Something Wild

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”.

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.” 

Courtesy of Colleen P of Newington via Flickr/Creative Commons.

In this part of the country the Corvid family includes blue jays, gray jays, crows, and ravens. And ravens – Corvus corax – are the smartest of this intelligent family, actually their brain to body ratio is on par with whales and the great apes. 

Robert Taylor via Flickr

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.  

Courtesy DES

To everything there is a season and this is the season when we go swimming and we spend a lot of time talking about Cyanobacteria. So what is it, exactly? Sonya Carlson is head of the Beach Inspection Program with the state Department of Environmental Services and gave us a primer on the micro-organism.

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.

Courtesy Ias-initially via Flickr/Creative Commons

At Something Wild we like to talk about some of the interesting wildlife or natural occurrences you can find in New Hampshire. We hope you learn a little something wild along the way; sometimes that’s birds and bees, sometimes that’s flowers and trees, but today we want to talk about that thing called love. 

Chris Shadler

Chris Schadler is a wild canid biologist, and for about 25 years, her specialty has been the coyote. The first confirmed case of coyotes in New Hampshire was an individual found in a trap in Holderness in the mid 1940s. But they have likely been here longer, because as Schadler points out, they didn’t parachute into Holderness, they will have migrated south from Canada.

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.

Wild Turkey
John Mizel / Flickr Creative Commons

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.

Flkr Creative Commons / US Fish and Wildlife

Talk of turkey is usually relegated to the month of November as we stuff ourselves with eating yams and cranberry jelly, and watch college football. And the misperception about Ben Franklin proposing the wild turkey as our national bird, is usually not far behind.

Michael Bentley via Flickr

Every week here at Something Wild we encourage you to go outside.  It's easy to find the wild in New Hampshire, be it a walk on the beach, a hike in the woods or a quiet crepuscular kayak ride.  However there are things you need to be mindful of when you're out.  We've heard a lot about ticks but not so much about poison ivy.  

You've probably seen or come into contact with poison ivy at some point; the three waxy leaves with serrated edges.  You probably also know you should avoid it.  Don't touch touch the vine, don't touch the root.  You can get a rash from any part of the plant.

Courtesy Brendan Clifford, via NH Fish & Game

There are few sounds in nature that command your attention as effectively as the rattle of a rattlesnake. And though these snakes are not aggressive, that sound does elicit a hard-wired, innate fear response. Roughly translating to “Watch Your Step, Mister!” the rattle is an alarm designed to stop trouble before it starts.

Courtesy of brewbooks via Flickr/Creative Commons (https://flic.kr/p/sqY5Yp).

Biologists like to talk about crocodiles, cassowaries, even chickens as being descendants of the dinosaurs. But in your back yard is likely something that can trace its ancestry to before the dinosaurs, some 360 million years ago. We’re talking about Ferns!

Courtesy Hamish Irvine via Flickr/Creative Commons

A Something Wild fan wrote in recently with a question or two. Ben, a backyard beekeeper in Deerfield, asks “I know there has been a lot of buzz about chemicals getting into the bee's main protein source, pollen. It would be really cool if you could mention the bees and what kind of plants the bees pollinate (and are exposed to) throughout the various seasons. Furthermore! Where in the world are the bees getting pollen in the winter? Sometimes I even see my bees bringing in pollen from who knows where on the rare warm day in the wintertime." 

Matt Ward via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/7BuupJ)

Is there a song that has stuck with you for years?  Maybe a tune your parents sang to you as a child, the notes imprinted on your mind and became a part of your being.  As Chris and Dave shared the melodies imparted to themselves, the conversation turned (as it often does) to birds.  Is our musical learning similar to that of our avian neighbors?

Axel Kristinsson via Flickr/Creative Commons

New Hampshire is experiencing one of those few rare and special weeks right now. About 48 weeks of the year, the New Hampshire landscape is pretty homogenous; from a distance our deciduous trees can all look the same: either a blanket of green leaves, or nothing but sticks. But during a few brief weeks in the fall and in the spring – trees show their true colors.

Something Wild takes pride in introducing to the residents of the state to the wonder in the wild that surrounds us all. Someone who discovered that wonder at a young age is David Carroll, “I was 8 years old when I had that experience with the first spotted turtle.” Naturalist, writer, artist are among the many descriptors frequently attached to Carroll’s name.

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." 

Courtesy Duncan Hull via Vlickr (https://flic.kr/p/bA7FsW)

For the past 20 years, peregrine falcons have shared the cliffs in Rumney with the rock-climbing community, and Chris Martin has been directing the monitoring of these birds since they arrived.  In addition to tracking the progress of the falcons as they emerged from their endangered status, Chris and the Forest Service work closely with the climbing community to support recreation and maintain the safety of the falcons. 

Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory via Flickr

The North American Wood Frog has developed an impressive strategy for surviving cold New England winters. It doesn't seek warmth as other animals do. The wood frog goes with the cold and actually freeze in the winter months. Come spring, it thaws out, ready for mating season. 

NASA GOES

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.

Something Wild recently visited Maria Colby, director of Wings of the Dawn Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Henniker.

Greta Tamošiunaite / Flickr

As the snow starts to melt you might notice a stark contrast in the landscape.  Maybe you were driving down the highway and noticed one shoulder was covered with snow while the other side was bare with a faint tinge of spring green shoots.  The cause?  Slope and aspect.  

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services / Flickr/CC

There’s no way around it. This week, Something Wild is a little thick. Like hundreds of pages thick but stay with us.

Chris Shadler

Chris Schadler is a wild canid biologist, and for about 25 years, her specialty has been the coyote. The first confirmed case of coyotes in New Hampshire was an individual found in a trap in Holderness in the mid 1940s. But they have likely been here longer, because as Schadler points out, they didn’t parachute into Holderness, they will have migrated south from Canada.

Robert Taylor via Flickr

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.  

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.  

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