The Company Of Cuckoos

Jul 26, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

Elusive, secretive birds often are the most satisfying to discover, and for me the black-billed cuckoo ranks near the top. Hearing a bird is usually the best way to find it, but attentive ears are needed to detect this cuckoo's song: a subtle, slow and hollow-sounding "cucucu – cucucucu." The song in no way resembles the bold double notes of a cuckoo clock that mimic the song of the common cuckoo, a species that nests across Europe and Asia.

Fireflies-- Beyond the Magic

Jul 12, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

The twinkling fireflies of a summer night bring a little magic. If we think beyond the twinkling, we probably realize it is courtship in progress: the signals of males and females.

There are a couple dozen firefly species in New England, each with a unique series of flashes, from males in flight to females perched below. Beyond the magic, very few people have knowledge of the medical benefits as well: the use of a firefly's light-producing chemicals in bioluminescent imaging.

Brady Carlson

Seeing a moose in New Hampshire isn’t supposed to be news – unless the moose is in a more developed area, like the south end of Concord… and the person seeing it is a public radio host.

That’s right. On Saturday morning All Things Considered host Brady Carlson found a moose in his yard. Twice. The moose even sat down for a rest at one point, though, thankfully, he avoided the Carlsons' vegetable garden.

Marsupial On The Move

Jun 28, 2013
Bob Peterson / Wikimedia Commons

New Hampshire is home to the Virginia opossum, our country's one-and-only marsupial.

As a marsupial, an opossum's development takes place ex utero in the mother's pouch instead of in utero, as placental mammals do.

Opossums are a backyard species, but because they are nocturnal, casual sightings are rare. More often, they will be seen as roadkill--an unfortunate consequence of being an urban, slow-moving animal.


E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I understand that pet cats prey on lots of birds and other "neighborhood" wildlife, but isn't it cruel to force felines to live indoors only? And isn’t human encroachment the real issue for bird populations, not a few opportunistic cats?                       -- Jason Braunstein, Laos, NM

Bears In Seacoast Spark Anxiety, Questions

Jun 8, 2013

Two separate black bear sightings in Portsmouth earlier this week startled residents and raised new questions about bears in urban areas.

Early this week, two Portsmouth residents reported black bear sightings to police. Officers responding to the calls said they believed the bears were cubs, but were unsure if a larger bear was with them. Bear sightings are rare instances in the Seacoast, but N.H. Fish and Game’s Wildlife Damage Specialist Rob Calvert says that this behavior isn’t entirely out of character.

Bo Eide, courtesy Flickr

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What is the “All One Ocean” campaign?          --Bill O’Neill, Los Angeles, CA

Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin E. Stumberg, Department of Defense

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: The three-year anniversary of the 2010 BP oil spill just passed. What do green groups think of the progress since in restoring the region?           -- Mary Johannson, New York, NY

iStock Photo

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Is nature photography good or bad for the environment? – Cal Moss, Camden, ME

Photo courtesy NH Audubon

Eric Masterson is a blogger and the author of Birdwatching in New Hampshire, and joins us for a hyper-local guide to spotting species around the state.


E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: How are populations of African elephants faring these days? What conservation efforts are underway and are they working?-- Libby Broullette, Salem, MA

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

The Northern Woods contain a lot of the animals that are symbolic of New Hampshire: bobcat, otter, black bear, fishers, and porcupines to name a few. Many of these animals are mostly found up north because they need a lot of space to move around. One project is trying to come up with a plan to make sure that movement can continue.

The Maligned Fisher

Feb 22, 2013

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." 

As for all the house cats they're thought to kill, here's what a NH Fish and Game species account says:

iStock Photo

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What is the purpose of National Wildlife Week, which I understand will take place in March 2013? -- Melissa P., Burlington, NJ

Kirk from Wolfeboro

In his book, New Hampshire’s Ben Kilham describes what he has learned in his twenty years studying these creatures.   Contrary to their image as solitary and not-that-intelligent, Kilham finds bears capable of altruism, and cooperation. He even finds them possess a complex communication system, as well as social  behaviors that at times look a lot like ours.


Crossbills Coming to NH?

Dec 28, 2012

A poor cone crop in Canada this year is driving crossbills south of the border in search of food.

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.

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 forage for insects not birdseed.

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.

Courtesy of Crawford Notch Campground

We got a call in the newsroom this morning telling us that a car had collided with a bear just outside of Concord.

We're still learning exactly what happened in that incident, but we thought it would be a good time to check in on how bears and humans have been coexisting in the Granite State this year.

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.

Peter Abdu

In December Fish and Game announced that for the first time they had captured photographs of Canadian Lynx alive in Northern New Hampshire. The photographer that snapped those pictures was an amateur biologist and student at UNH, named Peter Abdu.

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.

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. 

Wildlife Heroes

Mar 12, 2012

For tens of thousands of years, humans relied on animals to sustain life: their skins kept us warm, their oils provided fuel.  But the 7-billion of us stomping the earth today? Our relationship with the creatures around us is vastly different.  Around the globe, species big and small remain under intense threat of extinction. A new book, ‘Wildlife Heroes’ tells the story of forty leading conservationists who are fighting behind the scenes to save these animals.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk:I heard the term “underwater wilderness” recently. What does it refer to?
-- Melissa Cook, via e-mail

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?

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.