Chris Martin

Host, Something Wild

Chris Martin has worked for New Hampshire Audubon for more than 26 years as a Conservation Biologist, specializing in birds of prey such as bald eagles, ospreys, and peregrine falcons.

Martin has climbed to bald eagle nests in Alaska's Katmai National Park, counted seabirds near the Aleutian Islands, coordinated peregrine falcon restoration at Lake Superior’s Isle Royale, and studied how a southern Indiana forest responded after a devastating tornado.

Since moving to New Hampshire in 1990, Martin has worked frequently with colleagues at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and other agencies to recruit and train volunteer wildlife observers. He has advised electric utilities on how to establish safe nesting sites for ospreys, partnered with rock climbers to collect peregrine falcon egg samples to check for contaminants, and studied New Hampshire's only known breeding population of American pipits in the alpine zone on Mt. Washington.

In 2006, Martin received an Environmental Merit Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Boston for his outstanding efforts in preserving New England's environment. “I love documenting what's going on with wildlife populations in the Granite State, and also providing folks with the skills and tools they need to make meaningful wildlife observations out there on their own. That's why contributing to Something Wild continues to be so much fun.”

So the thing about “nature shows” - even this one - is that we tend to talk about plant and animal species in pretty independent terms. "The red-tailed hawk eats this, sounds like that, does this in the winter…" But as we’ve tried to explain over the years (here at Something Wild) the hawk is just one resident in complex ecological puzzle; she interacts with other animals and plants in the neighborhood. 

NHPR

As we hunker down for the winter weather, we’re frequently too preoccupied with what is in our front yards that we tend not to notice what isn’t there. The snow and ice have muscled out the grass, and the chilly sounds of the north wind have blown away the dawn chorus that woke us this summer. And short of finding a postcard in your mailbox from a warm exotic location, signed by your friendly neighborhood phoebe, you probably haven’t thought much about the birds that flitted through your yard just months ago.

Here at Something Wild, we’ve been thinking a lot about winter and the different strategies animals use to get through these cold, harsh months. There are quite a few techniques to survive winter if you don’t live in a toasty house with central heating or a roaring wood stove.

The top 5 are:

Smithsonian's National Zoo via Flickr

We’ve been hearing a lot about porcupines this year. They seem to be everywhere! It’s positively a plague of porcupines!

So why are there so many? Biologists don’t have an official answer, but Dave Anderson has a hypothesis involving coyotes and fisher cats. The porcupine’s only real predator is the fisher. It takes a tough critter to eat a porcupine. Anecdotally, trackers and hunters are reporting that fisher numbers appear to be down this year, so it makes sense that porcupine numbers are up.

Picture yourself in the grocery store. You’ve got an organized list in your hand and you’re looking for the things on that list. And as you go down the aisles you’re whizzing by dozens, maybe hundreds, of things on the shelves until your eye picks out that one jar of peanut butter that you have on your list. It’s an efficiency technique that helps you find what you’re looking for.

Susan Lirakis

With winter weather on the way, NHPR's Chris Martin sat down to talk to meteorologist Tony Vazzano, who specializes in mountain weather and snow. His company, North Winds Weather, provides specialized weather reports to ski areas across northern New England.

A common theme on Something Wild is breeding. (Which is why we always sip our tea with our pinkies extended.) Seriously, though, we talk about the how, when, where because there are a lot of different reproductive strategies that have evolved in nature. Today we take a closer look at two such strategies: semelparity and iteroparity.

mwms1916 via Flickr

As fall comes to a close, winter imminent, there is a quiet that sweeps across New Hampshire. We celebrate the changing of the leaves but once they’ve fallen from the trees there’s really not much to look at before snowfall, right? Of course not! There’s always something waiting to be discovered in your back yard and this time of year is no exception.

