Something Wild

Fridays at 8:45 am

Credit Roger Goun for NHPR

Something Wild explores the features of our local landscapes, from birds to trees to stone walls, and explains some of the behavior and science behind what we see and hear in our backyards.

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IN PARTNERSHIP WITH:

Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
New Hampshire Audubon

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Something Wild
12:41 am
Fri May 30, 2014

The 'Dirt' On Soil

Credit 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.

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Something Wild
9:28 am
Fri May 23, 2014

Water In The Trees

A yellow birch "leaking" water.
Credit 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

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Something Wild
5:59 am
Fri May 16, 2014

A Soft Spot For Bluebirds

Credit 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."

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Something Wild
5:57 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Favorite Phoebe Nest

Old Phoebe nest.
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.

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Something Wild
12:56 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Tracking Rusty Blackbirds

The Rusty Blackbird.
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.

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Something Wild
6:28 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Tiny Tree Flowers

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.

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Something Wild
12:00 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Red-Winged Blackbirds

A red-winged blackbird showing off his flare.
Credit 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.

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Something Wild
12:00 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Spring Sunlight

Credit 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.

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Something Wild
3:33 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Manchester Peregrine Finds New Mate

Male peregrine, banded by Chris in 2000. He was found with a broken wing and has been taken in for surgery and rehabilitation.
Credit Chris Martin / NHA

On Monday, the Union Leader reported that the peregrine family nesting high above Manchester had found a new papa bird. After her previous mate injured his wing and was taken in for surgery, the female falcon eventually left the nest in search of food. Within 72 hours of her former mate's disappearance, she successfully found a new male for her nest.

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Something Wild
12:00 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Saw-Whet Owls

Northern saw-whet owl.
Credit 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.

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Something Wild
12:00 am
Fri March 28, 2014

The Sugaring Life

Credit 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.

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Something Wild
12:00 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Vernal Equinox Means Equal Night

Sunset over Mt. Major.
Credit 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.

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Something Wild
12:00 am
Fri March 14, 2014

For Some Plants, Getting Green Means Starting Early

Snowdrops in snow.
Credit 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. 

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Something Wild
12:00 am
Fri March 7, 2014

The Common Junco And Its Uncommon History

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:

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Something Wild
12:00 am
Fri February 28, 2014

In Appreciation Of Winter

Credit 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.

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