In a recent gathering of science students at the SMARTCenter, there was some discussion of the changes coming as season of summer gives way to fall and then winter. Some of the most obvious are the changes in leaf color or the migration of birds toward the South as the hours of daylight grow shorter and temperatures begin to decrease.
One student mentioned that his grandparents "migrated" to Florida each winter, and then returned to Wheeling in the spring. They even refer to themselves as "snowbirds."
It's interesting to think about all the "migration" that we can observe in the world around us. You might wonder if many of the things you can observe are related.
Most of us have seen flocks of geese traveling in a "V" formation, honking overhead as they make their way to warmer latitudes. Have you noticed other "travelers" that seem to enjoy summer in our area and then seem to leave us for warmer weather?
Some birds like crows or robins will migrate only a short distance, perhaps only a few miles from where they spend their summers. Hummingbirds like the ruby-throated hummingbirds we see in our gardens and at nectar feeders, travel all the way to southern Mexico or Panama.
Barn swallows who depend on lots of tasty insects as their source of food travel all the way to South America to spend the winter. Chimney swifts are also great travelers, leaving in the fall for their winter home in Peru.
We've mentioned a lot of birds, but mammals, amphibians, insects and even fish migrate. Monarch butterflies are well on their way to a very small area in the mountains of Mexico.
Though it doesn't represent a great distance, as temperatures drop, earthworms migrate deeper into the earth.
One animal that migrates from water to land to water again is an animal called a red spotted newt. Newts are related to salamanders. These amphibians spend time in water after hatching, live in the forest as a juvenile and then return to the water to mate.
You might be surprised to find that the sun seems to be migrating. The point on the horizon where the sun rises in the morning, and the point on the horizon where it sets are moving farther to the south as we approach winter.
In fact, the change in amount of sunlight we receive is the main reason for all the other migrations.
As the light decreases and temperatures drop, the amount of food in the form of plants and insects becomes less.
As you have probably observed at a party of picnic, when the food runs out, our "guests" are also likely to be on their way.
Based on you own observations, talking to friends, neighbors and especially farmers who pay close attention to changes, think about all the migrations you might be able to predict later in the year when winter is over and we begin moving back toward spring and then summer.
It can be great fun to make a prediction and observe when some of our favorite friends, or even relatives, will be "migrating" back north to enjoy the good things of summer in the Ohio Valley.