Snow covered the ground and much of the highway I drove. Snow plows had been over the road, but they hadn’t been scraped clean. The blacktop was bare only in four lines: The Tracks where many tires had worn away the snow. The sky was gray and dark, there was snow in the air and a cold wind blew from the northwest. It was a dreary winter day.
Then, on one side of the road ahead, I saw a flock of small birds, horned lark size and shape. They acted like horned larks, always moving, taking short forays in the air, walking or running on the ground.
I slowed as I got near the birds, drove onto the shoulder of the road, then stopped. I didn’t have my binoculars, and the day was too dark for me to make out what they were.
But I could tell what they were not. They were not horned larks. Horned larks have white outer tail feathers that are clearly visible when they fly, even on a gray day. These birds did not have white outer tail feathers.
Other vehicles passed me, and whenever one did, the birds flushed, flew into the field next to the road and dropped onto the snow. But each time they flushed to the field, they stayed only seconds, then flew back to the edge of the road. I watched several minutes, straining to make out what they were, but I could not. Eventually, I gave up and drove on. I passed two more flocks of what looked like the same kind of birds in the next mile and a half, 50 or more birds in each flock.
The next morning, I drove that road again, this time taking my binoculars, hoping those birds would still be here. It was another dark, dreary day with snow in the air and, or course, covering the ground. But one flock was still there, on the ground at the edge of the highway and in the road.