Magazine article USA TODAY

Skies Alive

Magazine article USA TODAY

Skies Alive

Article excerpt

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FOOD, WATER, protective cover, and a sheltered place to nest and breed are basic to a bird's survival. Nature, however, oftentimes only supplies riving creatures with a suitable habitat for part of the year, as the changing seasons can alter a comfortable environment into an unlivable one. In response, animals either hibernate in winter or migrate to more suitable locations. Birds choose the latter. This fascinating interactive exhibit follows the Red Knot, Bobolink, and other migrating winged creatures as they make their arduous annual trek over North America on their way to the Canadian Arctic and other destinations. The two birds are among 320 species and millions of birds that pass by the East Coast as part of their migration along the Atlantic Flyway navigational route. "[This] is a wonderful place to witness bird migration," notes Dale Rosselet, vice president for education at the New Jersey Audubon Society Center for Research and Education in Cape May Courthouse.

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The exhibit features four colorful habitat dioramas with corresponding taxidermy birds, including the Red Knot, Bobolink, Red-Headed Woodpecker, and the American Bittern. When visitors enter, they will be greeted by a short introductory video with commentary from environmentalists, researchers, and bird watchers. Also featured is a bird diversity wall with photography of Kevin T. Karlson and Lloyd Spitalnick, two well-known wildlife photographers, illustrating the varied species of migrant birds that traverse the East Coast.

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Onlookers also get a unique perspective (a bird's eye view, if you will) of planet Earth as well as the globe's depleting natural resources through a simulated journey from the sky. The exhibit looks at species diversity, conservation, and flight and migration adaptations.

"Skies Alive" shares the story of the amazing Red Knot, which flies 9,300 miles each way on its migration along the eastern coast of South America from Tierra del Fuego to the Canadian Arctic, explains Ismael Calderon, director of science at the Newark Museum and the developer, creator, and curator of the exhibition. "The bird is like a marathon runner, fattening up and using all of its energy before it fattens up again [by refueling] along the way. The bird synchronizes its migration so it can stop along the Delaware Bay when the horseshoe crabs are laying eggs and feast on the eggs. However, the Red Knot will soon be declared endangered because of the overharvesting horseshoe crabs has left the bird with little to eat during in its migration. …

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