As soon as I'm warm enough to move I'm upslope and across the crater's rim into the grassland inside the crater. It's hard birdwatching here with the binoculars jiggling in the wind and the lenses steaming up, everything optically compressed into a flat jumble of gray, green and black forms. I do spot a retiring flicker of paleness vanishing behind a boulder in a field of knee-high boulders, but it could have as well been a mammal as a bird. Eventually I make out a few roundish forms in the grass and gradually some of the pale smears coalesce into brownish streaked breasts camouflaged as frost-killed grass and finally I make out legs and beaks and eyes. Now I behold about thirty American Pipits, their long tails weathervaned downwind. Once they're convinced I'm harmless they begin walking low and fast against the wind -- walking, not hopping -- as pipits do. They don't trust me completely, though. There's always one or two atop boulders near the flock and if I creep too close they give a one-note call and the flock flurries farther away.
American Pipits nest in the Arctic tundra and high mountains, so being here right now they are indulging their passion for cold, windy, wet places, and it pleases me to find them so fulfilled. The last pipit I saw was on a January afternoon, next to a sleepy pond on the University of Florida campus at Gainsville, and I felt sorry for it. Not all pipits can find high, grassy volcano craters in which to overwinter.