Dave Anderson

Host, Something Wild

Dave Anderson is the Director of Education and Volunteer Services for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, where he has worked for more than 19 years. He is responsible for the design and delivery of conservation education programs including field trips, tours and presentations to Forest Society members, conservation partners and the general public.

Dave guides field trips on conservation land statewide while teaching about forest ecology, wildlife ecology, forest stewardship and land conservation to introduce both life-long residents and visitors alike to protection and management of New Hampshire forests, farms and open space. His bimonthly column “Forest Journal” appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News, and his quarterly “Nature’s View” columns are a regular feature in the Forest Society’s quarterly magazine Forest Notes.

Dave lives on “Meetinghouse Hill Farm,” a 40-acre certified Tree Farm in rural South Sutton, New Hampshire. The farm includes vegetable and perennial flower gardens, laying hens, Romney sheep, fruit trees, mowed and grazed pastures and an actively-managed pine-oak-hemlock backyard woodlot.

Contact

Something Wild Program Page

Larry Lamsa via flickr Creative Commons

The autumn shorebird migration starts early. The first signs of autumn are now found moving southward along beaches and in salt marshes or high above New Hampshire's 13 miles of Atlantic coast. 

Nate via flickr Creative Commons

In August, NH towns celebrate "Old Home Days."  Forest Society founders, Frank Rollins and Nahum Batchelder conceived "Old Home Week” in 1899. It was designed to lure wealth back to NH to revitalize depressed rural economies and bring abandoned farms back onto tax rolls.

Brian Herzog via flickr Creative Commons

Ecologist, Tom Wessels instills an appreciation for stumps as an accurate record of forest history. Stumps are relatively easy to sneak up on and observe. Weathered annual tings reveal trees' age when cut. Note how the width of rings indicate variable rates of growth. To ascertain when a tree was cut, you need to age trees that regenerated on a site. Some stumps last decades. Hardwood stumps of broad-leaf deciduous trees--beech, birch, maple, ash---are rot prone. Stumps decay quickly and uniformly in about 25 years. 

Karla Salathe

You need no special excuse to seek cool water on a hot summer day. Water lilies provide a perfect mid-summer setting to explore the specialized role of aquatic plants in NH ponds and wetlands. Paddlers and shoreline hikers alike admire scented, floating flowers of water lilies blooming in July. Fragrant yellow and white blossoms seem lotus-like amid a raft of floating lily pads atop shallow freshwater ponds.

Brian Hoffman via flickr Creative Commons

If today's installment of Something Wild fell to my NH Audubon cohorts, it would be easy to feature our national symbol, the Bald Eagle--perfect for patriotic Fourth of July! Instead, "NH Forest Guy" wracks his brain to make a tree connection to our nation's birthday. All I could come up with is that bottle rockets are affixed to wooden sticks and that firecrackers and other pyrotechnics are constructed and packaged using cardboard and paper--all derived from tree. No trees? No fireworks!

Today is the last lengthening day of the year. Tomorrow - Summer Solstice - is the first full day of summer. Hooray! In that sense, today is the "end of the beginning" while tomorrow marks the "beginning of the end."

Author with an old beech tree.

“Senescent” comes from “senile” – the aging process. The word is disconcerting as we prepare for the summer wedding of my eldest daughter. She wants to start her family… becoming a grandfather is now inevitable. It’s shocking.

Water In The Trees

May 23, 2014
Dave Anderson

The patter of rain. Fingers of wind comb the canopy of tender leaves. These are exotic sounds of the new tree canopy in late May. New Hampshire forests are adapted to withstand rigors of wind and weather. Leaf structures reflect inner tree plumbing we rarely consider.

Tubes of the water-moving "xylem" are coiled like springs that stretch and recoil to some degree and not break the tension of water in these drinking straws.  Stem fibers of differing lengths break at different stress points

Favorite Phoebe Nest

May 9, 2014
Dave Anderson

A little phoebe nest is tucked beneath the rafters in my backyard woodshed like a miniature wreath. It’s a curious little relic to behold during those long, cold snowy weeks of hauling winter cordwood. By May, it once more cradles eggs and tiny nestlings.

