Saturday, November 16, 2013

Snowbirds are back...

With the cooler weather and lower angles of the sun, Tucson is again home to the migrating brightly colored humanbird. They come in cars, busses, trains and planes, arriving with the first winter holidays. The roads become clogged with their slow moving vehicles, the farmer's markets filling with their pale plumage. By the time Christmas rolls around, the migration will be nearly complete. They will stay until the temperatures begin to rise again, vacating their winter habitat for cooler climes.

Where I live there is little impact from the migration, only a slight rise in bicyclists on the trails. But in other areas of Tucson, RV's roam the roads, searching for fun things to do, places to eat and shop. As the months go by they take on the skin tone of local inhabitants, turning coppery in the winter sun.

Like the coyotes, they travel well known paths, their chittering voices excited by the warmth and beauty of the desert. But some lay low, choosing to remain behind barriers where they don't have to worry about rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, bobcats, and cougars. And because of this they miss out.

Like all migrations, they are expected, their impact on the local economy, welcome. They flock to the street fairs and festivals, buying goods for themselves and others--Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year and Easter. Without their business local restaurants and shops would suffer.

And so the native inhabitants put aside their annoyance with the clogged streets, the traffic that moves at a snail's pace, instead making friends with the newcomers and welcoming them into their flock.

Sometime in March or April they begin to leave their winter haven, the mass exodus complete by May. By then we've grown used to their bright calls, their bodies hunched over grocery carts or sitting at bars drinking the best of local beer and eating carefully prepared mole. A part of us will miss them once they're gone, another part glad of the quiet, the unclogged streets, secure in the knowledge that they will be back.

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