Every Thanksgiving, I contemplate the ancient and global
phenomenon of migration. Since the
beginning of time, humans and wildlife have wandered all over the planet in
search of hospitable habitat. Migrations are stimulated by the constant change of environmental
conditions. When habitats become
unfavorable, inhabitants must travel elsewhere. During the fall and winter, certain birds migrate to Orange
County because our Mediterranean climate is so comfortable.
white-crowned sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, cedar waxwings, hermit thrush, and American robins are some of the birds that delight us with their
Groups of yellow-rumped warblers (aka “butter-butts”) appear
on the laurel sumac. They feed on the clusters of
berries. Yellow flashes catch your
eye when they flap their wings.
Their beaks snap when they snatch flies from the air.
White-crowned sparrows appear to wear zebra-striped football
helmets as they maneuver across open terrain. They sing a melodious song, which sounds like a high-pitched
version of the British Intelligence Communicator from the Our Man Flint and
Austin Powers films.
Dark-eyed juncos appear to wear menacing black hoods with
pale parrot beaks protruding. Like
hooded thieves, they sneak behind unsuspecting bird watchers.
Cedar waxwings search for red, ripe toyon berries. Their sleek crests and silky plumage are reminiscent of the costumes
from a Venetian ball. They gather
in large groups at the tops of the flickering yellow sycamore trees. Their piercing whistles stream like
piccolo Pete fireworks.
Hermit thrushes are even more secretive than dark-eyed
juncos. They cautiously scurry in
between hiding places and poke their heads up to watch for danger. The dark hatch marks on their breasts
look like chocolate smears on a toddler's bib.
American robins are known for pulling earthworms out of wet
lawns. With yellow bills, brick
red breasts and gray coats, they march forward, halt, and bob their heads like
dancing soldiers in flamboyant uniforms.
Their repetitious chatter echoes throughout the wooded canyons.
As greedy developers continue to destroy wildlife habitat in
OC with excessive and inappropriate projects, migration opportunities disappear
for those who seek refuge in wild places.
When Europeans colonized North and South America, they
displaced wildlife and humans.
Wetlands, shrublands, woodlands, forests, and tribal villages were
replaced with farms, towns, and cities.
Birds and other wildlife were forced to migrate. Tribes were enslaved, killed, or
evicted from their homes. Just
like the birds, the tribes had to migrate to survive. Now the situation is dire for wildlife and keepers of
indigenous ways. When your home is
erased and your lifestyle is not tolerated, where are you supposed to go?
Will migrant birds be prevented from crossing the border
because they don't have proper ID?
Will wildlife have to purchase property in order to avoid eviction? Are local tribes expected to adopt a
completely dysfunctional way of life that contradicts thousands of years of
experience and wisdom?
I hope we can celebrate diversity and share our
environment. Everyone has migrated
at one time or another. Since our
occupation in this environment is temporary, maybe we should try to live in
harmony with all living things.
The Annual Christmas Bird Count with the Audubon Society is December 16th.
Enature is an excellent online field guide for birds and other wildlife. Link right here.
Read Before The Wilderness to learn about environmental
management from Native Californians.