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.


Something Wild Program Page

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.  

Lorianne DiSabato via Flickr/Creative Commons

The ubiquitous stone walls of New Hampshire often seem to melt into the landscape, becoming transparent as we drive/bike/run/hike/ski through the terrain they once sought to divide.

Some estimates suggest that by 1871 there were more 250,000 miles of stonewalls throughout in New England and New York—enough to circle the earth ten times. Most of which were built between 1810 and 1840.

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!

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:

Internet Archive via flickr Creative Commons

Thanksgiving leftovers in my kitchen include Chinese chestnut-stuffing. Most people know that our American chestnut trees were decimated by an Asian fungus detected in 1904 that killed untold billions of trees and wiped-out one of the most common and most important lumber and wildlife trees from eastern forests before 1940.

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.

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.

Chris Schrier via flickr Creative Commons

Forget about spooky black cats, witches, ghosts and goblins; think about what happens to your pumpkin.

Halloween is indeed well-timed to the season of conspicuous death and decay. Forget about spooky black cats, witches, ghosts and goblins! Instead think about what happens to Jack 'O Lantern left to itself over the next several months…

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.

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?

Seek New Travel via flickr Creative Commons

Something in the sudden acute awareness of slanting, September sunlight, standing amid fallen crimson maple leaves and with long-faded hopes for a Red Sox pennant bid aggravates my annual autumn lament. Despite fall foliage which will again be absolutely gorgeous, I remain vexed.

There are only two seasons: "summer waxing" and "summer waning." The former runs January to June. The latter opens at the dying echoes of Fourth of July Fireworks and extends through December.

Marko Kivelä via flickr Creative Commons


While hiking on Mount Monadnock this summer, I witnessed an odd phenomenon: nearly-motionless hovering insects with orange-yellow stripes over a dark body suggesting wasps or bees. The tight aerial formation of insects hovered at eye level in a shaft of sunlight over the trail.

The “Hover Flies” - sometimes called “Flower Flies” - belong to a LARGE group in the Order “Diptera” (the true flies). Those in the Family “Syrphidae” have only one pair of wings. All wasps and bees have two pairs of wings.

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.