Jo-Ann Boepple: Cass County snowbirds flock to Florida

Published 2:33 pm Thursday, February 25, 2010

boeppleThe historic annual Cass County bird migration has taken place. Some of the birds travel by flying and catching thermals that occur only over land and above the clouds. Thermal updrafts are rising columns of warm air that spiral upward and lift the birds up so that they can fly with little flapping, saving energy. Others go over the land. As they try to stay inland, you will see huge concentration at one time. Usually lined up in single file following a yellow line.

When the air in Cass County has a decided chill factor and the winter type clouds begin to form, the birds prepare for their migration. Some leave immediately while others wait until the snow or threat of snow is on the ground.  Still others stay until the very last minute.

Choosing to move during the day, the birds stop a number of times to rest and feed during migration. Stops are at places called gas stations, restaurants and motels.  Some of the birds only stop one day to rest and feed, others take longer or may remain for longer periods of time in one place.

The birds relay on navigation points such as road signs and landmarks. Others use devices such as a global positioning systems or a map. Following certain established migratory routes, they often pass through at predictable times.  These routes tend to avoid landforms that might block their way such as mountains and water.

Some birds carry their homes with them, towing them behind. Others have permanent nesting places that they return to each year while some move from place to place. Many birds gather their flock of friends and family around them, while others are loners looking for peace and quiet.

What do these birds do while in the south? Some just hibernate. Some fish in the lakes, streams and Gulf while others hunt for good places to eat, shop and relax. Some ride around on two wheels, others on three and many just walk or chase balls with a stick.
Over the years some of the Cass County birds have not returned “home” but have stayed in the warmer climate. They are always happy to see some of their former flock when the annual migration takes place.

Such was the case Feb. 18 when more than 60 of the Cass County flock nested for a short period of time at the business of Jeff Horvath in Venice, Fla. They brought with them good food to share with the rest of the flock and Brenda, Jeff and Jared Horvath provided the resting-place and perfect hospitality.

Even though the day was cool for usual Florida weather, the flock created its own warmth with old and new friends sharing hugs, stories, and news.

The Horvath’s nest provided the perfect resting-place with all of the amenities of home. Once the birds establish a good spot they will return. With the promise of a bigger resting-place and warmer weather, the flock plans to return to the same place next year thanks to the generosity of the Horvath’s.

Anne Murray summed up the feelings of the snowbirds in the words of this song:
“Spread your tiny wings and fly away
And take the snow back with you
Where it came from on that day
So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go,
To that land of gentile breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

When the cold winds of winter die down most of the flock will return to Cass County until next year.