Chris Martin

Host, Something Wild

Chris Martin has worked with New Hampshire Audubon for more than 19 years as a Senior Biologist in the organization's Conservation Department. His work has focused primarily on monitoring and management of New Hampshire's endangered or threatened birds, especially birds of prey such as bald eagles, ospreys, and peregrine falcons.

A wildlife biologist with almost 30 years of diverse experience, Martin has climbed to bald eagle nests in Alaska's Katmai National Park, counted seabirds near the Aleutian Islands, coordinated peregrine falcon restoration at Isle Royale in Lake Superior, helped research a wildlife habitat field guide in Minnesota, 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, train, and deploy volunteer wildlife observers when and where they are needed. 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 environmental contaminants, and documented 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 view my role as one of documenting what's going on with wildlife populations in the Granite State, and also providing folks with the knowledge and training they need to make meaningful wildlife observations out there on their own. That's one of the reasons I find contributing to Something Wild to be so enjoyable.”

Something Wild Program Page

Spring is here!  Well, sort of.  Technically, spring doesn't start for another six weeks. But some stoic yankees say that winter begins in New Hampshire when you start stacking your wood pile in late August.  So it follows that Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year) is the first day of spring training - pitchers and catchers reporting for light duty.  And now, six weeks later, we're seeing 10 hours of daylight and growing, and we're ready to open the season.  The next logical question... who's on first?

capegirl52 via Flickr

Right now the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun.  Light enters our atmosphere at a much shallower angle and for fewer hours each day.  To put it simply, it's cold in New England. And as sure as January's cold the usual grumblings from residents about the plunging mercury abound.  It isn’t surprising when you consider how poorly adapted we humans are for living in the cold.  However, adaptations in other species in New Hampshire have allowed them to flourish.  

The stately Raven has garnered many connotations over the years, chief among them are for the bird’s intelligence. Additionally, this largest of songbirds is also known for is aerobic alacrity - flying upside down, doing barrel, etc - and playful proclivities.

Stories of their intelligence abound, including one that involves Cheetos. A wildlife biologist was attempting to trap and band ravens. To lure them in, he spread Cheetos on snow and the bright orange color soon attracted several ravens, which were then snared by leg traps under the snow.

As volunteers fan out across the state for the annual Christmas Bird Count, they’re likely to see two noteworthy species down from the north this year. Both are named "Crossbills" for unique bills that actually do cross, all the better to pry seeds from a conifer cone.

Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Tis the season for Christmas carols but at Something Wild one in particular captures our attention: The Twelve Days of Christmas.  There are a lot of birds featured in the song but, like so many of our carols, the lyrics are from old Europe and don’t really speak to life in 21st century New England.  So we thought maybe it’s time for an update… a rewrite… a New Hampshire Christmas carol.

We’ll skip over days twelve through eight – those all have to do with crafts people and artisans – and jump right to the important stuff – the BIRDS!

Kyle Harms, Louisianna State University

"Forest succession" is a pattern of plant regeneration that begins when a plot of land is left to its own devices. The first phase of this succession is bare soil or an abandoned field. And nature, over the span of decades, converts the area through several stages to mature forest – if left undisturbed.

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:

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.

Tiago Cabral via flickr Creative Commons

November's gray skies carry the last of the migrating Canada geese, graceful ribbons of true wild Canadians on a long-distance flight. These aren't the New England locals, flying low from golf course to cornfield.

The northerners are vocal in flight. Geese are highly social, vocal year-round as they maintain relationships both within the family grouping and the greater flock. Vocalizing by young begins within the egg before hatching, and helps build a strong family bond that lasts a full year.

Courtesy Town of Monroe

You know how New Hampshire likes to be first in the nation when it comes to politics? Well, it turns out we’re stragglers in another category: sandhill cranes. They’ve been nesting in our neighboring states of Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts, but they never went granite until this year.

