Gliese Foundation
Gliese Foundation

The legend of the nomads of the sky

Category: Poetry

 

The legend of the nomads of the sky

 

They don´t alter their habits often.

For most, it was at the end of the Ice Age,

when the snow receded.

For some, at the end of the 5.9 kiloyear,

when the Sahara desiccated.

They´ve adapted to climate changes before,

but through thousands of generations.

 

They migrate with the seasons:

Breeding homes in the north,

wintering homes in the south.

They´ve their flyways,

routes carved by the natural barriers

of the mountains, lakes, rivers, seas.  

With stopovers along the route.  

Places to rest and refuel.

A long voyage,

strenuous but rewarding.

The Arctic terns hold the record:

a yearly round trip from the Arctic to the Antarctic.

The bar-headed geese hold another,

a yearly round trip over the Himalayas.

No other animal behavior captures our imagination

as the migratory birds do.  

 

But today´s climate change is happening too fast:

spring arriving earlier,

plants greening earlier.

Most birds are advancing their clocks.

Some are shortening their flies.

A few are even wintering in the north,

feeding on our food waste in open landfills,

but risking death during a strong winter.

Migrant birds are baffled.

 

The short-distance migrants may adapt.

The long-distance migrants won´t.  

How to erase an order ingrained in your brain for thousands of years?

How to erase an order that has become one of your genetic traces?

The instinct propelled them for their long voyages.

 

Climate change is changing everything.

The stopovers may not be suitable anymore.

Extreme weather may create stronger storms along the way.

The arrival may take place after food has reached its peak,

or after nesting places have been occupied by others.

Even worse,  

droughts may leave no food,

deserts may advance,

wetlands may disappear.

No more a homely place in the south,

while the home in the north moves poleward.

 

In ancient times they were surrounded by a legend:

Since they weren´t seen during the winter,

they had to be hibernating,

like the bears.

Will they become a real legend?

 

Pablo Rodas-Martini

 

Some of the science behind the poem: 

"Climate change driving birds to migrate early, research reveals," December 2016. 

"Climate change and shifts in the migration patterns of birds," April 2017. 

"Climate change might make birds mis-time their migrations," January 2017. 

"Climate change and migratory birds," No date