Something Wild

Fridays at 8:45 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 and Ross Boyd.

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

Beauty In The November Grays

Oct 31, 2013
Creative Common/Flickr Cape Cod Cyclist

Robert Frost ended a short poem on life and nature with the line, "Nothing gold can stay." October has ended after delivering golden fall days that make us regret the indoor tendencies of our lives. Stark November is at the doorstep now. We reacquaint ourselves with ridge-lines visible through bare trees and with stone walls along fields cleared and worked in a time when days were spent more outdoors than in. 

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. 

The Turkey Vulture

Oct 18, 2013
Flikr/Creative Commons, K Schneider

October 18 is the Full Hunter's Moon, and heading south now are hunters of a different sort: turkey vultures, scavengers that feed on carrion.

Unlike other birds, this species has a uniquely developed sense of smell that guides them to their next meal. Weak fliers, turkey vultures are skilled at hitching rides on air currents. Rarely flapping, they hold their wings in a V angle and wobble a bit while gliding. Because of their large size, they're often misidentified as eagles, but eagles power along, strong and steady in flight, never tipsy.

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!

Marking The Seasons With Hawks...And Apples

Oct 4, 2013
NH Audubon

At Carter Hill Orchard in Concord, the changing varieties of ripe apples measure out the transition of summer into autumn. Early Paula Reds, which ripen in August, give way to tart McIntoshes, juicy Macouns, and sweet Cortlands, as September wears on.  By early October, yellowed leaves and frosty mornings signal late-season apples with appropriate names: Gibson Golden and Honey Crisp. 

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!"

Where Have All The Monarchs Gone?

Sep 20, 2013
Creative Commons/Rachel Ford James

A lot of people are asking this question, concerned at the diminished numbers of this most charismatic butterfly.  Not many schoolchildren this fall will be able to watch caterpillar transform into chrysalis and then glorious adult—metamorphosis in action.

Monarchs are celebrated for their fall migration to Mexico, but the population that spends the wintering there is experiencing a decline. In fact, this past winter it was the lowest on record.

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…

Nature's Obligate Relationships

Sep 6, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

It is the height of monarch butterfly season in New Hampshire. Though fewer migrants have returned this year. They're producing the generation that will undertake one of the most impressive migrations: two-thousand miles to overwinter in Mexico.

Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of many different flowers but require very specific plants when laying their eggs. Eggs hatch into caterpillars that feed only on the leaves of particular species.

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.

Howl of the Wild

Aug 23, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

During the late summer and fall, coyotes really "yip it up." Despite what you can learn on Youtube, their yips and howls are family communications that have nothing to do with bloodthirsty predators circling for the kill. 
 

The eastern coyote pack is small: an adult pair and their young. The youngsters are venturing out on their own now and adults howl to round them up. When on the prowl for food, silence is the code—which makes sense—but reuniting often inspires prolonged vocal celebrations. 

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.

Pam Hunt; NH Audubon

We’re standing up to our shins in Turkey Pond, on a warm July morning with Pam Hunt, a biologist with New Hampshire Audubon who has spent the last five years organizing, in conjunction with NH Fish and Game, the New Hampshire Dragonfly Survey. Hunt trained about a hundred volunteers to gather data and help map the distribution of dragonflies across the state. 

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.

The Company Of Cuckoos

Jul 26, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

Elusive, secretive birds often are the most satisfying to discover, and for me the black-billed cuckoo ranks near the top. Hearing a bird is usually the best way to find it, but attentive ears are needed to detect this cuckoo's song: a subtle, slow and hollow-sounding "cucucu – cucucucu." The song in no way resembles the bold double notes of a cuckoo clock that mimic the song of the common cuckoo, a species that nests across Europe and Asia.

One more reason to be thankful, New Hampshire: we did NOT experience the periodic cicada invasion this summer. You've likely heard about the mass synchronized emergence of billions of periodic cicadas this summer across the Eastern Seaboard from Virginia north to New Jersey, New York and as far as northern Connecticut - NOT New Hampshire.

Fireflies-- Beyond the Magic

Jul 12, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

The twinkling fireflies of a summer night bring a little magic. If we think beyond the twinkling, we probably realize it is courtship in progress: the signals of males and females.

There are a couple dozen firefly species in New England, each with a unique series of flashes, from males in flight to females perched below. Beyond the magic, very few people have knowledge of the medical benefits as well: the use of a firefly's light-producing chemicals in bioluminescent imaging.

Wikimedia Commons

Here's a dubious Granite State superlative: New Hampshire has the third highest incidence of Lyme disease in the country following Delaware and Connecticut!

Southern New Hampshire is prime tick habitat. Deer ticks - not dog ticks - are THE vector for human Lyme disease. Two-toned solid colored deer ticks, also called "black-legged ticks" are smaller than familiar mottled brown dog ticks.

Marsupial On The Move

Jun 28, 2013
Bob Peterson / Wikimedia Commons

New Hampshire is home to the Virginia opossum, our country's one-and-only marsupial.

