Humbly and gladly joining the snowbird migration

snowrollersbybrucestambaugh

The day we left Ohio it was 15 degrees below zero, and the snow rollers, a rare weather phenomenon, still graced open fields surrounding our home.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I never thought I would ever be a snowbird. Snowbirds are old people that head south to Florida or southwest to southern Texas or to Phoenix for the winter to avoid the chilling temperatures and the harsh weather of northern latitudes.

I wasn’t going to be “one of those people.” I liked winter’s Jekyll and Hyde fickleness. In Ohio, a dull, dirty brunet landscape can be magically transformed overnight into a fluffy, frosted wonderland.

Really, I cherish the change of all the seasons. I never tire of seeing the verdant transition from winter’s dormancy, whether brown or white, to spring’s greening and glorious floral colors. Splashes of vivid feathers of our aviary friends enhance spring’s sparkle.

Of course after spring, summer’s cottony clouds come sailing over maturing crops and rainbow gardens full of nascent flowers and luscious vegetables. Then there is fall’s full blaze of glory amid the many stands of hardwoods to behold, too.

We are fortunate that our area offers diverse landscapes, from steep wooded hills to vital marshy habitats for an array of wildlife. I marvel at the hilly farmlands, with their multihued, flowing ribbons of contoured crops, and smart fields of grazing livestock. Contrasting brushy fencerows stitch the agrarian patchwork quilt together.

At middle age, I began to view winter differently. No longer was it the snowy playground of my youth, but a season to appreciate the beauty of white against earthy sepia browns and blacks, and breathtaking sunrises and sunsets.

Even so, I have to confess that my fondness for winter has waned. During February, my wife and I overlooked a sandy beach that gently sloped down to the ever-rolling Atlantic Ocean.

roomwithaviewbybrucestambaugh

The view from our condo.

Traveling the interstates to the Sunshine State, we saw many other gray-tinged peers migrating, too. Like us, they fled from Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New England and Canadian provinces alike.

Some drove vehicles like ours, stuffed to the gills with clothes, food, bikes and any other paraphernalia deemed necessary for their extended winter’s stay. Others steered huge recreational vehicles, towing equally crammed cars.

It’s the fourth consecutive year we’ve made the journey to Florida. Our stays have evolved from the original few pleasing days to several weeks in order to maximize the obvious.

I never thought I would ever say that. If I had my preference, I’m a mountain man. But the mountains are cold in the winter, and the cold makes my arthritis ache, and my bones groan. The modest warmth of northern Florida minimizes those maladies.

So there I was, a snowbird, partaking in the many amenities that Amelia Island, Florida had to offer. And believe me, it’s a lot.

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There I birded without crawling into my insulated coveralls and donning a stocking cap. There we read, wrote, explored, met new friends. There we could stroll the beach for a dozen miles if we wanted. We didn’t.

We were content to walk up and down the same sections of sand, embracing the sounds of the sea crashing the beach, the shorebirds probing for food or skimming the rolling surface for sustenance.

We gathered seashells simply because they were pretty. We embraced sunrises and moon rises shimmering at the ocean’s horizon. A mile west, the harbor sunsets were spectacular.

Our consecutive trips south for part of the winter serve as evidence enough. I readily and happily admit that we are officially now snowbirds.

enjoyinglunchbybrucestambaugh

My wife and I enjoyed our first lunch at Fernandina Beach, Florida outside, and it was Feb. 1.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

8 Comments

Filed under birding, column, Ohio, photography, travel, weather, writing

8 responses to “Humbly and gladly joining the snowbird migration

  1. I have to Admit I’m feeling the same way. I love winter, love the XC skiing, the snowshoeing, the photography in a white world. But this winter has been long and hard, and isn’t going away like it should! For the first time I’m thinking of those warmer places.

  2. I totally understand your point here, Bruce. But we visited my in-laws in Tampa over the Christmas break and let me tell you: a week or two of that warm Florida sunshine is nice, but the stifling humidity had me ready to hi-tale it back to Canada soon enough! The air down there can be like pea soup! Perhaps I’ll feel differently in a few years, but who knows; by then winters might not be as cold anyway.

    • Jarret,

      I agree, which is why we go to northern FL, where the temps swing from day to day. Not too warm. Not too hot. Just right. We get all three at Amelia Island, sometimes on the same day.

      Bruce

  3. Bruce, we so heartily agree with your analogies of turning into a snowbird. For the past 13 years we have traveled south in April to Jekyll Island, GA, I think just a little north of where you settle in for the winter months. We’re not quite retired yet, but are dreaming of the day we can go to our favorite place for those cold winter months. This winter in Big Valley has been especially tough with foot deep snow and cold temperatures. The luxury of warmth in the south is like a beacon to us on these days. Some day you’ll see us on the road with our car loaded to the gills and our gray hair above a smiling face!!

  4. This is delightful. I am happy you can do this- it is good and should be enjoyed with gratitude.

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