Something Wild

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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

While following deer trails in snow you'll find pellets of scat and tufts of hair – coarse grey and white hair, hollow in cross-section. A more coveted souvenir are "sheds” – cast-off antlers.

After breeding ends in December, deer antlers loosen at the base. Once-formidable weapons of territorial defense drop with testosterone levels in January. The shed antlers cast by bucks and bull moose each winter are often promptly buried by snow.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Something Wild: Comments On Mt. Monadnock

Sep 19, 2014
Nate McBean via flickr Creative Commons

 

This stream-of-consciousness postcard was assembled from random entries in the Marlboro Trail hiker register on Mount Monadnock, most-climbed mountain in the Western Hemisphere. A year of scrawled fragments…

Winter:

  • Happy New Year!
  • Today is my half-birthday!
  • Lost crampons on hike, if found please call…
  • Played hooky from work, a great choice.
  • Made pee-pee in the woods! 
  • Happy Spring!

Spring:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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