As a marsupial, an opossum's development takes place ex utero in the mother's pouch instead of in utero, as placental mammals do.

Opossums are a backyard species, but because they are nocturnal, casual sightings are rare. More often, they will be seen as roadkill--an unfortunate consequence of being an urban, slow-moving animal.

blmiers2 via Flickr Creative Commons

Welcome summer! Today is "Summer Solstice" - the annual crest of sunlight when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky is "solar maximum."  Imagine for a moment the green living infrastructure of our planet as a vast industrial factory seasonally producing carbohydrates and oxygen… call it a "manufacturing plant" if you will.

Ladies First: Role Reversals Of Spotted Sandpipers

Jun 14, 2013
Kenneth Cole Schneider / Flickr/Creative Commons

From shores of wild waterways to not-so-wild urban ponds, a small bird startles up and flies low over the water with quick, stiff wingbeats.
 

It's a spotted sandpiper, a small shorebird often encountered along freshwater shorelines.

Shorebirds come in all sizes, and spotted sandpipers are in the short, stocky category. Despite coloring that blends well with sand and rocks, there's a movement that often gives spotted sandpipers away: they bob up and down as though seized by intense hiccups. When stalking prey, however, their teetering stops.

A Babe in the Woods

Jun 7, 2013
the-whitetail-deer.com

White-tailed deer give birth to cryptic-colored, white-spotted fawns by early June in New Hampshire. Does typically give birth to twins, rarely triplets.  More single fawns are born to younger does, or in years of harsh winter weather with deep snow.   Does choose a secluded and yet open area to birth while scanning for any approaching danger.

Small Bird, Big Song

May 31, 2013
Shanthanu Bhardwaj / Flickr/Creative Commons

As spring moves into summer, birdsong is in full voice. The winter wren, weighing only one third of an ounce, is tiny in stature but boasts an energetic song made up of over 100 individual notes.

Why such a big song from such a small bird? The winter wren makes its home among root tangles and boulders, and unlike birds of open spaces, birds particular to dense, enclosed spaces need a strong song to have it carry far.

Forest Society

Memorial Day Weekend is late for trees to unfurl tiny, tender pale green leaves. Yet trees growing at the highest altitudes of our State's White Mountain National Forest are among the last to leaf-out each spring.

Hikers are familiar with a curious phenomenon only conspicuous in late spring and again during autumn foliage season: faint diagonal stripes - like a barber pole - appear on forested flanks of many White Mountain peaks.

We tagged along with Diane DeLuca, a biologist with NH Audubon on her rounds of the Deering Wildlife Sanctuary. DeLuca has been working on their Phenological Monitoring Pilot Project, and defines phenology as "the study of 'phenophases', which are the different phases that plants and animals go through in their life cycle each year." 

Birdsong, Translated

May 17, 2013
Ashour Rehana / Flickr/Creative Commons

With birds tuning up for the breeding season ahead, here are some memory tricks to help you recognize a few of the more common songs.

Robins can be heard in just about all habitats across the state and the nation. Their whistled song is often translated as, "Cheer-up. Cheerily. Cheerio."

Another song easy to "translate" is the flight song of goldfinches. Someone somewhere interpreted it as, "Potato chip! Potato chip!"    

Marsh Marigold

May 10, 2013
Dave Anderson

Among the most conspicuous wildflowers of early May, my favorite is a native wetland plant, the yellow so-called “Marsh Marigold.” It’s also called “American cowslip” and is always found blooming early in marshes, roadside ditches, fens and wet woodlands and at watery edges of damp pastures.

Marsh marigold is a hardy, native perennial. It’s considered to be one of the ancestral plants of the northern latitudes. It’s thought to have thrived in torrents of post-glacial melt-water following the last “glaciation” in the northern hemisphere.

Shell Game / Flickr/Creative Commons

  One of the rituals I shared with my children when they were growing up was stalking woodcocks during their spring courtship display. I guess I was sort of emulating a hero of mine named Aldo Leopold.

At twilight on April evenings, the woodcocks perform what naturalist Aldo Leopold described as "The Sky Dance" in an essay of the same title from his book A Sand Country Almanac, it's a sort of Bible for conservationists.

If It Sounds Like A Duck...Might Be A Frog

Apr 19, 2013
ckaiserca / Flickr/Creative Commons

If you're out for a walk this month, and you hear something that sounds like ducks quacking, don't expect to see ducks. The call of a male wood frog fools a lot of people. The all-male frog chorus is revving up now, and wood frog males are the first to announce their availability to females.

Forest Pharmacy

Apr 12, 2013
Forest Society

The Chairman of the Society of Forest Medicine at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, Japan Dr. Qing Li, studies nature’s effect on the human immune system. A person’s natural immune cells called “NK cells” can be reliably measured in a lab. NK cells function like white blood cells to increase resistance to illness including cancer by sending self-destruct messages to tumors and virus-infected cells. Stress, aging and pesticides reduce NK counts.

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