May 24, 2019
How to get kids into nature every day
By Jamie Gonzalez/
McGraw Photo by Alex Garcia
It’s no secret that kids are spending more time inside playing on screens and less time outsideplaying in the woods. One recent study in the United Kingdom found that the average child there spends less time outdoors than the average prisoner. In Texas, where I work, schoolchildren get outside for unstructured play time just minutes a day. They’re in front of an electronic screen for more than seven hours a day.

Parents often explain this by saying kids today don’t want to go outside. But I disagree. I’ve taught thousands of children in my 20-year career as an environmental educator in Houston, and in my experience, youth today want the same things we wanted as children: real adventure and the opportunity to discover the world around them. Those kinds of experiences, however, are getting harder and harder to find outdoors, especially in our cities and suburbs. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As glaciers melt, we lose more than ice
By Henry Fountain/The New York Times
Photo by Pat W. Sanders/flickr
As surely as they are melting elsewhere around the world, glaciers are disappearing in North America, too.

This great melting will affect ecosystems and the creatures within them, like the salmon that spawn in meltwater streams. This is on top of the effects on the water that billions of people drink, the crops they grow and the energy they need.

Glacier-fed ecosystems are delicately balanced, populated by species that have adapted to the unique conditions of the streams. As glaciers shrink and meltwater eventually declines, changes in water temperature, nutrient content and other characteristics will disrupt those natural communities.

“Lots of these ecosystems have evolved with the glaciers for thousands of years or maybe longer,” said Jon Riedel, a geologist with the National Park Service.

Is this our most endangered
U.S. river?
By Heather Hansman/Outside
Photo by Chris M Morris/flickr
In a dry corner of the country, the Gila River corridor is lush and green. There are ancient, 20-foot-wide cottonwoods along the banks and rare Gila Trout in the riffles. The river’s source is the  Gila Wilderness , the first wilderness area in the U.S.—set aside in 1924 because of a push from Aldo Leopold, who saw the value of an unbroken, untouched landscape and recognized the Gila’s biological and topographic diversity.

Where the Gila spills out of the wilderness and into the Cliff-Gila valley, it irrigates a range of food crops. Upstream, it’s home to one of the highest concentrations of breeding birds in the country, including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, and it supports one of the last remaining intact native fish communities. There is tricky, ephemeral paddling in the upper reaches, called the Gila Wilderness Run, and farther downstream, you can float the less technical, but still beautiful Gila Box. That combination of rare factors reflects the fact that the Gila is one of the few undammed western rivers and the last major free flowing river in New Mexico, which means ecological processes, flows, habitat, and more are as undisturbed as they can be in a heavily human-influenced world.

Whatever part of water use you might think is most important—from farms to fish to floating—the Gila is a stronghold, but right now its tenability as a habitat and a water source is threatened by nature and by humans. This year is a tipping point.

Brutal migration for gray whales
By Linda V. Mapes/Seattle Times
Photo by Merrill Gosho/wikimedia
Gray whales are dying at twice the usual rate as a brutal migration unfolds, with whales washing up on Washington state beaches, apparently starved to death.

As if gray whales didn’t already have enough troubles, with  transient killer whales preying on their calves  as the mighty grays swim north in their annual migration from their birthing lagoons in Baja. But now, gray whale mothers in particular, depleted by the demands of lactation, are starving, too.

So far 18 gray whales have washed ashore in Washington and a total of 57 have stranded on the West Coast since gray whales began their spring migration north to Alaskan waters from their calving lagoons in Mexico.

The cranes that adopted a Canada goose
By Amelia Langas/Audubon
Photo by USFWS/wikimedia
As a wildlife photographer, Jocelyn Anderson has observed some incredible animal behavior. But the dynamics of a bird family she  documented  last week was unlike anything she’d ever seen before. Following a tip from the  Michigan Bird Watching Facebook  group, she tracked down a Sandhill Crane nest in Kensington Metropark in Milford. Anderson found the mother standing over a tottering crane chick, or colt. Nearby the father was digging up worms, while the duo’s other young charge scuttled about. It would have been an unremarkable, if lovely scene—except that the second chick was a Canada Goose. The crane parents have apparently adopted the gosling.

“The Sandhill Crane colt is fuzzy and gangly and the gosling is just so round and chubby,” she says. “They look so different and the parents treat them exactly the same.”

It’s not unusual in the bird world for members of one species to raise the young of another. Cuckoos, for instance, purposefully  lay their eggs  in the nests of other, unsuspecting birds, which care for the young as their own. Another such case of brood parasitism, in which the biological parents offload their responsibilities for rearing their young, is  the owl raising a duckling  that blew up online this year.

Sandhill Cranes, however, aren’t known to be tricked into nurturing the offspring of other species.

“It is my fixed conviction that if a parent can give his children a passionate and wholesome devotion to the outdoors, the fact that he cannot leave each of them a fortune does not really matter
so much.”

- Archibald Rutledge
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