Something Wild

By Something Wild

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Episode Date
Something Wild: Ode To Late February
February in New Hampshire can be a bitter time, weather-wise. In some places, layers of ice and snow still weigh heavily on conifer limbs, and on the souls of even the heartiest of New Englanders. But at last, the days are noticeably longer. So take heart winter-weary friends. The first pulses of springtime arrive in the smallest of signs.
Feb 26, 2021
Something Wild: How Trees Survive Winter
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? Just like any living thing, trees have adapted over time to deal with the range of environmental conditions thrown their way. In this case, freezing rain, ice-loading, or heavy wet snow. Trees that aren’t adapted to survive periodic ice loading don’t live here. Some trees (like pine or spruce) simply bend or fold branches to shrug off snow. Other trees (like oaks) try to stand rigid and inflexible. Stout oaks and sugar maples are famous for big heavy branches that don’t break. On the other hand, branches of beech and red maple tend to break apart under heavy snow loads. Most of our
Feb 12, 2021
Something Wild: Winter Finch Forecast
Each year, bird enthusiasts across North America eagerly await the Winter Finch Forecast. Published every fall since 1999, the Winter Finch Forecast predicts when and where, and even IF fan-favorite finches like Evening Grosbeaks and Common Redpolls will grace our backyard bird-feeders, or make an appearance on a brisk mid-winter hike. It’s a big deal for birders. So much so that enthusiastic birders have been known to base winter birding plans on this forecast, even driving hundreds of miles to spots deemed favorable for seeing White-winged Crossbills or Pine Grosbeaks. But who makes these predictions, and what are these finch forecasts based on? Enter Tyler Hoar, a freelance biologist and ecologist from Oshawa, Ontario. He’s recently taken the reins in predicting finch winter migration patterns from the legendary Ron Pittaway -- who started this citizen science project some 20 years ago. According to Tyler; "Ron set up this network, getting various birders, naturalists , foresters,
Jan 29, 2021
Something Wild: Flying Under the Radar
Sometimes called a Marsh Hawk, the northern harrier is currently one the rarest birds of prey nesting in the Granite State. Unlike many of our more common hawks, harriers shun the forest, opting instead to hunt in wide-open spaces like fields, brushy areas -- even in marshes. And get this --they build their nests on the ground . Peculiar preferences indeed, and ones that have made it a challenge for them to survive here. ___________________________ Flying under the radar is the modus operandi for harriers, both literally AND figuratively. They hunt for voles, snakes, and small birds by skimming the landscape, gliding low over the ground, zipping just above North Country hayfields during the summer, and slipping in and out of coastal salt marshes in the winter. Figuratively speaking, Northern harriers have largely stayed out of sight, and out of mind of wildlife managers...even though their populations across New England have been on the decline for decades. So much so, that harriers
Jan 05, 2021
Something Wild: Christmas Tree Farms Are The Gift That Keeps On Giving
This time of year, you're likely to see cars and pickup trucks heading home on the highways with fresh-cut Christmas trees tied to roofs or in the truck beds. Fraser firs, Korean firs, Balsam firs, and Spruce (ouch!)... So today on Something Wild we take a look at Christmas tree farms, and the important habitats they provide for New Hampshire wildlife. You might be heartened to know that tree farms are a unique land use, and serve as early successional habitat, one that is neither residential neighborhood, cropland, nor deep forest. It's a landscape that was far more common a century ago, before small family farms began to vanish. Early successional habitats are an incubator: warm, sunny, scrubby zones with a variety of grasses, weeds and sometimes fruit-bearing shrubs or vines…raspberries, blackberries and grapes. Anything sun-loving, including fast-growing tree seedling and saplings. Tree farms provide ample food and shelter to a wide variety of disturbance-adapted
Dec 04, 2020
Something Wild: Where Have All the Birds Gone?
