Something Wild

Fridays at 8:35 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.

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

Photo by Rick Ganley

Cartoon character Linus Van Pelt explains to Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally, how the “Great Pumpkin” rises from the “most sincere ” pumpkin patch. The website “pumpkinnook.com” tracks pumpkin festivals and weigh-ins from coast to coast. NH offerings this year included the highly competitive weigh-off at Deerfield Fair, the Pumpkin Festival in Keene, a pumpkin “chunkin” contest in Milford, a “giant pumpkin drop” from a crane into a portable swimming pool and a pumpkin regatta with giant...

Azure Crescendo

Oct 19, 2012
Photo by Francie Von Mertens.

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. Family members take turns dropping down to the ground then return to...

October is the annual breeding season, "the rut" for the largest denizens of New Hampshire's North Country: Moose . It's also the annual moose hunting season. Following the initial recovery of moose populations, an annual moose hunt has occurred since 1988. That first year, 75 permits were issued for a three-day hunt in the North Country only. Last year, 400 moose permit hunters took 290 moose. This year 275 coveted moose hunting permits were awarded by lottery from among more than 13,400...

Thoreau Remembered

Oct 5, 2012

Henry David Thoreau's death 150 years ago has inspired memorial events in Concord - the Massachusetts Concord - but Thoreau passed through our Concord on a trip by boat and foot that led to his first book. He made the trip as a 22-year-old with his brother John. In a flat-bottomed skiff they built themselves, they paddled down their hometown Concord River to the Merrimack. Heading upstream on the Merrimack to New Hampshire, their paddle was eased by a canal and lock system that bypassed...

intenteffect, 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. We instinctively...

Goldfinches, The Late Nesters

Sep 21, 2012

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...

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: Happy Easter. Rescued two lost hikers. May we continue to be grateful for Mother Earth. Nice day except...

Hawks Aloft

Sep 7, 2012

Once again, it's broad-winged hawk migration time. Whirpools of hawks soon will fill the sky, riding high on thermal lift as sun warms earth. When lift plays out they stream south in an orderly, and countable, procession. New Hampshire Audubon does just that - count the hawks - at Carter Hill Orchard in Concord and atop Pack Monadnock at Miller State Park in Peterborough. Here's what Henry Walters, the official counter at Pack Monadnock, wrote two years ago on September 18: "Over 3400 hawks...

Hover Flies

Aug 30, 2012
Hope Abrams, 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...

Dragonflies Winging South

Aug 24, 2012

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. The dragonflies fattened up or...

Shorebird Migration

Aug 17, 2012
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. Shorebirds are extreme long-distance migrants. Many species travel more than 15,000 miles annually. Some fly at altitudes exceeding 10,000 feet and cruise at 50 miles per hour. In springtime, they flood coastal communities like a rising tide, passing through en masse - starting in April and peaking by...

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. Formerly a bird of open country, common nighthawks shifted nesting sites to urban...

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. NH remains the second most oil-dependent state in the country for residential, commercial and industrial heating. Sixty-three percent ( 63% ) of NH residents or 250,000 households rely on oil - or propane made from...

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. First, some basics. There's two numbers printed on binoculars: 8x42 for example. The first number, 8, is magnification power, and the second relates to brightness. An...

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,...

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. Cranes have been...

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. As forests age, they change in composition. A higher percentage is now shade-loving hemlock, beech, yellow birch and red...

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 . To maintain lawn, a single crop, requires a lot of work as it goes against this natural mix of species. There's fertilizer to trick grass into an extended growing period; herbicides and insecticides to kill anything that's not...

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. Kyle Lombard, Forest Health Program Coordinator at the NH Division of Forests and Lands says these pests present several challenges and the potential damage to NH forests and community street trees, is high. Lombard asserts these...

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. Deep roots deliver nutrients and moisture, especially important in drought conditions. And to crowd out competition, dandelion leaves spread flat around a plant's base. When the round, fluffy seedhead is ready to release seeds to...

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. Acorn “boom or bust” cycles...

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. Rachel Carson cautioned that words...

The Green Rx

May 25, 2012

Forests keep us healthy. Research at University of Edinburgh, Scotland monitored daily circadian fluctuations in the hormone "cortisol." Researcher Catharine Ward Thompson reported residents living in close proximity to natural areas and parks were less anxious. The stress hormone cortisol cycled more uniformly than in those without access to open space. Daily cortisol fluctuations are healthy. But in individuals suffering depression or post-traumatic stress disorders, these cycles flatten....

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. One of the most common and widespread backyard songsters is well named: The song sparrow. The male starts early and will...

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. By May, the tree swallows – a troupe of aerial acrobats – wheel, dip, and tumble while hawking insects over the river. Beaks dimple glassy water. They rise and fall in an acrobatic synchronized feeding ballet, alternately showing iridescent green backs and...

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...

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. "Red Trillium" and the small delicate pink and white candy-striped "Spring Beauty" bloom in enriched soil sites. Here leaves collect against stonewalls beneath sugar maples, white ash and basswood which also indicate fertile...

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. All ant species work all the time for the survival of their colony. The first ant species evolved from wasps some 120 million years ago, shedding wings for a terrestrial life—for the most...

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. It has several colorful common names including "Flowering Shad" or "Shadbush" or "Serviceberry" and "June Berry." The small shrubby tree forms a vase-like clump of smooth gray-barked stems which blossom when the leaves are...

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.

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