At Crossroads at Big Creek, we are getting used to the time change. The Sundial at our Astronomy Campus now is correct , but it’s hard to reset our internal clocks, though birds seem able to do it. We don’t understand the internal clocks of birds, but apparently, birds have an innate awareness of time, day and night.
Researchers are convinced that from the time they hatch, nestlings just know what time it is. [No..not analog or digital… but however birds mentally mark the passage of time..] Apparently, baby birds wake up in the middle of the night and stare at the stars until they drift off to sleep. Clever experiments reveal that young birds come to recognize the patterns of the stars. They also notice that the stars seem to change positions during the night…and that all except one star seem to move. That one star—we call it the North Star–stays put (in the north) while the others seem to revolve around it.
Due to this early learning, birds grasp what we call “the compass directions”, which is a good thing because 90% of the birds that migrate fly at night, and like humans since ancient times, they can get their bearings from the stars.
Many of our summer birds are gone, winter birds like juncos are around, and the ducks and geese we see in The Cove are decidedly restless. When they go, they will use many navigation strategies, and among they, they have the stars to guide them.
“Stars” will be the topic for the November meeting of the Pluto Club. This informal groups is Crossroads’ way of introducing very small (like Pluto) learners to the basic concepts of astronomy. Programs are developed for children Kindergarten through second grade, but are open to siblings and all learners. (We’ve had Jupiter-sized learners at our programs and that is fine. The Club meets for about 45 minutes, this month at 2:00, Saturday, November 7 in the Lower Level Learning Space of the Collins Learning Center.