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Posts Tagged ‘migration’

Fall has arrived and we’ve been revving up for the start of our fall school programs at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Our field trip lineup has been revamped with some new offerings and we also brought back an old favorite we’ve been missing called “Migration Sensation”. In this feathery program, students investigate the adaptations that let birds take flight, learn all about how and why birds fly long distances in the spring and fall, and play a super fun migration game. In the game, the students transform into migratory birds; they must collect food and avoid human hazards on their way to distant wintering grounds. If you’re interested in booking an educational field trip for your school group, visit our School Programs page.

In preparation for a Migration Sensation visit, take your students to a park for some urban bird watching! Your class could even become part of a larger community of bird scientist by participating in Cornell’s “Celebrate Urban Birds” Program. Order a free kit for your classroom which includes facts about 16 species of local birds.

When I walked into the BCM garden today, I was greeted by a chorus of noisy grackles pecking around for seeds. Take a listen to their boisterous chorus!

When grackles migrate, they only travel short distances. Many stay put in the same place all winter. Scarce food is usually the main bird migration motive and grackles are extremely opportunistic. They’ll eat anything from seeds to bugs to trash so you’re likely to be able to spot them all winter long.

File:Common Grackle male RWD.jpg

Did you notice their beautiful iridescent feathers?

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As we enter into August, some of our most helpful garden visitors – ruby-throated hummingbirds – will be migrating south. These quick little birds can be hard to spot, but you’ll be more likely to encounter one before their journey south if you put out a feeder full of sugar water to fuel their trip. Hummingbirds need to eat every few minutes since they expend an incredible amount of energy beating their wings up to 80 times per second!

This week at the museum, we learned all about hummingbirds and constructed our own feeders to hang in a garden, or out a window, fire escape, or front stoop. All you need are floral tubes like these, some colorful plastic craft materials (we reused old red and orange grocery bags), string, and sugar water!


The colors of the bags are important – hummingbirds have a strong preference for red and orange flowers like bee balm, bleeding heart, cardinal flower, or nasturtium.

We showed our garden helpers how to fold squares of plastic into fours, snip the center corner, and then design their own pretty petal shapes (very similar to snowflake crafting). The next step is to simply shimmy the flower petals up the neck of the floral tubes, fill with 1 part sugar/4 parts water and hang outside! It is recommended to heat your sugar water so the sugar dissolves nicely, and you’ll want to change it every 4 days so it doesn’t ferment.

After your hummingbird feeder’s hanging in a nice sheltered place, sit back and look out for a bright winged blur! Did you know hummingbirds spend so much time in the air catching bugs and slurping nectar that their weak little feet are nearly useless? They can perch, but they typically can’t walk!

Check out this tiny hummingbird nest from our collection. You can find more tips on making your garden a hummingbird nesting ground here. You can even help track their migration by reporting your sightings!

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Speaking of fall, have you seen any monarch butterflies lately? Monarchs are amazing – they travel as much as 3,000 miles, making them the butterflies with the longest migration in the world and the only butterflies to make a long migration twice each year. Monarch butterflies migrate through New York City on their way to Mexico every fall and come back every spring. Peak season for them passing through New York City is early October, so you may have missed them for this year, but here is some information about monarchs anyway. Keep an eye out as there may still be some around, or wait for spring to see them again!

Monarch Watch is a hub for all things monarch. It has amazing resources, including the following:

Some of these resources may be a little old for early childhood, but the gardening and observation element is ideal for all ages. Butterflies are great for teaching about habitat, insect life cycles, and animal diversity.

Another great website out there is the Monarch Monitoring Project, produced by the New Jersey Audubon Department.  Cape May, NJ is the southernmost point in Jersey. It has well maintained marshes and dunes and is along the coast, so it attracts huge numbers of migratory birds and monarchs, too! The blog is great for upper elementary students. It features bar graphs of monarchs spotted each week during migration season, beautiful photographs, and lots of scientific information.

Do you know other monarch resources? What’s your favorite monarch observation spot in New York City?

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