SNOWBIRDS & OTHER BIRDS

Blue heron briefly accompanying us on a walk

Don’t know when I first heard the term “snowbird” but I remember being surprised that it referred to my fellow human beings. Little did I think that one day my husband and I would join the ranks of the snowbird family. A snowbird is someone who normally lives in a area that gets cold in the winter months and decides to pass those months in a warmer climate. For Jerry and me the metamorphosis came gradually after our children had grown. We started by accepting the kindnesses of Florida friends who wanted us to visit. We were truly blessed to have such caring friends but that got awkward- whose invite did we accept first? In 2014’s winter it got kind of complicated and we decided to forgo Florida and head to Puerto Rico. We had an awesome trip – dividing our time between San Juan, Old San Juan, the El Yunque tropical rain forest, Ponce, golf and the beaches.

In 2015 we rented on Hutchinson Island – the Stuart portion. We did that for several years till we switched to Jensen Beach and a condo right on the ocean. Last year with Covid on the rampage we did not come to Florida. But this year, once health issues were under control, when a unit became available, and not knowing what we were getting ourselves into, we grabbed it. It is a condo on the ocean with an equally stunning view of the Indian River lagoon at our front door. When we first became snowbirds we were not focused on an ocean front rental but now we are hooked.

This Covid time has been tough but it also has had some positives. One of them I blogged about in February 2021. In Covid time, Jerry and I have cultivated a more meaningful interest in the bird population. At home in Virginia we now have feeders for big birds, for small to medium size birds, for hummingbirds, plus we have a suet feeder for any interested bird. And thanks to a change in our choice of bird seed – at the suggestion of our former neighbor and now North Carolina resident, Gini – we no longer have an invasion of squirrels going after the bird food.

It used to be that I did not like the term “snowbird”. It seemed a tad derogatory to me, especially when verbalized by a Florida native. Recently Jerry and I were playing in a duplicate bridge game. While we were waiting for the bridge boards to be passed out, the couple we were playing against asked where we lived. When we said Northern Virginia they seemed genuinely surprised. They replied “you don’t dress like snow birds.” We were confused. They elaborated. When typical snowbirds arrive in Florida they put away their cold weather clothes, and dress like it is summer time – no matter what the actual temperature. Today is windy and in the low sixties – you are dressed accordingly. Look around the room. Those who are dressed like their next stop is the beach, have probably just arrived from the North. It was an interesting observation that I reflected on later. In duplicate bridge there is not much socialization once the games begin. You are allowed 7 minutes per hand. It does not allow much time for reflecting on non bridge thoughts.

Our backyard bird visitors at home are diverse in color and size with yellow and blue and red and black and white being the dominant colors. The Florida shore bird population is so different from our colorful backyard birds. On Jensen Beach the majority of shore birds that we see are sea gulls, pelicans, and large and small sandpipers. On our walks and on the golf course we mainly get treated to sandhill cranes, egrets, and a variety of herons.

When I was younger I wasn’t focused on the bird population. I liked robins because they were a sign of spring. As I got older hummingbirds and bluebirds became favorites. And when son -in -law Paul and I started a hummingbird competition – who spotted the first one as the cold weather was winding down – that added a special dimension to these small birds who graced our backyard feeder.

I don’t know the percentage of snowbirds who actually own a place in Florida. Most that we have met are renters. But there are disadvantages to being a renter. You must learn the ins and outs of your new unit, and the does and don’ts of the condo building. It is sort of weird that this year’s unit, the place we rented because there was nothing else available, has turned out to be the nicest and the friendliest. There are 66 units in this building and only 9 are available for rental. This year, because of Covid, and because of ill health in some family and friends, the number of our overnight guests has been drastically reduced. Illness in family and friends is of course more common in our age group. And because this is a reality of getting older, we “oldies” are especially appreciative when we are able to gather with those we love.

Gatherings in person are best but sometimes going virtual is the only option. This past Saturday, granddaughter Lilly who is in grad school in London, granddaughter Annie who is working in Miami and I – presently a snowbird in Jensen Beach, Florida – hosted a virtual bridal shower for granddaughter Emily who is in grad school in Santa Barbara, California. It was such fun planning this happy gathering with Lilly and Annie. Participants came together from California, the Midwest, the East Coast and London. It was special to see everyone, to meet for the first time David’s mother and sister and to share the love we all feel for Emily and her fiancee, David.

This past Thursday the New York Times ran a feature article on Jane Brody’s retirement . I have always enjoyed her Personal Health column in the New York Times. She has written extensively on aging . Just discussed with my husband the definition of a contemporary. Is it fair to call Ms Brody a contemporary since she is four years younger. We decided that anyone older than Joe Biden is our contemporary. Jane Brody urges all to have meaning and purpose in their lives. I am sure she would approve of our bird interest. A quote of hers that I particularly like is:” Our goal shouldn’t be to add years to our lives but rather to add life to our years.”

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