Saturday, July 25, 2009

A fantastic journey

Once, walking across the Hungarian steppes* in the company of a wonderful ornithologist with the unlikely name of Atilla, I saw that we were passed every couple of minutes by Red Admiral butterflies, all flying in the same direction. To my astonishment, Atilla told me these were on migration and that some of them would end up in Africa.

I marvelled then at the capacity for something so delicately fragile to make that long journey, but that achievement is dimmed in the face of something I read about yesterday.

Biologist Charles Anderson has published details of the mass migration in the Journal of Tropical Ecology. You can - and ought to - read all about it here, in a BBC article, just to get that sensawunda moment that raises the hairs on the back of your neck...

Imagine, five species of dragonflies setting off on a round trip of 14000 to 18000 kms (9000 to 11000 miles) , much of it across open ocean**.
Imagine them doing it in one direction against the prevailing wind...
which necessitates them flying at above 1000m, possibly as high as 6000m (19,000'+.)

It takes them 4 generations to make the round trip.

And the bit that really interested me was that they are taking the same route as a number of species of falcons, cuckoos, nightjars and bee-eaters. Which looooooove insects.

*Hortabagy Puszta National Park
**The Monarch butterflies are real wimps, only achieving 7,000kms (4,300 miles) in four generations.

4 comments:

Jo said...

That is really incredible - we always thought the Monarch was something fantastic, but that sure beats it. Mind you humming birds do a pretty good trip too and don't take 4 years to do it. Dropping from Canada to South America in the Fall and back again in the summer. Then there's the eels which swim thousands of miles too.

Glenda Larke said...

The hummers are remarkable because of their tiny size, but it is far from the longest bird migration. That rests with some of the oceanic birds - terns and shearwaters. The tern covers 24,000 miles a year, from Arctic to Antarctic - that's 38,000 kms - and it never sees a winter.

Glenda Larke said...

The hummers are remarkable because of their tiny size, but it is far from the longest bird migration. That rests with some of the oceanic birds - terns and shearwaters. The tern covers 24,000 miles a year, from Arctic to Antarctic - that's 38,000 kms - and it never sees a winter.

Jo said...

I didn't know that about the terns. Lucky birds, I wish we could see a summer let alone never see a winter. Hope its warm in VA, it sure isn't here - if it gets warm at all it still stays dull.