Snow Birds ~ Special Visitors


Every year around mid October our roads seem to become more full and travel to and from ordinary stops increase in duration. After a day or three of this subtly changed routine, I begin to look for evidence. Yes, just as I thought they’re back. Scanning license plates it becomes clear. We, as Floridians, are outnumbered, at least at the gas pumps and restaurants along this north south migration route. They travel from places like Minnesota, Ohio, and even Manitoba to surround themselves with our warmth and abundant sunshine. The locals here affectionately label them “snow birds”.

I grew up in the midwest and know what cold miserable winters are like. Over the years my blood has thinned and my memory of these events has weakened. At times, most of the time, I long for the iconic snowy winter day with a warm fireplace and that sense of being in pause mode. Don’t bother trying to do anything, you can’t its simply too cold. So a hot cup of cocoa and relaxing is the highlight of the day.


The sun is great, don’t get me wrong, but it seems to never stop here. I know. I know. I hear all you wannabe migratory snow birds squawking at me. It’s strange but I think we all need a good mix of different climates and too much sun is too much at times. I crave the days when a good front simply lingers over us and darkens the mid-day sky repeatedly. Nothing takes the nonstop sun blahs away like a good week long storm. Ha! Now you must be thinking I’m nuts. I’m not, I understand the need for a change of scenery and that’s what northerners love doing here in winter.

As humans we have it made. If we choose to live in hot or cold climates we have ways of changing our environment to better suit us. And that explains why everyone doesn’t come to Florida in the winter. Which for the life of me, I have no idea why anyone would want to live where its miserably cold for half of the year. Yay, yay I know I said I’d like to have some iconic winter. Maybe a few days or a week of it, not a whole winter’s worth.


Nature, and wildlife in particular, has a whole different way of dealing with climate. They don’t own property. Yes that’s what I said. Wildlife doesn’t own property so they don’t feel obligated to stay in a particular place if it’s not working out for them. It’s a brilliant plan if you think about it. Birds are especially amazing at moving methodically across the continent and back making themselves perfectly at home along the way.

A few summers ago we had the opportunity to see American White Pelicans for the first time as they swam in the Yellowstone River. There was something about them that made them majestic and royal among the other birds. Their size had part to play in this, but their mannerisms seemed very noble and proper as well. They made a big impression on us and were our photo subjects many times during that visit.

Fast forward to this week. Our downtown has a small city park with two relatively small ponds. Usually there are various ducks in these ponds at any given time. What I’ve never seen in these ponds ever is pelicans. We are simply too far inland for sea pelicans. Instead we have had the honor of hosting American White Pelicans, one of the few inland pelicans in the world, right here in our little ponds.


As I photographed these guys with my son, Max, we talked about so many things. Where did they come from? Do you think these are some for the ones we saw in Yellowstone? Where did they stop just before getting to us? Will they continue traveling to South America? Are these fifteen in the pond meanly scouts for a huge flock that might be arriving soon? The questions rolled along as our fingers fired the shutter. With the golden light from the setting sun, I couldn’t help but be grateful for this fantastic opportunity with the pelicans and sharing all this with my son, who first spotted them and let me know of their arrival. The other nice thing…these actual “Snow Birds” don’t clog up roadways and restaurants this time of the year and are a true joy to witness.