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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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." 

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.

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.

Lillian Stokes

How many bird species might an attentive backyard birdwatcher, or "birder", find?

The term "backyard" means any nearby open space, such as a stream corridor or an open field with forest edge. The more habitat types a backyard has, the better.

Don and Lillian Stokes, of Hancock, NH, have a backyard that includes the Contoocook River, a distant ridgeline, open field, wetlands, and forest, not to mention many birdfeeders and birdhouses to attract their feathered friends. Like many active birders, they keep a backyard list of their sightings from over the years.

Solar Salamanders

Mar 29, 2013
NH Fish & Game

The online blog “Zoo-logger” reports on “solar powered” spotted salamanders, an amphibian common to New Hampshire and migrating soon to a vernal pool near you!

nottsexminer / Flickr/Creative Commons

A bird can be identified by the different splashes of color on its feathers, or its distinct call, but did you know that you can also tell a bird by the way it builds its nest, even if it's empty?

Just as birds in all their variety evolved from the very first species, their nests have evolved in equal variety over millions of years. Every bird builds a nest unique to its species.

The January issue of Atlantic Monthly online reported a curious connection between the death of 100 million ash trees killed after the arrival of the invasive, exotic “Emerald Ash borer” beetle in lower Michigan to an ensuing spike in rates of human heart disease and pulmonary illness including pneumonia.

Chris Martin / NHA

The peregrine falcon: Fierce, fast, high cliff dweller, symbol of the wild. All true, but increasingly peregrines can be found inhabiting urban canyons of concrete and steel.

Greg Clark, via mirror-pole.com

Welcome to March! If you walk in the forest this week, you might detect the song of a non-descript little brown bird called the "brown creeper." 

Brown creepers are hard to see. Their habit is to creep upward on tree trunks, often in spiral fashion remaining well-hidden. It sports mottled "tree-bark pattern" camouflage.

ForestWander.com

The "fisher cat": ferocious predator of house cats whose bloodcurdling screams pierce the dark of night. Facts about this one wildlife species have mutated a long way into fiction. For starters, fishers are members of the weasel family—not feline. Properly referred to, they're "fishers," not "fisher cats." 

As for all the house cats they're thought to kill, here's what a NH Fish and Game species account says:

The latter half of February begins the onset of peak breeding season for many furbearers and rodents. At Valentine's Day, tracks in the snow increase exponentially as wild mammals seek available mates.

pjsixft / Flickr/Creative Commons

There's new and unsettling information about domestic cats. A study just published (full study here) estimates cats kill between 1 and 4 billion birds each year in the U.S. That's an average of over three million birds each day.

via steveissak, Flickr Creative Commons

This humble, sleepy animal annually thrust into the glare of a thousand camera flashes in Pennsylvania by otherwise rational men wearing stovepipe hats has many different common names: Woodchuck, Groundhog, Whistling pig and Marmot. It’s actually the largest member of the squirrel family found in New England, related closely to western marmots.

The etymology of the name “woodchuck” is unrelated to "wood" or to "chucking." The name stems from its Algonquian origins or possibly Cree Indian name: "Wu-chak".

Two Sides To A Thaw

Jan 25, 2013

Depending on winter severity, the annual "January thaw" offers a brief, welcome reprieve for a few days in late January. While never guaranteed, the phenomenon creates a brief yet important window of opportunity for wildlife - even insects!

Yeliseev / Flickr Creative Commons

  

Among the many stories about the intelligence of ravens, and their playfulness is one from Mount Monadnock. As the sun was setting a hiker shared the mountaintop with a gang of ravens taking turns leaping  into a strong updraft, tumbling up, then circling around to leap again.

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.

via sogrady, Flickr Creative Commons

Experts estimate 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. The majority of New England stonewalls were built between 1810 and 1840. Naturalist, Tom Wessels refers to these decades when forests were cleared to pastures enclosed by stonewalls as "Sheep Fever." He calculates the mass of stone in walls to be greater than the Great Pyramids of Egypt suggesting stonewalls should rightfully be considered "the eighth wonder of the world."

Pages