There are many things about fall that make it an interesting time of year. It is not just the colors and the cool and pleasant temperatures that make fall special. We also see migrations and winter adaptations.
Bird migrations are amazing, with some species using unique wind patterns to make the journey across the Caribbean. Other birds that spend summers in our area, such as loons, congregate in groups in Florida in the winter.
The most amazing migrations, however, are the smaller forms of life. For example, green darner dragonflies spend the winter in Florida and the Caribbean, where they mate and produce offspring. When the average temperature warms to about 48 degrees F, these offspring fly 900 miles to the north, where they breed, lay eggs, and die. When the eggs hatch, they spend the summer in Canada or Michigan. In the fall, these third-generation individuals return to Florida flying some 900 miles (1500 km) or more over a route that they have never seen before.
When we consider migrations and winter adaptations, we can’t overlook monarch butterflies. They are the most amazing of these multi-generational migrants, with fourth-generation butterflies making a 3,000-mile (4,800 km) flight. There are also insects and amphibians with a blood protein that acts like antifreeze, allowing them to be frozen solid without damaging their cells.
There seems to be no limit to the way animals can adapt to winter, and sometimes these adaptations change. In our area, Canada geese used to all migrate to southern latitudes to spend the winter. With the advent of power plants that keep some rivers and lakes free of ice, that has changed. A sizable population of Canada geese remains in our area of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota all winter long. We have had as many as 200 geese crowding open water near a power plant in the St. Joseph River during the coldest days of winter. That didn’t happen in 1959 when I moved to this area.
These patterns of migration and winter adaptations are difficult to explain as accidental. It would seem that the animals have had a designed genetic program to allow them to survive. The design is fascinating, and the Designer is even more amazing. We praise God as we watch the magic of migrations and winter adaptations.
— John N. Clayton © 2020
Data from “On Nature” by Sheryl Myers, The Herald Bulletin, October 3, 2020 page B3.