Robins herald spring's arrival in Westport. On paper, anyway.
Despite a whipping wind that caused a two-hour power outage at Earthplace, the Nature Discovery Center, and the surrounding Westport neighborhood Saturday, the promise of spring was in the air even though temperatures fell below freezing.
Margaret Ardwin, teacher and senior naturalist, read stories about robins to a group of children and their parents, introduced them to a feathered resident of the nature center, and offered instructions in a crafts project on how they could make paper robins of their own.
"You can tell (spring) is coming. Robins are coming back," said Ardwin, who selected the storybooks, the creature -- a 5-year-old dove named Praline -- and the craft project because they were timely. "We try to do something seasonal," she said.
Some of the parents spoke longingly of spring, wishing it had arrived already after a winter of heavy snow.
"We wanted something to do inside. It was so cold. I can't wait to come back here in the summer to walk the trails," said Jennifer Bridgeland of Norwalk, who brought her son, Maurice Montgomery, 3, to Earthplace.
Youngsters listened attentively to the story, which taught them a lot about robins. One illustration showed a bright-breasted robin pulling a worm from the earth.
"He's not doing it to be mean. He's doing it because he's hungry," said Ardwin, before showing the children how to color their paper robins and paste real feathers on their creations. Most children, following the theme of the day, made their own robins. But two children opted for more colorful and fanciful species.
"It was great because it was very interactive. The kids were able to have a one-on-one activity with a live bird," said Robin Hellmann of Westport, who visited the center with her husband Allon and their children Dylan, 5, and Sasha, 6 weeks. She said the center introduced the children to some of the things they might see in their own backyard, giving them something to talk about and look for when they got home.
"We're members here. We like to come out for a number of the activities," said Seth Bienstock of Westport, whose daughters Alexis, 5, and Zoe, 3, attempted to get their robins to fly. Alexis threw hers like a paper airplane. Zoe twirled and danced while holding her robin high above her head pretending it was airborne.
Audrey Luther didn't think of her bird as taking flight. Rather, she decided to have her bird sit in a "nest" atop the hat worn by her father, Bill.
All agreed they can't wait to see more bird activity outdoors, including nest-building, because it will signal the end of a snow-heavy winter and the actual arrival of spring.
They'll be listening for the call of the robin, "Cheery, cheer-up, cheerio!" as Ardwin read from the storybook.