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American Robin Migration Update: March 16, 1999

Today's Report Includes:

Waiting Eagerly in the North
First SINGING American Robins
As of March 14, 1999
Click here for data

Robins have been wintering in many northern areas this year. Even in areas of southern Canada and the northern states, the first singing robin may not seem like much to get excited about. But in Alaska and the northern reaches of Canada, students are growing impatient for their first glimpse of this welcome and traditional sign of spring. Individual robins were reported in some spots VERY far north--one robin surviving in minus 40 C temperatures in the Yukon this winter made the newspaper!

That robin didn't follow the rules that Sand Lake School in Anchorage Alaska does. Mr. Sterling, a teacher, there, wrote "When it's colder than minus 10 degrees F, students don't go out to recess if either the ambient temperature or the wind-chill is colder than -10 F. I believe we went for an entire month with our noses pressed on the glass of our classroom. I've still got the smudges to prove it." There have been a few robins seen in some spots in Anchorage this winter, but none yet reported for this spring. Last year Mr. Sterling's class saw their first on April 6.

Report the first Robin you HEAR singing this spring to Journey North!

Report the first robin WAVE (a flock of three or more) that you see to Journey North!

Mrs. Hepner at Sterling Elementary School in Sterling, Alaska noted, "Our high temperatures have just started to get above freezing, but I'd be surprised to see one this early! If I were a robin, I'd be hanging out where it's warm!"

In Soldanta, Alaska, Mr. Vedders's class is getting impatient for ANY evidence of spring. In response to our query whether they'd seen any yet, he wrote, "I WISH!! We are still having indoor recess!"

Northern Observation Posts
To ensure that the first robins to reach far north are properly noted and welcomed, Journey North has set up seven observation posts where students will report their first robins. These posts are in

  1. Peace River, Alberta: (56.25N -117.28W)
  2. Madoc, Ontario (44.51N -77.47W)
  3. Anchorage, Alaska (61.22N -149.90W)
  4. Haines, Alaska (59.24N -135.43W)
  5. Soldatna, Alaska (60.46N -151.20W)
  6. Calgary, Alberta (51.02N, -114.05W)
  7. Sterling, Alaska (60.52N -150.80W)

Announcing JN's Annual Early Bird Contest!
(Challenge Question # 8) "See if you can find these seven observation posts on a map. When do you predict the first robin will appear at each of the seven Northern Observation Posts? Send us your predictions!"

(To respond to this week's Challenge Questions, see below.)

Do Early Birds Get the Worm?
First Earthworm sightings
As of March 14, 1999
Click here for data

Report the FIRST EARTHWORM that you see to Journey North!

Tracking the movements of robins is always difficult with overwintering northern ones. This year is much harder than usual because record numbers of them stayed north, at record latitudes. Some of these robins might be getting sick of eating old berries and crab apples. This week's First Worm Map shows how the thawing ground is opening up a tasty new food source for many of them. And speaking of food, think about

Challenge Question # 9
"What do earthworms eat? It would be more efficient for robins to simply eat the worm food themselves, avoiding the 'middle man.' Why don't they?"

(To respond to this week's Challenge Questions, see below.)

Discussion of Challenge Question # 6 and #7: We gave the following information: One banded wild bird, "Robin A," lived to be 11 years, 8 months old. A bander found that "Robin B" weighed 84.2 grams. Then we asked, "If Robin A was hatched in May, what month did it die in? What is the smallest number of times this robin was handled by humans? How do you know this?" and "What is Robin B's weight in ounces? How many robins of that size would it take to balance a 100-pound seventh grader?"

Hooray for Chris and Hannah in Ms. Thurber's fifth grade class at Ferrisburgh Central School! They put on their thinking caps and reasoned through both problems! They wrote in response to # 6: If Robin A was hatched in May, he died in January. We knew that we didn't have to worry about the eleven years, we just added 8 and 5. That made 13 -since there are only 12 months in a year, that starts the next year, which would put the death in the month of January. And the least amount of times that Robin A was handled would be twice (once when he was banded and once when he was dead to take the band off).

Then they solved Challenge Question # 7 with this calculation: "Robin B weighed 84.2 grams. We looked up on a Metric Table and found that a gram was equal to .035 ounces. That meant that the robin weighed 2.947 ounces. If a seventh grader weighed 100 pounds and there are 16 ounces to a pound, the seventh grader would be 1600 ounces. It would take about 543 robins to balance a seventh grader on a see-saw! That's something you don't see every day!"

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question

Answer only one Challenge Question in each e-mail.
1. Address an e-mail message to:
2.In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #8, #9 OR #10.
3. In the body of your message, answer the question.

The next Robin Migration Update will be posted Tuesday, March 23, 1999.

Copyright 1999 Journey North. All Rights Reserved. Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to our feedback form

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