Jimmy Baikovicius via flickr Creative Commons

Today’s topic is perfect for the fall season: cleaning up the leaves. Yes, it’s that time of year again, and if you hate raking as much as we do we’ve got some good news for you. It really doesn’t have to be so…well…impulsive.

Phil via flickr Creative Commons

October brings crisp air and crisp apples. An October tradition I recommend is searching for the perfect wild apple.

Admittedly, most wild apples are what's known as "spitters." Take a bite and you spit it out. That makes it all the more rewarding when you do find a pleasing one. 

Marko Kivelä via flickr Creative Commons

We love answering listener's questions and recently we received one that is a common query at both the Audubon and the Forest Society.

Why is it that some years there are tons of acorns and other years hardly any?

Something Wild: Azure Crescendo

Oct 3, 2014
Kelly Colgan Azar via flickr Creative Commons

Generations ago, when people lived closer to the natural world, more outdoors than in, mild October days were called "bluebird weather."

The eastern bluebirds' gentle, quizzical notes were familiar and their distinctive habits recognized. A bluebird family remains together this time of year when most other bird species disperse. They favor field or open habitat, and typically perch on branches at field edge when they feed.

Something Wild: Goldfinches, The Late Nesters

Sep 12, 2014
jjjj56cp via flickr Creative Commons

The bird world quiets down by late summer - but not the American goldfinch, one of the most common backyard birds. September brings the chatter of young goldfinches as they follow their male parent. They beg noisily, perched with head thrown back and trembling wings.

Most songbirds switch their diet to high-protein insects when feeding their young, and they nest earlier when insects are most bountiful. For example, chickadees that keep bird-feeders busy in winter disappear in summer as they forage for insects not birdseed.

Something Wild: Dragonflies Winging South

Aug 29, 2014
casch52 via flickr Creative Commons

Late summer brings cool nights and clear air - and winged migration. Along with birds heading south, there's a few butterfly, moth and dragonfly species that respond to the migratory urge.

One dragonfly - the common green darner - has been studied with results that suggest there's a lot of similarities between insect and bird migration. Tiny radio transmitters were attached with eyelash adhesive to green darners which were tracked by plane and ground crews.

As Fresh Fruit Ripens, Fruit Flies Multiply

Aug 8, 2014
André Karwath via flickr Creative Commons

Summertime ushers in a bevy of fresh fruit enjoy and in no time, a bevy of fruit flies. With a keen sense of smell, fruit flies hone in on a juicy cantaloupe or overripe bananas tossed on the compost pile. Although they're a pest in the kitchen, fruit flies have been a focus of research for over 100 years, and today there are hundreds of labs dedicated exclusively to studying them.

What Are Japanese Beetles Good For?

Jul 25, 2014
Kurt Andreas via flickr Creative Commons

Mid-summer brings Japanese beetles to the garden, clustering on their favorite foods: the leaves of raspberry, grape, and garden roses. In the vegetable garden, the lead shoots of pole beans are another tasty target. I know gardeners who find a daily ritual of flicking beetles into a container with water and a drop of liquid soap to be very therapeutic. Beetle demise is quick. These are people who typically release indoor spiders and wasps to the outdoors, but damage to the garden is another matter. 

A Salute To Bobolinks & Henry David Thoreau

Jul 11, 2014
Kelly Colgan Azar via flickr Creative Commons

A tumbling jumble of bird song from across the field announces the presence of bobolinks. In his journals, Henry David Thoreau quoted a Cape Cod child who asked:

"What makes he sing so sweet, Mother? Do he eat flowers?"

NH Audubon

Those of you who keep a close eye on the Peregrine Falcon cam in Manchester, will be well acquainted with the saga these birds have undergone this year. If you're not, NH Audubon's Chris Martin has a quick recap and explains the latest developments, as he bands this year's chick.

Peter Gorman via flickr Creative Commons

Deep down I think we all are instinctively foragers; a vestige of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Ripening now in meadows and along roadsides is a vegetable favored by many wild-food foragers: common milkweed. From emergent shoots on through to flowers and the formation of young pods, milkweed can be cooked and added to just about any meal.

