I wouldn’t call it a misconception, but my middle school science students had an incomplete understanding of migration. They all knew that “birds fly south in the winter,” but they didn’t realize that for many birds, our location was “south” and that we were seeing migrants from the Arctic. They didn’t think about the reverse—birds flying north for the spring. They assumed that the bird migrations occurred because of the colder temperatures, not because food became scarce in the colder months. We investigated other reasons for migrations (such as mating or searching for water) and other types of animals that migrate (sea turtles, whales, butterflies). [SciLinks: Migration, Migration of Birds]
Recently, studies of sea turtle migrations have been in the news, including how they navigate around the North Atlantic basin :
- Questions About Incredible Sea Turtle Migration Answered by Scientists
- Unlocking the Secrets of Sea Turtle Migration
- Sea Turtle Migrations May Be More Amazing Than Previously Imagined
The migration of Red Knots (small shore birds) has also been in the news. These birds have an amazing journey each year, back and forth from the Arctic to South America. They time their flight north to coincide with the horseshoe crab mating season, when their eggs are deposited in the beaches of the middle Atlantic states, including Delaware and New Jersey. The Red Knots depend on these crab eggs for nourishment as they continue their journey.
- Red Knots in Danger (New York Times)
- What The Vampire Said To The Horseshoe Crab: ‘Your Blood Is Blue?’ (NPR)
- A Bird, a Crab and a Shared Fight to Survive (New York Times)
- Spring fling: Prehistoric horseshoe crabs spawn on moonlit beach (Washington Post)
- Beach party: Horseshoe-crab mating draws crowds in Delaware (Seattle Times)
- Crash: A Tale of Two Species (a 2008 program from PBS Nature)
This weekend, I’ll be participating in a citizen-science horseshoe crab count in Delaware. These counts occur in the late evenings, and the results are used to document their spawning habits from year to year. Who says science teachers don’t know how to have fun?