It’s migration time again. Every year, birds that we have become accustomed to seeing, disappear. It seems that as the cooler weather comes, some birds leave our backyards and travel north, to warmer weather and plentiful food sources.
Here in Victoria, where I live, we are used to seeing Pardalotes, Honeyeaters, Silvereyes and Wattlebirds. Now these nectar feeders and insectivores have finished their breeding season and are about to travel up the east coast to South East Queensland, where they will spend the summer. Some of our water birds will travel further. The Red-necked Stint will make an incredible journey of about 11, 000 Km to Siberia!
But how do they know where to go? The website, Things We Don’t Know lists ‘how birds migrate without getting lost’ as one of those mysteries of life. Scientists are still trying to work this one out! They have some ideas, including using the sun, stars, and the earth’s magnetic field, but how exactly birds do this is not known. Some researchers are doing amazing work to show that there are special cells in the eyes of a bird that can detect the earth’s magnetic field. If you are interested in knowing more, you can start with this article by ScienceDaily.
So, although we can’t say for sure, exactly why birds don’t get lost, we can say they have an in-built clock and compass. They know when and where they need to go. Time and Direction are very important for a successful migration. This article by Creation.com, tells of the incredible design that birds have.
I recently read Sea Clocks with my children. It is a wonderful story of how a clock builder named John Harrison, solved the problem of navigating longitude by sea. It took a lifetime, but he was able to invent a ‘sea clock’ to help sailors navigate, a mystery that had been plaguing the sea-faring community for so long. Humans had to grapple with and work on what birds do by nature until they found a solution.
Why not take some time over Autumn to explore the concept of time and direction?
Here is a free set of Montessori style 3-Part cards to help teach the directions on a Compass Rose.
You may also like to combine some math and art and make your own Compass Rose. Here are some of the ones that we created.