“The bottom-line at the end of the day, when the kids and their parents share the excitement of being outdoors, it changes the heartbeat of a family.” Tom Rusert, Sonoma Birding
Winter has come to our Northern California Coast
My docent days at the lighthouse are quieter. Fewer guests come to visit when it rains and now that summer vacations are over.
But stormy days are followed by calm seas, sunshine, and now . . .
The Greys make the world’s longest mammal migration – over 6,000 miles, Alaska to Baja, Mexico – where females give birth, nurse their young, and gather with males to breed. In early spring, they repeat the trip, babes in tow, moving slowly past us again.
Whales — one of my “winter’s here” wildlife markers.
Wildlife and Winter — Kids at Work and Wonder
Like whales here, when northern waters cool, immature sea turtles in the Atlantic migrate south, following food. Often these days, nature’s signal comes too late, or is too brief. The water turns cold too fast, leaving hundreds of sea turtles stunned on the surface. Their bodies, as if in a giant deep freeze, float almost lifeless, sometimes for months; if not rescued, these turtles will die of hunger, dehydration, or hyperthermia. Likely all three. Incoming tides and surges “strand” many, barely alive, on beaches along the coastline.
Kids are helping save them. Nine year-old Skyler Lach is a four-year veteran sea turtle spotter. “Living on Earth,” (Public Radio International) aired a wonderful story about Skyler (you HAVE to see his picture with the turtles) and his dad, Michael, volunteers in the New England Aquarium and MA Audubon Society cold-stranding rescue program. The turtles spend a minimum of several months “thawing” and rehabing at the Aquarium, then are transported and released in warmer waters off Florida or Georgia. Listen to Skyler talk about his experience and more about the project. Know what a “wrackline” is? I didn’t.
No Sea Turtles to Find?
Take heart, there’s a lot you can do for wildlife in your neighborhood and backyard.
Check the web pages linked below for details. Here are the basics:
♥ Food — Leave dead flowers and plants in the garden as seed sources for birds. Keep bird feeders full. Make your own food sources.
♥ Water — keep an unfrozen source around, even if all you have is an apartment patio.
♥ Shelter — Brush piles, stacked firewood, your discarded Christmas tree. Not just birds, but creatures like frogs, bugs, butterflies, and reptiles can use these piles for shelter and food, too.
♥ Holiday safety — Know how your holiday decorations may affect wildlife in your area, especially if you live in a rural area.
♥ Clean up — Litter that can injure wildlife, that’s anything they can get stuck in or they might eat, but shouldn’t.
♥ Write — a politician, supporting your favorite place or wildlife.
♥ Volunteer — at a wildlife organization or your local animal shelter. Dogs and cats need love, too!
♥ Donate — Every nickel makes a difference to your favorite cause. An amazing example of what one child, backed by energized, hard-working adults, can do, is Vivienne Harr and her “Make-a-Stand” campaign against child slavery. The point isn’t how much she made, but that she cared, had an idea, and said, “Let’s go!”
♥ Learn — Spend time outside. See if you can discover one new thing about the wildness in your backyard or neighborhood. Birds are everywhere. Which species do you see often? Audubon Society now has Christmas Bird Counts for Kids (CBC4Kids), thanks to Sonoma County, CA birders, Tom Rusert and Darren Peterie. Listen to a short interview on the recent “Bird Note” podcast. National Christmas bird counts begin mid December and end the 3rd week in January. Check your local Audubon Society to see if it sponsors CBC4Kids. If not, help start one!
All of Us Together
I love what Tom Rusert said about kids and parents birding together. What about kids who don’t live with their parents? Or parents unable or unwilling to share their kid’s interests? Author and environmentalist Rachael Carson addresses this beautifully.
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
It’s true for all aspects of life. While not every child will respond if we step up to give, no child can respond if we don’t. Nothing adds perspective to how we grownups see the world — on our brightest and darkest days — than a child’s wonder.
Help a child, find an adult, change a heartbeat.
Thanks to the following organizations and sites for the tips and podcasts used here.
“Whatever special nests we make–leaves, moss or tents or piled stone–we all dwell in a house of one room.” John Muir