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. 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. We love to admire the birds when they’re here with us, but we’ve accepted that school-age aphorism that birds fly south for the winter. As if there was some avian Sandals resort, at which birds congregate, sipping margaritas and playing beach volleyball until it’s time to come home. But these birds are not on vacation. New Hampshire is too cold and offers too little food, so most have moved to more hospitable places in order to survive. However, migration is not one-size-fits-all. Different species practice different forms of migration. Ospreys are large raptors that feed almost exclusively on fish. Since the ice that
Nov 20, 2020
Something Wild: New Hampshire's Bat Habitats
By the time the cold weather months hit us, three of New Hampshire’s eight species of bats have already migrated to warmer places in the South and Mid-Atlantic regions. The bat that DO overwinter in New Hampshire have relocated out of their preferred summer roosts in trees (and Dave's chimney), and into winter hibernacula like caves, mine shafts, and abandoned military bunkers where the microclimate is just right. These cozy shelters provide stable temperatures, higher humidity, and protection from predators. But they also provide the perfect climate for Psedogymnoascus destructans, the fungus that causes White-nose Syndrome in bats. According to Sandi Houghton, a wildlife biologist for New Hampshire Fish and Game / Non-game and Endangered Wildlife Division, as many as 99% of New Hampshire’s little brown bats were wiped out because of this fungus-- found in the very places bats take winter refuge. In fact most of what’s left of the little brown bat population in New Hampshire may be
Nov 06, 2020
Something Wild: Life After Death in NH Forests
Standing dead trees (often called snags) are common in our forests, and it’s hard to overstate just how vital a role they play in a healthy ecosystem. These gray ghosts provide food and shelter for a whole heap of forest critters; a total of 43 species of birds and mammals are specially adapted to nesting or denning inside tree cavities. But before a dead tree becomes a high-rise condo for a long list of species, it first undergoes a remarkable transformation. In fact, snags undergo a series of changes, from the time they begin to die until they finally collapse, and each stage of decay has particular value to a whole host of different animals with unique needs. First things first: decaying wood is perfect for fungi -- molds, mildews and mushrooms -- decomposers that soften wood enough for insects to start to gnaw their way in. Next, termites, beetles, and ants all begin to chew apart and break down the cellulose and lignin that gives wood its normally rigid structure. And once you
Oct 23, 2020
Something Wild: Boom & Bust Cycles
This episode of Something Wild was produced by Andrew Parrella: The number of acorns a tree produces in a given year has to do with masting. Not mast like on tall ships, but mast as in masticate, or to chew and it refers to the fruit, seeds or nuts that trees produce and are in turn fodder for animals. Especially in New Hampshire, oak mast follows a boom or bust cycle, which means the amount of acorns varies from year to year. Over time, evolution has favored the oak trees that demonstrate this boom or bust cycle. This keeps seed consumers off balance and that's actually a good thing. If there were the same amount of acorns every year, there would be just enough mice and turkey and deer and others to consume every single acorn. However, by producing very few acorns a couple of years running, they starve the animals and the populations of seed predators crash. Then, the oak has a boom year and there aren't enough animals to eat them all, which allows some of those acorn to become trees.
Sep 25, 2020
Something Wild: The Judas Trees
It's late August, and the leaves are already starting to change. And that flush of red you’re seeing likely comes from the red maple , also known as “swamp” or “soft maple”. It's an adaptable tree renowned for signaling an impending autumn, and has even earned the dubious nickname: “Judas Tree” – for betraying these late summer days. Red maples are common in New Hampshire’s young forests, especially in areas prone to natural disturbances such as flooding in wetlands, along rivers -- and by human disturbances, too. A nd while forest ecologists believe these trees are increasing as a percentage of our forests, red maples are still considered a minority species, adding diversity to overall forest composition.