Moose Munching
AL_HikesAZ / Flickr Creative Commons

Fall is a busy time for Kristine Rines's department, the moose are in rut (mating) and hunting season is open. She works for NH Fish and Game as the state’s first ever Moose Biologist. She received the distinguished “Moose Biologist of the Year” from her peers at the North American Moose Conference in 2006. Rines has announced her plans to retire after three decades on the job and sat down with Something Wild to reflect on her time studying the state’s moose.

USFWS Headquarters / Flikr Creative Commons

Bats in New Hampshire have been struggling with White Nose Syndrome for the past few years. So we sat down with Wildlife Biologist Emily Preston from NH Fish and Game and Endangered Species Biologist Susi von Oettingen from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find out how they’ve been faring recently. 

There’s been a lot of talk about Gypsy moths this year, especially in southern New England, where trees in some areas have been hit pretty hard by this voracious caterpillar. And it has sparked a lot of discussion about how people might help reduce the damage, but it’s worth remembering that the trees these caterpillars feed on are not entirely helpless.

Chris Martin / Courtesy of NH Audubon

November is a great time to spot golden eagles. They are a rare sight in New Hampshire, but they do pass through the state on their annual migration. Right now they’re on their way south to winter in the central Appalachians. They’ll pass back through the state in March on their way to Labrador and northern Quebec to nest.

Golden eagles are sometimes confused with young bald eagles, but there are differences. When bald eagles are in flight, they hold their wings flat like a plank, but golden eagle wings have a slight ‘V’ shape.

National Audubon Society

The iconic call of the loon is one you’ll hear on ponds and lakes throughout the state. We’re checked in with John Cooley, Senior Biologist with the Loon Preservation Committee to learn a bit about the bird and the state of its welfare.

The iconic call of the loon is one you’ll hear on ponds and lakes throughout the state. We’re checked in with John Cooley, Senior Biologist with the Loon Preservation Committee to learn a bit about the bird and the state of its welfare.

Robert Taylor via Flickr

You may be familiar with hoarders (not the TV show, but same idea).  In nature, a hoarder will hide food in one place.  Everything it gathers will be stored in a single tree or den.  But for some animals one food cache isn't enough.  We call them scatter hoarders.

Courtesy Mark Yokoyama via Flickr/Creative Commons

Something Wild fan, Michael Carrier, wrote in recently, he said “If possible could you do a program about identifying some of the more common sounds you hear at dusk or night in New Hampshire.”

Yeah, we can do that.

So a typical evening scene in Anytown, New Hampshire is a symphony of sound. A screen door slams in the distance…a jake brake startles the neighbor’s dog…the weekend warrior fires up her motorcycle…But as the evening settles in and human sounds fade away we can better hear the natural world.

Midge Eliassen

How do you determine the age of a tree?  Just count the rings, of course!  One ring equals one year of growth.  If you’ve ever stumbled upon a tree stump you may have even done it yourself.  But if you’re counting rings on a stump, the life of that tree is over.  So how do you count those rings while the tree is alive?  Experts use a special tool called an “increment borer”.

NHPR

We’re at an osprey nest in Tilton with Iain McLeod, director of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. Our goal is recruiting another individual for Project OspreyTrack. He explains that Project OspreyTrack began in 2011, “to try to understand a little bit more about osprey migration and foraging.” 

Courtesy of Colleen P of Newington via Flickr/Creative Commons.

In this part of the country the Corvid family includes blue jays, gray jays, crows, and ravens. And ravens – Corvus corax – are the smartest of this intelligent family, actually their brain to body ratio is on par with whales and the great apes. 

Robert Taylor via Flickr

It all started with a black squirrel.  These rare creatures aren't a separate species - they're your garden variety gray squirrel, but a genetic mutation has given them a black fur coat.  That got Dave wondering if a black squirrel has any advantages its fairer forebears don't (other than being incredibly popular among nature photographers).  Wondering turned to arguing.  

Courtesy DES

To everything there is a season and this is the season when we go swimming and we spend a lot of time talking about Cyanobacteria. So what is it, exactly? Sonya Carlson is head of the Beach Inspection Program with the state Department of Environmental Services and gave us a primer on the micro-organism.

