Something Wild

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?


Outward_bound via Flickr

Bobcats have been all over the news lately. It's kind of amazing to think that 30 years ago wildlife biologists estimated there were only 150 bobcats in New Hampshire. That's not the case anymore - their numbers are now estimated to be around 1400! How did these cats make such an impressive recovery?

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.  

Chuck Burgess via Flickr

Here at Something Wild, we don’t have a problem with winter. Aside from the snow and the cold and the freezing rain… okay, maybe we have a couple issues. But we have sweaters and hot cocoa and Netflix. Trees, however, do not. As the snow piles up, you may see trees bent over with their crowns nearly touching the ground, leafless and haggard. They can’t escape or hide from the cold, so how do trees survive?

 

capegirl52 via Flickr

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.  

David Foster

One of those time honored New Year’s traditions is taking stock. Taking stock of the past year, or the past 13,000. When you consider New Hampshire was covered with a mile thick ice sheet 13,000 years ago, we’ve come a long way, baby! 12,000 years ago, we were still tundra. Trees don’t reappear in these parts until about 8,000 years ago: namely spruce, birch and poplars. And it wasn’t until about 4,000 years ago, that what we would now recognize as “New Hampshire forests” begin to reappear.

Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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!

Courtesy Jack Wolf, via Flickr/Creative Commons

As we hunker down for the winter weather, we’re frequently too preoccupied with what is in our front yards that we tend not to notice what isn’t there. The snow and ice have muscled out the grass, and the chilly sounds of the north wind have blown away the dawn chorus that woke us this summer. And short of finding a postcard in your mailbox from a warm exotic location, signed by your friendly neighborhood phoebe, you probably haven’t thought much about the birds that flitted through your yard just months ago.

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.

          The top 5 are:

Smithsonian's National Zoo via Flickr

We’ve been hearing a lot about porcupines this year. They seem to be everywhere! It’s positively a plague of porcupines!

So why are there so many? Biologists don’t have an official answer, but Dave Anderson has a hypothesis involving coyotes and fisher cats. The porcupine’s only real predator is the fisher. It takes a tough critter to eat a porcupine. Anecdotally, trackers and hunters are reporting that fisher numbers appear to be down this year, so it makes sense that porcupine numbers are up.

Chris Martin / Courtesy of NH Audubon

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.

Susan Lirakis

With winter weather on the way, NHPR's Chris Martin sat down to talk to meteorologist Tony Vazzano, who specializes in mountain weather and snow. His company, North Winds Weather, provides specialized weather reports to ski areas across northern New England.

Courtesy Town of Monroe

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 2014.

mwms1916 via Flickr

As fall comes to a close, winter imminent, there is a quiet that sweeps across New Hampshire. We celebrate the changing of the leaves but once they’ve fallen from the trees there’s really not much to look at before snowfall, right? Of course not! There’s always something waiting to be discovered in your back yard and this time of year is no exception.

Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/cjdv7S

Black bears are as much a part of New Hampshire as fall foliage and stone walls, nevertheless they are a misunderstood species. To better understand the species, we wanted to talk to a bear, the closest thing we could get was Ben Kilham. And that’s pretty close, which is evident when you meet him. He’s over six-feet tall and moves with a slow ambling gait. His ursine tendencies aren’t surprising when you consider Kilham’s been studying and living with black bears for nearly 25 years.

Jimmy Baikovicius via flickr Creative Commons

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.

USFWS Headquarters / Flikr Creative Commons

Bats in New Hampshire have been struggling with White Nose Syndrome for the past few years. So we sat down with Wildlife Biologist Emily Preston from NH Fish and Game and Endangered Species Biologist Susi von Oettingen from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find out how they’ve been faring recently. 

Marko Kivelä via flickr Creative Commons

We love answering listener's questions and recently we received one that is a common query at both the Audubon and the Forest Society.

Why is it that some years there are tons of acorns and other years hardly any?

Something Wild: Azure Crescendo

Oct 2, 2015
Kelly Colgan Azar via flickr Creative Commons

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.

Robert Taylor via Flickr

You may be familiar with hoarders (not the TV show, but same idea).  In nature, a hoarder will hide food in one place.  Everything it gathers will be stored in a single tree or den.  But for some animals one food cache isn't enough.  We call them scatter hoarders.

(Photo by Sebastian Droge via Flickr Creative Commons)

Robert Frost's apple poem "Unharvested" begins: 

A scent of ripeness from over a wall.
And come to leave the routine road
And look for what had made me stall,
There sure enough was an apple tree
That had eased itself of its summer load,
And of all but its trivial foliage free…

Midge Eliassen

How do you determine the age of a tree?  Just count the rings, of course!  One ring equals one year of growth.  If you’ve ever stumbled upon a tree stump you may have even done it yourself.  But if you’re counting rings on a stump, the life of that tree is over.  So how do you count those rings while the tree is alive?  Experts use a special tool called an “increment borer”.

jjjj56cp via flickr Creative Commons

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.

NHPR

We’re at an osprey nest in Tilton with Iain McLeod, director of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. Our goal is recruiting another individual for Project OspreyTrack. He explains that Project OspreyTrack began in 2011, “to try to understand a little bit more about osprey migration and foraging.” 

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
AvaZelda13 / archive.org

During the late summer and fall, coyotes really "yip it up." Despite what you can learn on Youtube, their yips and howls are family communications that have nothing to do with bloodthirsty predators circling for the kill. 
 

The eastern coyote pack is small: an adult pair and their young. The youngsters are venturing out on their own now and adults howl to round them up. When on the prowl for food, silence is the code—which makes sense—but reuniting often inspires prolonged vocal celebrations. 

Brenda Charpentier

It's the most unusually-shaped trees in the forest that fire the human imagination. After all, the misshapen, warped, multi-trunked, split and hollowed trees have long been favored as homes by woodland cartoon figments: elves, dwarfs and ogres - not to mention Pooh bears, Piglets and wise old owls.

André Karwath via flickr Creative Commons

Summertime ushers in a bevy of fresh fruit enjoy and in no time, a bevy of fruit flies. With a keen sense of smell, fruit flies hone in on a juicy cantaloupe or overripe bananas tossed on the compost pile. Although they're a pest in the kitchen, fruit flies have been a focus of research for over 100 years, and today there are hundreds of labs dedicated exclusively to studying them.

rickpilot_2000 via flickr

There is a common misconception that wild turkeys were once extinct in New Hampshire but have since returned.  Extinction is often confused with extirpation but they are actually two different concepts.

Extinct refers to species no longer in existence, having no living representatives – gone everywhere.  Things like the brontosaurus, which no longer occurred as of 10's of millions years ago, the wooly mammoth 10-thousand years ago, or the passenger pigeon only 10 decades ago.

Pam Hunt; NH Audubon

We’re standing up to our shins in Turkey Pond, on a warm July morning with Pam Hunt, a biologist with New Hampshire Audubon who has spent the last five years organizing, in conjunction with NH Fish and Game, the New Hampshire Dragonfly Survey. Hunt trained about a hundred volunteers to gather data and help map the distribution of dragonflies across the state. 

Qualsiasi/flickr

Today’s topic is thunderstorms. Summer in NH brings those triple H days – hazy, hot, and humid! On days like those there’s nothing more welcome than the arrival of a late-afternoon thunderstorm, leaving in its wake cool, refreshing air, scrubbed clean of haze and pollution.

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