SCIENCE ON SALISBURY PLAIN

SCIENCE ON SALISBURY PLAIN

During this period of lockdown, many of our teachers are looking outside of their usual curriculum responsibilities and sharing their hobbies and interests with the wider Warminster community.  Catherine Wilson, one of our much-loved Physics teachers, enjoys a keen passion for the natural world, having also taught Chemistry and Biology in previous schools.  Mrs Wilson’s first edition of Science on Salisbury Plain considers birds. “Birds have always been inspirational – they seem to defy gravity, have their own rituals and add colour to the landscape!  If you are patient, you can see birds through your window, in a garden or on a walk.”

Mrs Wilson shares some intriguing bird facts to get your brains twitching!

PHYSICS

Early inventors of flight studied birds to see how wings could lift man into the air.  Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) produced over 500 sketches of flying machines!  Lift for a bird depends on the shape of its wing, creating uneven pressure as air flows over it, lifting the bird.  The movement of the wing is how the bird creates thrust.  This link illustrates this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3So7OMwNgy8

See if you can spot this as birds fly past your window or take off from the ground.

BIOLOGY

Birds are currently building nests at this time of year as a safe, warm place for their eggs to hatch.  You can probably see them shuffling about looking for suitable sticks, twigs and moss under hedges.  Cheeky birds, such as jackdaws, will even land on sheep to draw out some soft wool to line their nests.  

Birds continue to need food at this time of year you can find out how to make ‘hanging food’ for birds using this link.    

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yV6V6rtpyc

CHEMISTRY 

Robins love gardens and are instantly recognisable by their red breast.  You should be able to see one if you are patient.  Did you know that red birds, like robins, are mini-chemists and convert yellow food to red feathers!  "To produce red feathers, birds convert yellow dietary pigments known as carotenoids into red pigments and then deposit them in the feathers," said Dr Carneiro*.  So if you get a chance to feed the birds, it may not be a surprise to find out that a robin’s favourite food is the mealworm – and guess what colour that is! (Rererence GrrlScientist 2016 ‘How Birds Became Red’ Forbes - Dr M. Carneiro* Universidade do Porto).

Catherine Wilson​, Assistant Head (Professional Development), Teacher of Physics