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

Not So Common Nighthawks

Aug 10, 2012

In mid-August, one of the most elegant and least known migration flights begins. Common nighthawks, a long-distance migrant, are one of the earliest to depart their northern breeding grounds. Despite their species name, they aren't hawks and they aren't nocturnal. And, alas, they no longer are common. Nighthawks are crepuscular, a great word for the handful of species that are most active at dawn and dusk.

WBUR

Mid-summer is not too soon to think about heating next winter. By August, forest trees are beginning to prepare for the coming winter. With recent attention to the importance of local food production, we should consider ways to meet our heating needs using local wood energy.

The World Brought Close

Jul 27, 2012

A Something Wild listener recently asked for a recommendation for binoculars—preferably in the low- to medium-price range. It's a great subject. My favorite word heard on field trips is "Ohmygod," an exclamation involuntarily emitted when someone sees a bird or butterfly—or just about anything—up close through good binoculars.

Natural Design

Jul 20, 2012

We continue to evolve and learn from Nature itself. The Missoula Montana-based "Biomimicry Institute" promotes the study and integration of natural design principles and serves as a resource for students and researchers through workshops and curricula.

Bio-mimicry adapts natural systems which have evolved over 3.8 billion years of evolution to create more sustainable human technologies. Elegant and functional designs found in Nature have been used to create structures, complex machines, electronics and even transportation and communication networks.

An Expected Newcomer

Jul 13, 2012

There's a newcomer in New Hampshire, a bird that's wild and prehistoric in looks and sound. The bugling of sandhill cranes is common in Wisconsin and Michigan where their numbers have rebounded from near eradication some 70 years ago. That rebound—from the low hundreds to over 50,000 today—has likely led to a range expansion eastward to New England. There's 11 known pairs breeding in Maine, and a few in Massachusetts, Vermont and New York. Surely New Hampshire is next.

The Changing Forest

Jul 6, 2012

A recent 10-year update to US Forest Service “Forest Inventory and Analysis” data reveals that New Hampshire now has a slightly higher percentage - 85% of the state now forested. Yet just as our human population is aging – a so-called “Silver Tsunami” – our forests are likewise aging.  More than half the timberland in NH - 57% percent - is older than sixty-one years old.

The All-American Lawn

Jun 28, 2012

Come the weekend, it's time to tend the All-American Lawn; time to fire up the  mowers and weed whackers. Lawns need a lot of tending because they go against a basic law of nature: biodiversity, the ever-changing, dynamic system of plants and animals, flora and fauna.

Threats to forest health from three exotic insect pests including Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, Asian Longhorn Beetle and Emerald Ash Borer loom large over the vast forests of NH. The veritable insect rogues gallery is at our doorstep after killing trees in nearby states.

Dandy Dandelions

Jun 15, 2012

You've got to hand it to dandelions. They're transplants from Europe that have adapted and spread very, very well. Anyone who has tried to pry dandelions loose from lawn or garden knows they have a long tap root. Leave any root segment and the plant will rise again. 

A surge in occurrence of Lyme disease is predicted for the Eastern U.S. three years after bumper acorn crops in 2009 and 2010 and following virtually NO acorns last autumn in 2011. Why is that? How do acorn crops influence rates of human illness? 

Oak forests demonstrate the ecological ripple effects when bumper acorn crops cause a population boom in mice which translates into an increase in ticks and a delayed-onset spike in reported cases of human Lyme disease.

Silent Spring

Jun 1, 2012

Fifty years ago, Rachel Carson's book, "Silent Spring", woke the world up to the perils of chemicals that promised food crops free of disease and insects, and time outdoors free of mosquitoes. The book is credited with starting the modern environmental movement. It was the birdwatchers that first alerted the scientists about robins literally falling from the sky soon after DDT was sprayed, as well as longer-term declines in birds higher on the food chain.

The Green Rx

May 25, 2012

Forests keep us healthy.

Spectrum of Birdsong

May 18, 2012

Mid-May is like rush hour in the bird world. Migrants have returned for the nesting season and the air is full of birdsong. As you might guess, birdsong is as varied as birds themselves. In fact, birdsong is defined generously to include any and all sounds they make with territorial or courtship intentions. Let's start with a traditional vocalization and then branch out.  

Mayfly Ballet

May 11, 2012
smilla4, Flickr Creative Commons

It’s not just anglers who follow emerging mayflies. The drama plays to appreciative audiences above and below the water. Hatching nymphs rise from dark, watery depths up to the wide blue sky, a glorious curtain call and tolling dinner bell.

Cedar Waxwings

May 4, 2012
Courtesy Iguanasan via Flickr

May brings apple blossoms, a universal favorite—whether in hillside orchard or backyard crabapple. They're also favored by one of the most elegant songbirds of all, cedar waxwings. They're a social species but sedate and quiet as birds go—easy to miss despite traveling in flocks.

Often the best way to know they're around is by their song. It's subtle, admittedly, but worth learning. Once alerted by their song, here's what you might see: male and female waxwings exchange blossoms bill-to-bill as part of a courtship ritual when winter flocks pair off for the breeding season ahead.

Paul-W, Flikr Creative Commons

Lovely woodland wildflowers are reliable “indicators” of soil moisture, fertility and light conditions. Wildflowers on the forest floor repeat patterns seen elsewhere each spring. The flowers speak to the patterns of why plants and trees grow where they do in our forests. 

Dilig-Ant

Apr 20, 2012
Rikfrog via Flickr/Creative Commons.

