Something Wild

Fridays at 8:35 am

For nearly 20 years, Something Wild has explored the wonder that is the landscape that surrounds us in New Hampshire. From the many birds that call our state home to the trees around New Hampshire that have been granted "Big Trees" status to stone walls that perforate the state, we explain the behavior and science behind what we see and hear and might take for granted in our backyards.

Seeing something new on your favorite hike, or wondering about something mundane at your bird feeder? Drop us a question and we'll tell you Something Wild!

Something Wild is hosted by Dave Anderson and Chris Martin; and produced by Andrew Parrella.

Click here to get our podcast on iTunes.

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH:

Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
New Hampshire Audubon

Ways to Connect

No one knows better than teachers how quickly a bug, once introduced, can take hold. We’re not just talking about head colds and stomach viruses. Today on Something Wild we’re taking a look at how biologists are first bitten.

Chris Shadler

Chris Schadler is a wild canid biologist, and for about 25 years, her specialty has been the coyote. The first confirmed case of coyotes in New Hampshire was an individual found in a trap in Holderness in the mid 1940s. But they have likely been here longer, because as Schadler points out, they didn’t parachute into Holderness, they will have migrated south from Canada.

Courtesy of New Hampshire Audubon

Fisher populations are down, there’s consensus among wildlife biologists at least about that. But why that is happening is open to debate, as is what to do about it. 

Something Wild sat down with a couple of wildlife biologists recently who disagree; Meade Cadot, former Executive Director of the Harris Center for Conservation Education, and Patrick Tate, leader of the state’s fur-bearer project for NH Fish and Game.

Outward_bound via Flickr

Bobcats have been all over the news lately. It's kind of amazing to think that 30 years ago wildlife biologists estimated there were only 150 bobcats in New Hampshire. That's not the case anymore - their numbers are now estimated to be around 1400! How did these cats make such an impressive recovery?

Martina Oefelein via Flickr CC

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.

Chuck Burgess via Flickr

Here at Something Wild, we don’t have a problem with winter. Aside from the snow and the cold and the freezing rain… okay, maybe we have a couple issues. But we have sweaters and hot cocoa and Netflix. Trees, however, do not. As the snow piles up, you may see trees bent over with their crowns nearly touching the ground, leafless and haggard. They can’t escape or hide from the cold, so how do trees survive?

 

Courtsy Seabrooke Leckie via Flickr/Creative Commons.

New Hampshire’s Pack Monadnock is one of the best places in the state for hawk watch.

Courtsey mgstanton via Flickr/Creative Commons.

Water is what has allowed life to generate and regenerate on this tiny blue marble of ours. Most of us would shrivel up and blow away without a water supply. And yet every year at this time water becomes scarce, surface water anyway. So the question is what happens when that water freezes. 

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!

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.

Recently the Something Wild team went for a hike. One thing to bear in mind when walking with knowledgeable biologists like Chris and Dave, is that hikes take longer than they might if you were walking on your own. 

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.

Michael Webber via Flickr CC

Black bears are as much a part of New Hampshire as fall foliage and stone walls, nevertheless they are a misunderstood species. To better understand the species, we wanted to talk to a bear, the closest thing we could get was Ben Kilham. And that’s pretty close, which is evident when you meet him. He’s over six-feet tall and moves with a slow ambling gait. His ursine tendencies aren’t surprising when you consider Kilham’s been studying and living with black bears for nearly 25 years.

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.

Anderson/SPNHF

We don't often think of trees when we speak of "harvest." Corn is harvested; apples, tomatoes, squash are the fruits of the annual autumnal rite which is the province of our farmers. Maybe it's because those plants are harvested at the end of their lifespan that we don't lament the moment they are cut down. We're much more precious with our trees.

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”.

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.  

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