Aug 27, 2020
Something Wild: The Hoarders
This Something Wild segment was produced by the amazing Andrew Parrella. 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. A "scatter hoarder" hides food in a bunch of different places within its territory. The gray squirrel is a classic example, gathering acorns and burying them in trees or in the ground. Not all squirrels are hoarders. Red squirrels are "larder hoarders." If you've ever been walking through the woods and a red squirrel starts screaming at you, it's defending its one and only stash. The same goes for chipmunks and white-footed mice. The gray squirrel isn't alone in the practice of scatter hoarding. Blue jays and gray jays will spend the summer accosting hikers, filling itself with as much granola or fruit as it can. They bring their bounty back into the forest
Aug 13, 2020
Something Wild: Olfactory Hues
We know…we’ve been remiss, and it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. Something Wild, as you know, is a chance to take a closer look at the wildlife, ecosystems and marvelous phenomena you can find in and around New Hampshire. But over the years there is one species in New Hampshire that we haven’t spent much time examining. A species, I think that has been conspicuous in its absence. Humans. So we’re grabbing the bull by the horns and digging in to a complex species that is an important part of the ecosystem. And we thought we’d start with a particular trait that’s been with us almost since the beginning: olfaction.
Aug 01, 2020
Something Wild: The Wheel
Producer's note: Because of the global pandemic, Dave Anderson was not able to record this piece in NHPR's studio. Instead, he recorded through the microphone in his phone, while sitting in his Hyundai during a rain shower. Because that's how he rolls. ______________________________________________________________ My summer lament when weeks accelerate is there are really only two seasons : "summer waxing" and "summer waning." The former happily runs from January to June. The latter opens with the last dying echo of Fourth of July fireworks and extends toward a darkening tunnel of autumn. Most people don’t notice until “Back to School” sales pop up everywhere. I notice the subtle changing angle of summer sunlight before mid-July with an inherited Yankee gothic dose of “ It could be worse” and then “probably will be soon. ” By late July --with pre-dawn light glowing faintly in the east-- the songbird chorus softens. The riotous May-to-June symphony of 20 bird species is dominated now by
Jul 22, 2020
Something Wild: Finding Peace in Nature
The past couple of weeks have been weird. Daily life changed gradually, then all at once. We now find ourselves at home practicing our best “social distancing” protocols. Incredible technology allows us to stay connected, and that’s fantastic. But it’s ok to put the phone down. It’s ok to turn down the news from time to time, and take a long walk outside in nature. This week, I took my own advice. Amidst the simple beauty of nature, I draw one deep breath… and then another. In the forest, I glimpse a furtive movement - beyond the shoulder of the rural, dirt road. One handsome squirrel sits perched on a fallen log, slowly twirling a hemlock cone in its forepaws. In the warm morning sunlight, he yawns…unimpressed with my presence. In his narrow economy, it’s spring and the kitchen larder of conifer cone seeds is running low. Above me, a March wind coaxes a flock of bluebirds to an open, sodden pasture. Springtime arrives this year, just as the bluebirds do– hopeful, tentative, uncertain.
Mar 27, 2020
Something Wild: The Tracker
Expert wildlife tracker Susan Morse is A LOT of things: A life-long naturalist…a Shakespearian scholar…an award winning photographer. What she is not…is easy to get a hold of. So with some persistence and a little luck, Something Wild's Dave Anderson and Chris Martin tracked Sue down a few weeks back, before her busy season kicked into high gear. Which is right about now (late winter) as Sue leads dozens of programs across New England and beyond—teaching everyday people about wildlife tracking and habitat monitoring techniques. Aptly named Keeping Track , Sue's program focuses on key species like bobcat, black bear, otter, fisher, and moose-- mammals thought to be really important within New England's various habitats, and the corridors that connect them. Such wildlife corridors can be found along ridgelines, and around the edge of wetlands--and this knowledge is key to tracking wildlife successfully. When Sue Morse is teaching a tracking class, they're "not just blindly walking down
Feb 28, 2020
Something Wild: Photosynthesis in Winter