The ants come marching, one by one, up the kitchen wall; it’s a sure sign of spring. These are the worker ants, females all, tasked with delivering food to the colony. Male drones remain in that colony, on call for their one role in a very brief life: mating with a fertile female destined to be a new queen.

Flowering Shadbush

Apr 13, 2012
from dmott9, Flickr Creative Commons

In April, forest trees leaf-out casting shade. When buds open, most tree flowers bloom inconspicuously. But some rural roadsides and pasture edges are accentuated by the stunning white full bloom of a small native tree whose Latin scientific name is Amelanchier arborea. 

Get the Lead Out

Apr 6, 2012
Lead Sinkers
Photo by kurtfaler via Flickr/Creative Commons.

As anglers dust off their tackle boxes, it's a great time to make sure that all the lead is out. Decades of research by the Loon Preservation Committee in Moultonborough has proven the toxicity of lead fishing tackle to wildlife. One lead sinker an ounce or less in weight can kill a loon in a matter of weeks. Loons swallow grit and pebbles that help to grind up food, and sometimes there's a sinker in the gravelly mix. Fishermen lose a lot of sinkers. 

The Lorax

Mar 28, 2012
Reuters/San Diego Police Department/Handout

The box office success of the new Universal Pictures animated feature film “The Lorax” - based on a classic Dr. Seuss tale – creates a window of opportunity to consider environmental messaging to a new generation of future leaders. The original Seuss tale is beloved. I can still recite it from memory. “Tell us ‘The Lorax’ Dad!” my kids would beg. Like all Seuss books, The Lorax features rhymes, nuances and a moral.

A Body at Play...

Mar 23, 2012

We've all seen wildlife documentaries showing young animals—lion cubs, perhaps—wrestling, chasing, pouncing on their siblings. Observe household puppies and kittens and you'll see the same behavior: young animals at play.

Play is defined as spontaneous, energetic behavior with no apparent purpose or goal. But whenever there's considerable expenditure of energy, a closer look is warranted. There may not be apparent goals, but the true benefits of play are being recognized by a growing number of disciplines.

Frogs Are-a-Courtin'

Mar 16, 2012

When overnight rain arrives in March, male wood frogs emerge from cold leaves and soil to migrate to ancestral vernal pools still encased in ice.  Wood frogs and Jefferson salamanders are the earliest amphibians to begin the annual rites of courtship in vernal pools formed by melting snow. The early imperative to breed drives small, chocolate-brown males to pools where they begin broadcasting clucking mating calls that sound like quacking ducks. 

Protecting The Land

Mar 9, 2012

In New Hampshire we value rural character—a value that's reflected in a strong history of land conservation.  Central to that history is conservation of privately owned land by means of what's called a "conservation easement deed" that limits future development.  It's typically a family decision.  A family chooses to conserve their land so that future generations will know the land as they do.  The property stays on a town's tax rolls and its natural resources are protected in perpetuity.  Land conservation benefits the public, and in most cases landowners are entitled to an income tax dedu

The Dogs of March

Mar 2, 2012
via Flickr Creative Commons, MemaNH

In March, coyotes stalk, chase and kill winter-weakened deer in the equivalent of "Lions & Gazelles." Hungry coyotes now take prey larger than their usual fare of small rodents. 

Coyotes breed in February. During March and April gestation, they select maternity dens where they'll birth pups in May. Coyotes do NOT hunt in large family packs or occupy dens in other seasons. Coyote breeding is timed to a seasonal abundance of food: deer are in weakened condition after burning winter fat reserves while traveling in snow on a meager diet of twigs, bark and buds. 

Give a Hoot

Feb 24, 2012

Barred owls, New Hampshire's most common owl species, also have the most familiar courtship and territorial song—usually translated as, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?"   It can be heard all year, day or night, but really revs up as owl breeding season begins in late winter.  Owls are early nesters.

Wildlife produce their young when their primary food resource is most abundant.  Mice, rabbit and squirrel populations are exploding when owl hatchlings on a continual growth spurt require frequent feeding.

With Valentine's Day over, let's get real about "Romance"…   Do any animals really mate for life?

Noisy Water Birds

Feb 9, 2012

Summer visitors to New Hampshire typically are eager to hear the call of a common loon, emblem of the wild and remote north woods.  Popular souvenirs to take home include coffee mugs, sweatshirts and jewelry—all with a loon motif.

In addition to their striking appearance, I suspect the fact that loons chorus at night adds greatly to their mystique.  Loons of winter don't get much attention, but scan coastal waters and chances are good you'll see a loon or two offshore.  New Hampshire's breeding loons don't migrate far.

Antlers in the Snow

Feb 3, 2012
Dave Anderson

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.

I Hear You Knocking

Jan 27, 2012

New Hampshire Audubon's annual Backyard Winter Bird Survey is coming up: the second weekend each February.

Three woodpeckers common statewide are among the early birds when it comes to loudly proclaiming territory and courtship. Lend an ear this time of year and you'll hear the rapid-fire drumming of powerful bills on resonant deadwood. Vocally challenged, woodpeckers drum while most other backyard birds sing.

Got Snow?

Jan 20, 2012
Ben Hudson via Society for Protection of NH Forests

Snow - or a lack thereof - is a perennial January conversation. We put online Doppler radar maps in motion to access a range of snow forecasts. For people, weather news underlies commuting times, power outages and snow sports that drive winter tourism. But for wildlife, winter weather spells survival or death for animals best-adapted to changing conditions.

Which animals win or lose during an open or low-snow winter?

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