Qualsiasi/flickr

Today’s topic is thunderstorms. Summer in NH brings those triple H days – hazy, hot, and humid! On days like those there’s nothing more welcome than the arrival of a late-afternoon thunderstorm, leaving in its wake cool, refreshing air, scrubbed clean of haze and pollution.

Courtesy Ias-initially via Flickr/Creative Commons

At Something Wild we like to talk about some of the interesting wildlife or natural occurrences you can find in New Hampshire. We hope you learn a little something wild along the way; sometimes that’s birds and bees, sometimes that’s flowers and trees, but today we want to talk about that thing called love. 

Smithsonian's National Zoo via Flickr

We’ve been hearing a lot about porcupines this year. They seem to be everywhere! It’s positively a plague of porcupines!

So why are there so many? Biologists don’t have an official answer, but Dave Anderson has a hypothesis involving coyotes and fisher cats. The porcupine’s only real predator is the fisher. It takes a tough critter to eat a porcupine. Anecdotally, trackers and hunters are reporting that fisher numbers appear to be down this year, so it makes sense that porcupine numbers are up.

Wild Turkey
John Mizel / Flickr Creative Commons

There is a common misconception that wild turkeys were once extinct in New Hampshire but have since returned.  Extinction is often confused with extirpation but they are actually two different concepts.

Extinct refers to species no longer in existence, having no living representatives – gone everywhere.  Things like the brontosaurus, which no longer occurred as of 10's of millions years ago, the wooly mammoth 10-thousand years ago, or the passenger pigeon only 10 decades ago.

Flkr Creative Commons / US Fish and Wildlife

Talk of turkey is usually relegated to the month of November as we stuff ourselves with eating yams and cranberry jelly, and watch college football. And the misperception about Ben Franklin proposing the wild turkey as our national bird, is usually not far behind.

Michael Bentley via Flickr

Every week here at Something Wild we encourage you to go outside.  It's easy to find the wild in New Hampshire, be it a walk on the beach, a hike in the woods or a quiet crepuscular kayak ride.  However there are things you need to be mindful of when you're out.  We've heard a lot about ticks but not so much about poison ivy.  

You've probably seen or come into contact with poison ivy at some point; the three waxy leaves with serrated edges.  You probably also know you should avoid it.  Don't touch touch the vine, don't touch the root.  You can get a rash from any part of the plant.

Courtesy Brendan Clifford, via NH Fish & Game

There are few sounds in nature that command your attention as effectively as the rattle of a rattlesnake. And though these snakes are not aggressive, that sound does elicit a hard-wired, innate fear response. Roughly translating to “Watch Your Step, Mister!” the rattle is an alarm designed to stop trouble before it starts.

Courtesy of brewbooks via Flickr/Creative Commons (https://flic.kr/p/sqY5Yp).

Biologists like to talk about crocodiles, cassowaries, even chickens as being descendants of the dinosaurs. But in your back yard is likely something that can trace its ancestry to before the dinosaurs, some 360 million years ago. We’re talking about Ferns!

Courtesy Hamish Irvine via Flickr/Creative Commons

A Something Wild fan wrote in recently with a question or two. Ben, a backyard beekeeper in Deerfield, asks “I know there has been a lot of buzz about chemicals getting into the bee's main protein source, pollen. It would be really cool if you could mention the bees and what kind of plants the bees pollinate (and are exposed to) throughout the various seasons. Furthermore! Where in the world are the bees getting pollen in the winter? Sometimes I even see my bees bringing in pollen from who knows where on the rare warm day in the wintertime." 

Matt Ward via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/7BuupJ)

Is there a song that has stuck with you for years?  Maybe a tune your parents sang to you as a child, the notes imprinted on your mind and became a part of your being.  As Chris and Dave shared the melodies imparted to themselves, the conversation turned (as it often does) to birds.  Is our musical learning similar to that of our avian neighbors?

Pages