The song of the veery is a haunting, ethereal song. Males sing at dusk, a time when not many other birds sing and daytime winds have calmed. It's also a time when the air turns damp; dense, moist air transfers sound waves better than dry air.

If you listen to the song carefully, you can hear an echo or tremolo effect (more on this below), because songbirds have, essentially, a double voice box that can produce two notes at the same time. (The left voice box is lower pitched than the right one.) In a sense, a singing veery harmonizes with itself.

The 'Dirt' On Soil

May 30, 2014
NRCS Soil Health via flickr Creative Commons

This time of year finds a lot of people working in their gardens. Good gardeners pay attention to their soil.Just like above ground, there’s a diverse world of wildlife below ground competing for space, nutrients, and performing roles that support life on Earth.

Microscopic bacteria species by the millions; root fungi that deliver nutrients to plants; worms, ants and other insects aerating the soil and adding nutrients through their droppings and—post mortem—as their bodies decay. Minerals laid down long ago are constantly breaking down through weather and erosion.

Len Peters via flickr Creative Commons

I've learned that a sighting of a bluebird on a bird watching field trip stops everything. We'll pause a long time as people take turns looking through the spotting scope. Involuntary gasps of pleasure, "oohs" and "aahs" and "ohmygods."

And Reago and Chrissy McClarren via Flickr/Creative Commons.

We went into the field this week to speak with Carol Foss, Member of the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group and NH Coordinator of the Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz

Rusty Blackbird populations have fallen over the last century: by between 80 and 90-percent. Last fall the working group decided to make careful study of the spring migration, and coordinated hundreds of volunteer scientists along the migration route to track the birds.

Alexandra MacKenzie via flickr Creative Commons

Move over robins; red-winged blackbirds are the real harbingers of spring.

The male’s scratchy “oak-a-lee” songs are heard when the world is still blanketed with snow and maple sap is just beginning to flow. Males return north well before females, and the early bird does get the worm. In this case the metaphorical worm is prime breeding territory.

Saw-Whet Owls

Apr 4, 2014
Kent McFarland via flickr Creative Commons

There are a lot of unusual sounds out there in the natural world. Here’s one from the nighttime forest, often heard this time of year.

No, it’s not a school bus backing up.

It’s a tiny owl, the northern saw-whet, and it’s a lot more common than bird surveys suggest. As you might imagine, small birds active only at night are not easy to survey. Also important to note is that because they're the favorite meal of the much larger barred owl, their survival depends on keeping a low profile—usually under cover of dense conifers.

Vernal Equinox Means Equal Night

Mar 21, 2014
Abigail via flickr Creative Commons

The Vernal Equinox has arrived! For one brief moment, everywhere on planet Earth, day and night are equal: 12 hours from sunrise to sunset and sunset to sunrise.

The length of daylight compared to dark, is known as photoperiod. Seasonal changes in photoperiod  trigger a lot of changes in plants and animals. Many plants are known as short-day species; they flower after the summer solstice when days are getting shorter. Plants that bloom in spring are known as long-day species.

The Common Junco And Its Uncommon History

Mar 7, 2014
foxtail_1 via flickr Creative Commons

A huge question in evolutionary biology is the very basic one: How do species form? It turns out that the Dark-eyed Junco, one of the most common birds at winter feeders, is providing a  clear picture of that process.

First, a quick review of what defines a species:

The Truth About Coy-Dogs

Feb 21, 2014
Jeff Wallace via flickr Creative Commons

It's the height of eastern coyote courtship, and a pair can really yip it up. Coyote sightings, as well as the sounds of coyotes often sparks talk of coy-dogs. Is there such a thing?

Yes. And no.

Yes, domestic dog and coyote hybrids are biologically possible and have occurred; but no genetic sampling of coyotes has found evidence of domestic dog. Coy-dogs don't survive, and here's why.

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