Each year millions upon millions of monarch butterflies swarm south from the United States to escape the harsh northern winters. Many head to Mexico, forming vast colonies in oyamel fir trees, some flying as far as 3000 miles to get there. This is a staggering achievement for a creature that weighs about half a gram and whose wingspan measures just 10cm (4 inches) across.
The Great Sardine Run
One of the world's greatest, least known, wildlife spectacles takes place below the waves off the tip of Southern Africa. On some unseen cue, billions of sardines suddenly start racing their way up the coast in shoals as large as 7km long and 1.5km wide. This abundance of fish is often a trigger to dolphins, sharks and gannets throughout the region to commence a feeding frenzy, the hungry predators piling in en mass to feast on the poor sardines.
Mysterious Starling Murmations
As evening’s light begins to fade, autumn skies all over the UK play host to a performance from one of the world's greatest aerial acrobats. Quite why they do it nobody's really sure, but seemingly by magic, hundreds and thousands of starlings flock together in huge wheeling and swooping clouds called murmations. Starling populations have plummeted by 70% in recent years, and so these flocks are barely a fraction of what they once were.
The Bats Of Deer Cave
Huge bat colonies around the world are a spectacle in their own right, but one of the most impressive has to be the one that emerges from the cavernous Deer Cave, deep in the Bornean rainforest. At 2km in length and 90m high, the cave is home to over 3 million bats, which pour out every evening to feed. The natural world is all about balance, and so with the enormous population of bats comes another great wildlife spectacle—the enormous pile of bat droppings (called guano) beneath them!
Serengeti Wildebeest Migration
The great wildebeest migration of the Serengeti is the stuff of legend. Stories from old Africa field researchers speak of herds stretching all the way to the horizon, as they set off in search of grazing. An estimated 1.5 million blue wildebeest, together with more than half a million zebra and other antelope congregate together to make arguably the greatest land migration on earth. The journey is challenging too, with some 250,000 dying from thirst, hunger, exhaustion or predation along the way.
As the enigmatic Jeff Goldblum once said in the iconic 90s cinema classic Jurassic Park: ‘life finds a way’. No matter how hard the challenge, how far the distance, how tough the conditions, our planet’s fauna keep soldiering on, in a world where half of all wildlife has disappeared over the last 40 years. A bleak statistic, but don’t despair just yet—if you know where to look then there are still some incredible displays of wildlife fighting against all odds to survive and thrive. Here are 5 of the greatest spectacles of nature.