As I read the column, “Animals’ Behavior A Sign of Wild Winter” (The Daily Star, Feb. 28,) some facts immediately jumped into mind from my doctoral dissertation — “A Natural History of the Catskill Mountain High Peaks” — the flock of robins on the author’s lawn on Feb. 2 are not a mystery: Many robins winter over in roosts, as many as a quarter of a million birds in one roost can be found in trees or in brush closer to the ground.
On more than one winter high peak hike I stumbled upon such a roost and upset the slumbering birds, which burst out in a scary storm of flapping wings. Later I saw them hunting for berries.
The appearance of black bears is not a mystery, either: Black bears hibernate lightly; they leave splats of bluish berry matter in the snow, especially on days when the temperature warms above 30 degrees, signs I knew to be wary of, as they forewarned of sleepy, hungry bears staggering around the mountain trails.
I don’t know what the statistics say about the uniqueness of this winter in Oneonta, but I remember a 1988 65-degree January when we put a new roof on our house. I hiked to the summit of Whiteface on Thanksgiving 1999, when a 70-degree wind blew. In 2006, in December it was warm enough to go swimming and ice skating on the same day.