The elegant little nest cup is woven of green moss, lined with pine needles and dried grass and cemented with warm mud. During winter, that Phoebe’s nest carries the promise of time travel to these fleeting mornings of early May when warm sunshine drenches the Lane River Valley - already now awash in spring bird songs.

Tiny Tree Flowers

Apr 25, 2014

Spring blossoms of our largest plants - woody trees - are small and inconspicuous. Trees flower early - before leaves emerge. While showy wildflowers on the forest floor rely on specialized insect pollinators, forest trees do not.

Trees rely on wind-pollination of flowers to yield summer seeds and autumn nuts. Flowering before leaves emerge ensures greater air circulation among pollen-producing male stamens and female pistils containing ovaries.

Paul-W, Flikr Creative Commons

Delicate wildflowers poke through a dry, mat of last autumn's leaves pressed paper thin by the weight of a now-vanished snow pack.

Wildflower strategy is: bloom early, grow quickly in late spring and then die back. These "spring ephemerals" create an elegant spring nutrient dam, locking-up important soil nutrients otherwise washed-away by snowmelt or rain. When flowers die-back in summer shade, they release nutrients back to the roots of trees above.

Spring Sunlight

Apr 11, 2014
Dave Anderson

Daylight floods a rural NH valley. A rooster crows in the village. The morning songbird chorus features mourning doves, red-wing blackbirds, a cardinal. The symphony will soon swell with grouse drumming, wood thrush flutes and a crescendo of warbler songs.

Strong sunlight of lengthening days is the catalyst that controls circadian rhythms influencing production of hormones - in birds, wild mammals and people.

The Sugaring Life

Mar 28, 2014
Charlie Kellogg via flickr Creative Commons

 Maple time in New England brings out the essence of the trees and the character in the people. For those who love trees, a tongue-tip taste of fresh maple syrup is a sacrament, maple communion at the end of a long winter. To ingest the distilled essence of trees confers the spirit of the forest itself.

elPadawan via flickr Creative Commons

For some plants, the race to harvest sunlight to make food starts early, in March. Skunk cabbage and many alpine plants begin to photosynthesize under the snow using red "anthocyanin" pigments which can absorb the longer-wavelength blue light at the ultra-violet end of the spectrum--even while buried beneath the snow. 

Judy van der Velden via flickr Creative Commons

Wait! Don't wish this winter away...not yet.

Before dirty, old snow banks rot and melt onto sun-warmed pavement; before sweet steam of maple sugaring or green thoughts at St. Patrick's Day; remember one perfect day, when winter took your breath away.

Mark-Spokes.com via flickr Creative Commons

If Valentine's Day alone were not a slippery slope, consider this question: Muskrat Love?

Science long taught its practitioners--biologists in particular--to avoid ascribing human emotions or attributes to animals. But are we not animals ourselves? For the past century, animals were afforded no emotions despite exhibitions of behaviors humans recognize as emotional: anger, revenge, fear, and love.

Tom Petrus via flickr Creative Commons

Got snow? That's probably a sore subject for many in New England this time of year, but in the woods, snow is not an enemy--a scourge to be shoveled, scraped and plowed out of the way. In nature, snow is a trusted ally to plants and wildlife. Snow acts as a blanket, a source of camouflage, a form of concealment,  and even a sponge. 

Charles Brutlag / Dreamstime.com

In the frozen fastness of a winter forest, devoid of green plants and insects, winter tree bark provides important winter insect habitat and a food pantry for forest birds and small mammals hunting for tiny insects or seeds.

Tracy Lee Carroll

Even as we stare down the barrel of the coldest, darkest days of early January, the earliest signs of spring will soon begin anew - even before the first mail-order seed catalogs arrive.  Early harbingers of this new natural year are subtle. Spring renewal begins with hardy birds that remain winter residents, those species best-adapted to our northern winters.

