March 20th marks the Vernal Equinox. It's one of two points on our calendar when day and night are of equal length. More or less. It may be more of a convenient handle we put on an arbitrary point on our annual revolution around the sun, but it is significant in that it marks the point in the year where we start seeing more daylight than darkness. So with the days growing longer, this is a great time to talk about photoperiod.
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."
A huge question in evolutionary biology is the very basic one: How do species form? It turns out that the Dark-eyed Junco, one of the most common birds at winter feeders, is providing a clear picture of that process.
It all started with a black squirrel. These rare creatures aren't a separate species - they're your garden variety gray squirrel, but a genetic mutation has given them a black fur coat. That got Dave wondering if a black squirrel has any advantages its fairer forebears don't (other than being incredibly popular among nature photographers). Wondering turned to arguing.
Wildlife tracks in the snow indicate of a lot of coming and going in the nighttime world. Why are so many animals active, given their limited ability to see in the dark?
There's the obvious reason: division of resources helps avoid competition. A red-tailed hawk hunts the same fields by day that a great horned owl hunts by night. Night also offers some animals protection from their main predators. Mice lie low by day, but in the wild—and in my house—they come out at night.
Every moment of our lives add up to the people we are today but some of those moments have a bit more of an impact. That turning point when you realize what you want to do with the rest of your life. It's something that's been coming up in conversation as we've been speaking to naturalists and wildlife biologists, including Sy Montgomery.
The author of many books including "Search For The Golden Moon Bear" and "Walking With The Great Apes", Montgomery has traveled the world writing about exotic locations, imperiled habitats and very rare wildlife species.
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.
Spring is here! Well, sort of. Technically, spring doesn't start for another six weeks. But some stoic yankees say that winter begins in New Hampshire when you start stacking your wood pile in late August. So it follows that Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year) is the first day of spring training - pitchers and catchers reporting for light duty. And now, six weeks later, we're seeing 10 hours of daylight and growing, and we're ready to open the season. The next logical question... who's on first?
Even as we stare down the barrel of the coldest, darkest days of early January, the earliest signs of spring will soon begin anew - even before the first mail-order seed catalogs arrive. Early harbingers of this new natural year are subtle. Spring renewal begins with hardy birds that remain winter residents, those species best-adapted to our northern winters.
Right now the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun. Light enters our atmosphere at a much shallower angle and for fewer hours each day. To put it simply, it's cold in New England. And as sure as January's cold the usual grumblings from residents about the plunging mercury abound. It isn’t surprising when you consider how poorly adapted we humans are for living in the cold. However, adaptations in other species in New Hampshire have allowed them to flourish.
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.
The ubiquitous stone walls of New Hampshire often seem to melt into the landscape, becoming transparent as we drive/bike/run/hike/ski through the terrain they once sought to divide.
Some estimates suggest 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. Most of which were built between 1810 and 1840.
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.
Tis the season for Christmas carols but at Something Wild one in particular captures our attention: The Twelve Days of Christmas. There are a lot of birds featured in the song but, like so many of our carols, the lyrics are from old Europe and don’t really speak to life in 21st century New England. So we thought maybe it’s time for an update… a rewrite… a New Hampshire Christmas carol.
We’ll skip over days twelve through eight – those all have to do with crafts people and artisans – and jump right to the important stuff – the BIRDS!
"Forest succession" is a pattern of plant regeneration that begins when a plot of land is left to its own devices. The first phase of this succession is bare soil or an abandoned field. And nature, over the span of decades, converts the area through several stages to mature forest – if left undisturbed.
Here at Something Wild, we’ve been thinking a lot about winter and the different strategies animals use to get through these cold, harsh months. There are quite a few techniques to survive winter if you don’t live in a toasty house with central heating or a roaring wood stove.
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.
November is a great time to spot golden eagles. They are a rare sight in New Hampshire, but they do pass through the state on their annual migration. Right now they’re on their way south to winter in the central Appalachians. They’ll pass back through the state in March on their way to Labrador and northern Quebec to nest.
Golden eagles are sometimes confused with young bald eagles, but there are differences. When bald eagles are in flight, they hold their wings flat like a plank, but golden eagle wings have a slight ‘V’ shape.
You know how New Hampshire likes to be first in the nation when it comes to politics? Well, it turns out we’re stragglers in another category: sandhill cranes. They’ve been nesting in our neighboring states of Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts, but they never went granite until this year.
Forget about spooky black cats, witches, ghosts and goblins; think about what happens to your pumpkin.
Halloween is indeed well-timed to the season of conspicuous death and decay. Forget about spooky black cats, witches, ghosts and goblins! Instead think about what happens to Jack 'O Lantern left to itself over the next several months…
Today’s topic is perfect for the fall season: cleaning up the leaves. Yes, it’s that time of year again, and if you hate raking as much as we do we’ve got some good news for you. It really doesn’t have to be so…well…impulsive.
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.
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.
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…
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 forage for insects not birdseed.
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 of wings.
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.