Something Wild | New Hampshire Public Radio

Something Wild

Something Wild has been exploring the wonder of the landscape that surrounds us in New Hampshire for 20 years

From the many birds that call our state home to the trees around New Hampshire that have been granted "Big Trees" status to stone walls that perforate the state, we explain the behavior and science behind what we see and hear and might take for granted in our backyards.

Something Wild is hosted by Dave Anderson and Chris Martin; and produced by Emily Quirk.

Click here to get our podcast on iTunes.

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH:

Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
New Hampshire Audubon

Ways to Connect

Dave Anderson

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.  

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.  

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.

Dave Anderson

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.

Dave Anderson

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.

Courtesy Chris Goldberg via Flickr/Creative Commons.

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.

Steve Mirick

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. 

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Garret Evans

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.

CREDIT FILE PHOTO

  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.  

Emily Quirk

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.

Emily Quirk

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?

A common theme on Something Wild is breeding. (Which is why we always sip our tea with our pinkies extended.) Seriously, though, we talk about the how, when and where because there are a lot of different reproductive strategies that have evolved in nature. Today we take a closer look at two such strategies through the lens of "how often": semelparity and iteroparity.

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.

  

Something Wild: Smell that Olfactory

Aug 2, 2019
Courtesy Tony Alter via Flickr/Creative Commons.

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.

Something Wild: Eye of the Turtle

Jul 19, 2019
Courtesy j van cise photos via Flickr/Creative Commons.

New Hampshire benefits from the presence of seven different turtle species. This week on Something Wild we’re taking a closer look at two of the most common species you can find all over the state: painted turtles and snapping turtles.

  

Courtesy Heidi Asbjornsen

The specter of drought is often raised in these early days of summer. And for good reason, though water levels have returned to normal around the New Hampshire, state officials are still warning residents to remain cautious after last summer drought. And while we often fret about the health of our lawns and our gardens, Dave (from the Forest Society) wanted to address drought resistance among his favorite species, trees.

Something Wild: First Bitten

Jun 21, 2019
Courtesy Louise LeCLerc via Flickr/Creative Common

First Bitten is our periodic series at Something Wild where we study the people who study nature, and what set them on the path to do that. And this time around our two subjects under the microscope trace their love of nature back to their parents's nurture, specifically their fathers.  

Ron Davis grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Not a place known for for its lakes or streams or for vast expanses of wilderness; not a place you'd expect to find a future biologist. But that's where he started, "and because of the Second World War my love of nature became greatly enhanced."

 

Something Wild: NH Brooks Brook Trout

Jun 7, 2019
via Wikimedia Commons

The foam formed eddies on the surface of the pool as Stevens Brook rushed down and through this particular crook in the waterway in the shadow of route-89 in East Sutton, New Hampshire.

Something Wild paused here recently to talk fish with author and fish historian, Jack Noon, who is unapologetic about naming his favorite fish. The eastern brook trout is that for a smattering of reasons. First it’s a family thing. Noon, learned to fish at the elbow of his grandfather, who had a clear preference for brook trout.

Courtesy Tracy Lee Carroll via Flickr/Creative Commons.

Here at Something Wild we love all things wild (even blackflies!) but sometimes it can be helpful to look beyond a single species and consider how many species interact within a given environment. In our periodic series, New Hampshire’s Wild Neighborhoods, we endeavor to do just that and this time we’re looking at peatlands.

Something Wild: Warbler Fallout

May 10, 2019
Courtesy Tom Benson via Flickr/Creative Commons.

As spring tentatively unfolds around the state, (and the more diligent of us celebrate International Migratory Bird Day - 5/11) the familiar nuisance of black flies also reappears. And as annoying as we find them, as we’ve discussed earlier, they are a sign of healthy eco-system. The presence of black flies means there are sources of clean fresh running water nearby. Black flies are also among the explosion of insect protein in the northeast this time of year, which signals the arrival of more colorful residents…neotropical migrant songbirds.

Tom Murray via BugGuide.net

We often think of the “food chain” in the natural world in linear terms: this eats that, which in turn, is eaten by the other. But today’s subject proves that chain is a little more like a web. The species we’re talking about today feeds on the most dangerous game, the apex of apex predators…us. And the species that prey on us? Mosquitos, of course! We recently spoke with Sarah MacGregor, an entomologist and founder of Dragon Mosquito Control, help us learn more about them.

Something Wild: Balds Are Everywhere!

Apr 12, 2019
Courtesy Shawn McCready via Flickr/Creative Commons.

On a recent edition of NHPR’s The Exchange, Chris and Iain MacLeod, Executive Director of the Squam Lake Natural Science Center were on hand to discuss one of their favorite species.

Chris marveled at how bald eagles are everywhere in the state these days. “They’re nesting in Pittsburg; they’re nesting in Hinsdale; they’re nesting in Newcastle.” And they’re noisy, if you listen carefully you can hear their calls all over New Hampshire.

Courtesy batwrangler via Flickr/Creative Commons.

It’s an unmistakable sound. One that elicits memories, sights and scents of events long ago. It recalls the joy of youth, the possibility of a spring evening. But it can also incite insomnia and the blind rage that accompanies it.

Courtesy Juliana Spahr (www.scivisuals.com; IG - @science_visuals)

So much of New Hampshire’s natural beauty is obvious; from the top of a mountain trail, from the shore of a lake or pond, even from your kitchen window. You barely have to open your eyes to see it. But take a closer look, and beauty gives way to scientific wonder. That wonder may be inspired by the boiling of watery maple sap to sweet liquid sunshine; or by the majesty of an osprey wresting a writhing fish from a river. But keep an ear out this spring and you may witness wonder on molecular level!

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.  

Courtesy Jack Dorsey

This week we have another edition of New Hampshire’s Wild Neighborhoods, where we take a closer look at one of the more than 200 natural communities you can find within the confines of our state border. Communities like the Alpine Zone or Red oak, Black birch Wooded Talus, but those are pretty rare.

Something Wild: Hiking to Escape

Jan 22, 2019

Over the years, we’ve spoken to a lot people – mostly biologists – about how they were first bitten by the nature bug. Since these stories came from people who’ve made a living exploring, studying and maintaining the natural world, they follow familiar tropes: like an unexpected experience or sighting, or the influence of a parent or teacher who sparked that initial interest in the outdoors.

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?

 

 

Something Wild: Tested with Fire

Dec 21, 2018
Jeff Lougee / The Nature Conservancy

The diversity of New Hampshire’s habitats is staggering, as we’ve mentioned in the past there are more than 200 natural communities within our borders. This week, in another edition of New Hampshire’s Wild Neighborhoods Something Wild, again visits a rare habitat type.

Courtesy Jerry McFarland 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.

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