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.


Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
New Hampshire Audubon

Ways To Connect

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.

How Many Birds?

Apr 5, 2013
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!

Unique Nests

Mar 22, 2013
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.

High Perch: Peregrines Nesting In The City

Mar 8, 2013
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

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.

The Maligned Fisher

Feb 22, 2013

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.

New Study: Cats Kill Birds, A Lot of Birds

Feb 8, 2013
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!

Ravens Are Playful And Smart

Jan 22, 2013
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 Common Raven Is Exceptional

Jan 11, 2013

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."

Crossbills Coming to NH?

Dec 28, 2012

A poor cone crop in Canada this year is driving crossbills south of the border in search of food.

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.

Ennor, Flickr Creative Commons

I love the longest night of the year on December 21st more than the longest day of the year on June 21st. Winter Solstice is like the night before Christmas, filled with anticipation and expectation. While huddled in dark woods around my solstice bonfire, the earliest glimmer of returning sunlight is made real. the days grow longer and the promise of impeding spring somehow trumps this newborn winter reality. From this day hence, days grow longer, brighter and eventually warmer until June 21st. Today, we begin that climb.

Gifts for the Budding Naturalist

Dec 14, 2012

As the year draws to a close, it's a great time to reflect on Rachel Carson's Silent Spring once more. 2012 marks the books 50th anniversary. The book encouraged many young naturalists and, with the holidays approaching, we've come up with two gifts to further one's love of nature: a pair of binoculars and a bird guide.

Selbe B via Flickr Creative Commons

According to the National Christmas Tree Growers Association, buying a natural, farm-grown Christmas tree is a traditional custom for up to 30 million American families who celebrate the holidays with the fragrance and beauty of locally-raised, farm-grown Christmas trees. Today, the majority of Christmas trees are plantation-grown. There are an estimated 350 million Christmas trees growing nationwide.

Birds of a Feather

Nov 30, 2012
Ken Sturm/USFWS

Taxonomy is the attempt to place all plant and animal species in a logical order based on relationship. Two thousand years ago. Aristotle classified birds by appearance and behavior, such as birds that swim, birds of prey, and birds that sing.

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.

Wild Cranberry Relish

Nov 16, 2012

For the forager of wild foods, November brings cranberries, crisp and tart to suit the season. Cranberries are a wetlands obligate, meaning they grow in wetland soils, so keep a watch for these low, trailing plants when you're out exploring river edges and soggy lowlands. And then return in November for the harvest. Many berries survive through the winter freeze to provide a spring snack.

We were all duped by media reports this summer that NH had exceeded Maine for the highest percentage of forest cover in the US. Apparently, we're just not "seeing the forest for the trees." 

A classic “apples to oranges” comparison reported New Hampshire’s “89% tree cover” now qualifies us as the “most-forested” state in the nation.

FACT #1: A USDA Northern Forest Research and Syracuse University study determined NH tree cover is 89% - and yes, that is higher overall than Maine’s percent tree cover.

What's Good for the Goose

Nov 2, 2012
Daniel D'Auria

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.