Plan your vacation around migration

Caribou.jpgSunshine and warm weather bring the end of school daze and summer vacation! Many families are eager to pack up and vacation somewhere new. Are you going on vacation? Animals are also On the Move this summer and here are a few places to visit if you want to catch the magic of migration.

If Alaska is on your travel list, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to stop in June or July to view thousands of caribou. They spend the summer months raising calves and soaking in the sun before heading south to avoid the freezing winter temperatures.

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Turtle tracks are an amazing find during early morning walks on the Beaches of the Southeast. In June, July and August, mother loggerhead turtles travel to the shore to lay their eggs before heading back out to sea. Then the little hatchlings make the long trip down the beach before diving into the ocean. While visitors are unlikely to get a glimpse of a turtle during the day, there are signs all around.

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Head to the shores of Manitoba, Canada to catch sight of the rare beluga whale. In July and August these smiling mammals make their way to the Hudson Bay to breed. Then catch the salmon run in the fall, but they begin streaming to British Columbia, Canada in late summer. Wade into the rivers in August and spot the red-sided fish swimming by in small streams.

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Although the elephant seals on the central coast of California perform their mating rituals in the winter, you can catch them molting on the beaches during the early summer months. The San Simeon viewing area is a great location to watch the large pinnipeds lounging.

For more amazing animals that migrate throughout the year check out Scotti Cohn and Susan Detwiler’s book On the Move: Mass Migrations

Celebrate Geography Week

“The Future of Food” is the theme for this year’s Geography Awareness Week.

Did you know that National Geographic Society has been promoting the awareness of geography with a special week since 1987? Geography is not just finding locations on a map; geography is a great way to connect people and cultures.

One great way to learn about geography, food sources and the need to preserve our natural habitats is to learn about migration.  Many animals instinctually travel at certain times of the year to find food. Here is a list of fun geography and migration facts.

ElephantElephants love water! They need a lot of water and food to sustain a healthy size and weight, and they spray it over their backs with their trunks to keep cool. When the dry season hits the savannas elephants travel to some of the forests. As the populations of Africa increase the conditions for successful migrating and food sources have decreased.

Learn more, here are a few questions to research:

  • What are the preferred foods of African Elephants?
  • When is the dry season?
  • What herds migrate and where in Africa does this occur?

Caribou live in some of the northern most points on a map across many continents. While not every subspecies migrates for the summer many do leaver their forests, lichen and mushrooms for the tundra filled with grasses. The migration is quite a sight to see a large groups travel hundreds of miles to reach their final destination.Caribou

Learn more, here are a few questions to research:

  • What time of year is the peak of the caribou migration season?
  • Why do the female caribou travel first?
  • Do the caribou in Greenland or Europe follow the same pattern and eat similar foods as the North American population?

A bird that you won’t see gather by the thousands, but is a well known migratory bird is the orange bellied parrot. This bird breeds in Tasmania, but prefers the rich salt marsh of South West Australia for winter feeding. These rich lands are quickly being developed leaving the bird with little food or space and now this bird is one of Australia’s most endangered creatures with about 50 wild birds.

Learn more, here are a few questions to research:

  • How do the Bushmen of Tasmania help “feed” the orange bellied parrot?
  • What are conservation organizations doing to save the population?

Finally, the gray whale takes one of the longest journeys in nature to find food. This migration is also very easily FCM-Breachdocumented as they very close to the coast during the winter and early spring months. These whales scoop food from the seafloor and filter it through their baleen. When their food rich waters start to ice over, they head south to the lagoons of Baja for warmth and breeding.

Learn more, here are a few questions to research:

  • How are gray whales eating habits different from other whales? Do you eat any of the same foods?
  • How long is the journey from the Bering Sea to the Baja lagoons? How long does it take?
  • What are the gray whales predators on their journey?

Get more information about migrating animals in On the Move and coming in January Little Gray’s Great Migration!