Adapted from the Grampian National Nature Reserves, Activity Guidelines (SNH)
- To learn about the natural world through play
- To learn about migration
You will need
Did you know?
Some species of butterflies migrate. The painted lady butterfly arrives in Britain in the spring and summer from Northern Africa. The caterpillars have pupated and turned into butterflies by autumn and the whole British population of painted ladies dies or migrates to Africa.
Before the activity
Explain that many small insect-eating birds migrate from Scotland in the autumn to Southern Europe and Africa, like swallows, swifts, martins and warblers. Why do they think these birds fly thousands of miles? (not just because it's warmer, also because their food supply is much harder to find in Britain in winter). However some birds migrate to Scotland in the autumn and leave in the spring. These tend to be wildfowl, swans, geese and ducks, which spend the summer in the Arctic and Northern Europe. The Arctic provides long hours of daylight and is rich in insect and plants for a brief period. But what about the winter period? Scotland provides ice-free feeding grounds for these birds in the winter on fields, coasts and estuaries. The Greenland White-fronted Goose flies an amazing 3,200 km (2,000 miles) non-stop to Scotland and Ireland in 48 hours! However other winter migrants need refuelling and resting stops along their migration route and many places can be essential 'pit stops' for migrating birds. Migrating birds face many dangers along their route.
Ask the children for ideas as to what the dangers might be (perils include: storms which blow the birds off-course; hunters who shoot them; predators that take advantage of exhausted, hungry birds; city lights which confuse birds; resting sites being build over or feeding sites like marshes and wetlands drained; and electric pylons to crash into).
Decide which migrating birds the children will be, swallows, geese etc and what the threat will be, hunters or predators. Ask two of the group to be the 'hunters', and two to be 'predators' Draw two lines in the sand and play tag between them. On line is 'Scotland' the other is 'Africa' or 'Siberia' etc. The children have to get from one line to the other without being tagged by the 'hunter' or 'predator'.
- find out whether you lose more migrants if the birds stay together as a flock or trickle past the predators / hunters.
- add some more threats, like storms - a bird caught by a storm has to go back to the start line and try again
- add a safe zone (protected area / nature reserve) mid-way where the birds can stop for a rest and cannot get tagged
Suggested Follow up
Visit a nature site to see winter or summer migrants. The Montrose basin holds 50,000 migrating birds coming from all directions, stopping to refuel and rest on their long journeys. The Eden Estuary, Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve, Southwick Coast, the Loch of Strathbeg and many other sites in 'Where to go' are also all important sites for migrants with hides and viewing facilities.
Plot the migration routes, of the birds you saw, on maps and find out where they rest on the way, what they eat and what threats they face.
Find out about birds, fish, eels, whales, butterflies etc which migrate. Research a chosen species and plot their migration routes on maps. Add to the maps symbols to represent hazards and threats which the animals face on their journeys
Find out how people unravelled the mysteries of migration and what stories people used to believe to explain the mysterious appearance and disappearance of migratory species, Wetland Wildlife information, particularly the information sheet on migration.
- BTO bird guide
- RSPB bird guide
- Wetland Wildlife information, including a migration factsheet, from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
- Satellite tracking ospreys, maps and details, from British birds
- RSPB A-Z of garden wildlife (includes painted lady butterflies)
Science - main