Ancient tree-worshipers – Druids - believed mistletoe possessed magical powers because it grows high in bare oaks, shedding lush green leaves even in midwinter. Druids harvested mistletoe to hang in households to promote fertility. Translation of the folklore over centuries creates the holiday custom of hanging mistletoe to elicit a Christmas kiss.

Rick Ganley

Why do products cloak themselves in natural imagery and metaphor? The auto industry has long co-opted Nature nouns: Falcons, Jaguars, Cougars, Impalas, Mustangs and Rams…

Stefan Berkner, Flickr Creative Commons

On a rare warm-for-late-November afternoon, a tiny cloud of swarming insects dances in a slanting sunbeam – tiny midges!

Late autumn midge swarms are the last free-flying insects following hard freezes. They emerge for one last dance in fading sunlight just before the entire insect “Queendom” collapses under snow as the natural year closes.

Midges comprise a huge group of insects with estimates of more than 10,000 species worldwide.

Julie Blaustein / Flickr Creative Commons

November becomes fitful; restless. Its moods teeter toward somber: steely-gray or blue and cold.  Even under fair skies, low-angle sunlight triggers some ancestral longing – winter is coming and pantries, root cellars and woodsheds should be chock-full.

Traditionally, November was the time for butchering livestock. Indoors, it remains “kitchen season.” The Thanksgiving holiday is a time to cook and eat - and then yawn and nap. Outdoors, it’s “forest season” custom-made for cutting wood or deer hunting at classic rustic, North Country hunting camps.

Courtesy photo: Kevin Martin, NH Big Tree Program

Do you know New Hampshire is home to seven national champion “Big Trees?” These are the largest examples of their species discovered nationwide. New Hampshire hosts the largest black locust, mountain-ash, pitch pine, eastern white pine, black spruce, staghorn sumac and black birch in the entire US. They’re among 760 champion trees documented by The NH Big Tree Program.

A recent American Forests magazine featured NH's Big Tree program and highlighted efforts by dedicated volunteers searching for the biggest trees in the state. 

hynkle via Flickr Creative Commons

For homeowners, the floating, spinning or tumbling tree seeds that collect on lawns, patios, gutters and driveways require raking or sweeping. Those "pesky" shade trees! Yet consider the tremendous wildlife food source and genetic wealth that seed crops represent, particularly cyclical acorn crops in NH!

Peter Gray / NH Audubon

Twenty five years ago, bald eagles and peregrine falcons were struggling to return from the brink of extinction.  A handful of outdated surveys were all that existed to assess the location and condition of most wildlife species.  Conservationists and biologists from New Hampshire Audubon, the State, and universities raised the call to "do something!"

Fallen Apples

Sep 13, 2013
(Photo by Sebastian Droge via Flickr Creative Commons)

Robert Frost's apple poem "Unharvested" begins: 

A scent of ripeness from over a wall.
And come to leave the routine road
And look for what had made me stall,
There sure enough was an apple tree
That had eased itself of its summer load,
And of all but its trivial foliage free…

Yellow Jacket Season

Aug 30, 2013
Ross and Lori Reed via Flickr

Forests are often bone dry at the end of the hot summer. When dusty leaves of poison ivy and wild grape vines display the first crimson tinge of fall, underground “yellow-jacket” hornet nests reach their maximum annual size and ferocity beneath brushy fields and woodlands.

The papery hornet nests are packed with nutritious, fat and protein-rich larvae. The grubs are defended aggressively by agitated worker hornets that will soon lie dead after the first hard freeze.

Brenda Charpentier

It's the most unusually-shaped trees in the forest that fire the human imagination. After all, the misshapen, warped, multi-trunked, split and hollowed trees have long been favored as homes by woodland cartoon figments: elves, dwarfs and ogres - not to mention Pooh bears, Piglets and wise old owls.

Carrie Deegan via NH Forest Society

Mount Monadnock is allegedly the most-climbed mountain in the western hemisphere. Recently, I attended Monadnock Trail Week event from July 12th to 16th at Mount Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey, Marlborough and Dublin. The Forest Society and N.H. State Parks staff invite volunteers to help restore degraded sections of the heavily used hiking trails during this annual five day event.

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