It’s stick season in New Hampshire; the leaves are gone, our landscape exposed; a white blanket covers everything you see. Our trees are dormant. Aren’t they? To look at them, it wouldn’t seem that trees aren’t doing much right now. But it turns out there’s more going on than meets the eye. The phenomenon of photosynthesis is well documented, we all know that plants use their leaves to convert sunlight into sugar, or carbohydrates. But that’s not the only place photosynthesis happens. “Photosynthesis can happen in plant tissues other than leaves,” as Scott Ollinger, a professor of Natural Resources at UNH tells us. Though it is weather reliant, for example trees “can’t do this if the temperatures are below freezing for extended periods of time.” And those tissues other than leaves he’s talking about? He means bark. In woody plants, a corky layer of inner bark contains chlorophyll. When sunlight can penetrate the thin outer bark of beech or white birch, or the bark of tender saplings,
Feb 14, 2020
Something Wild: The Deer Hunter
Dave "Superman" Anderson: Sitting in a tree stand in the icy pre-dawn darkness has become a cherished winter time ritual for me. I wasn’t raised in a hunting family, yet I live on a tree farm with fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and a backyard maple sugarhouse. Seeing and tracking deer is common. They’re beautiful, graceful, sometimes pesky… and very tasty. My decision to hunt is about meat: venison that’s clean, local, and grass-fed. It’s about forging closer connections to the forest where I live. And let me tell you deer hunting is NOT easy, even with the odds increasing in my favor. New Hampshire Fish and Game biologists estimate the statewide deer population to be more than 100,000. Meanwhile, the number of licensed hunters here in New Hampshire is decreasing, as part of a broader, nationwide trend. Dan Bergeron is a head biologist of New Hampshire’s Game Division; a department that works to manage deer populations. According to Dan, New Hampshire had 50,000 licensed hunters who
Jan 09, 2020
Something Wild: Citizen Science & The Christmas Bird Count
When we think about the kinds of people making important contributions to science, we might imagine someone in a white lab coat, squinting into a microscope, or pouring over reams of computer data. Truth is, good science can also be accomplished by everyday people-- citizen scientists-- volunteering in both large and small collaborations. National Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, is a great example of one such collaboration. It started on Christmas Day back in 1900, by a n ornithologist named Frank Chapman . He proposed that rather than competing with each other to see who could shoot the most birds on Christmas Day -- a common practice in the late 1800s -- that people instead take a census of their local bird populations. Keene, New Hampshire was one of the places where counts took place that first year. Across the country, 27 people in 25 locations counted a total of 18,500 birds. Since then, it’s grown quite a bit. Last year, there were well over 25 hundred Christmas Bird Counts (or
Dec 06, 2019
Something Wild: The Standing Dead
Standing dead trees (often called snags) are common in our forests, and it’s hard to overstate just how vital a role they play in a healthy ecosystem. These gray ghosts provide food and shelter for a whole heap of forest critters; a total of 43 species of birds and mammals are specially adapted to nesting or denning inside tree cavities. But before a dead tree becomes a high-rise condo for a long list of species, it first undergoes a remarkable transformation. In fact, snags undergo a series of changes, from the time they begin to die until they finally collapse, and each stage of decay has particular value to a whole host of different animals with unique needs. First things first: decaying wood is perfect for fungi -- molds, mildews and mushrooms -- decomposers that soften wood enough for insects to start to gnaw their way in. Next, termites, beetles, and ants all begin to chew apart and break down the cellulose and lignin that gives wood its normally rigid structure. And once you
Nov 08, 2019
Something Wild: Erratic Cycles
Autumn in New Hampshire is a wonderful time to watch and observe some easily recognizable stages of natural cycles: hawks migrating, leaves changing color…bears fattening up as they get ready to hibernate. But while we tend to think of cycles as a circular, repeatable pattern, unfolding year after year-- we should note that there are varying degrees of “cyclical” activity that can be quite complicated. The main reason for this? Nature is filled entropy, or randomness. Political historian Henry Adams once said “Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.” Take for example, the erratic cycles of both the majestic Monarch butterfly, and the humble acorn. You might have noticed an abundance of monarch butterflies in your garden these past few weeks, and many more acorns underfoot. Both are emblematic of the dramatic variations in population numbers and population dynamics, and both are complicated by a lot of factors. Precipitation, predation, reproductive potential, what
Sep 28, 2019