almost cast a bright orange glow in the sun. Meanwhile, those bright shiny eyes watch closely for any danger.
Then as quickly as he had appeared, he flits away and is gone. No this wasn’t a little orange spirit. It was a little Hermit Thrush or Catherus guttatus making his way from the Gulf States of the U.S. northward to its wooded summer home, most likely in middle latitudes of Canada. Hopefully, he finds plenty of insects, small invertebrates, fruits and forbs to keep him nourished on his way. Continuing my springtime walk in the woods, I cast a smile and was thankful that he stopped for a minute to say hello. I wish him safe travels and a wonderful summer.