April 24, 2017

Tick Season Has Begun

Getting outdoors is something many in New England look forward to in those first beautiful days of spring. We enjoy the long awaited sunshine and warmer temperatures that we missed through the winter. However, spring also brings the dreaded tick season. When spending time outdoors during the warmer months there are several precautions you can take to avoid tick bites and safely enjoy your time outdoors.
  • Stay on trails outdoors; avoid areas of overgrown brush and tall grasses. (The Live Animal Exhibit trail at the Science Center is wide, so it makes it easy to avoid brushy and grassy areas. You are not at increased risk for tick exposure walking on our trails compared to any other natural area.) 
  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be easily seen. 
  • Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, closed toe shoes with socks, and a hat. Tuck your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants. 
  • Check yourself, your children, and your pets often for ticks, shower after returning indoors.
  • Use insect repellent containing DEET or permethrin (always follow directions). 
  • After returning indoors, run clothes in the dryer on high heat to kill any ticks that may be on the clothing.
American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
Wikimedia/ Jerry Kirkhart
The Science Center sees a surge in the wood tick (also known as the American dog tick) population in spring, causing some concern among students, parents, and teachers. The good news is that by remaining on marked trails you run little risk of encountering ticks. Ticks cannot (and do not) jump off branches and shrubs. They instead cling to tall plants and wait for some creature to brush them off when walking by. Therefore, only students enrolled in off-trail programs are likely to find ticks. More good news!! Deer ticks (which are Lyme Disease carriers and are sometimes called black-legged ticks) are not typically found at the Science Center. If a careful body check is done within 24 hours of being outdoors and all ticks are removed, there is little cause for concern.

Black-legged tick (deer tick) - Ixodes scapularis
Are wood ticks (American dog ticks) dangerous? The American Dog Tick has been known to
carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia. To transmit the disease to you, the tick has
to be biting you for over two hours. If you do a thorough body check when you get home there
is no need to worry.

How do I know if it is a wood tick or a deer tick? Not all ticks carry Lyme Disease. Deer ticks
are known to carry Lyme Disease but wood ticks are not. Wood ticks are quite a bit bigger than
deer ticks. Deer ticks are usually only the size of a head of a pin, while the wood tick can get to
the size of a small raisin when engorged with blood. If you are in doubt of what species of tick
you see, ask one of our naturalists!

Here are a few more helpful links:
Biology and Management of Ticks in New Hampshire - UNH Cooperative Extension
Tick Tips - UNH Cooperative Extension
Insect Repellents - UNH Cooperative Extension
https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/lyme/documents/tickbites.pdf 

We're looking forward to seeing you on the trail this season!

April 10, 2017

Stories to Tell - Hello Kitty

By Eric D'Aleo, Naturalist

We’ve had a few sightings of a new visitor to the Science Center’s property over the past several months. A stealthy, elusive bobcat has been around but we were unaware of it. The first sighting that came from our trail cameras was last fall when a series of three photos were taken. It was late at night and the bobcat was walking through the brush, resulting in a blurry, black and white image, but it was definitely a bobcat!

This was exciting, since it was the first recorded image of the feline since we put up the cameras in January 2016. The second photo capture occurred in early December. The images were still blurry but they were in color! The animal had been out late in the afternoon in the same brushy ecotone area where it had been spotted earlier that fall. Once again, it was an exciting discovery but one that seemed unlikely to repeat itself. Then this past January, the cameras recorded a third sighting of a bobcat deep in the woods on our property.

The animal looked to be the same size as the animals in the previous photos, but there were no easily identifiable markings on its body to match it with the previous sightings. Again the sighting was during the day, late in the afternoon. Bobcats, it seems, are most active about three hours before sunset until about midnight and then just before dawn until three hours after sunrise. This fit the pattern of the animals in the photos. The animal was definitely on the move. I assume it was in search of prey. Our most recent camera record is from a March evening but from a different forest location. It seems our property may be part of a resident bobcat’s territory, which can range from 1 to 12 square miles. The size of the territory depends on food availability, the season, and if the animal is male or female. Male bobcats tend to have larger territories than females.

Our property and the surrounding area provide habitat a bobcat uses with brushy areas, old fields, forests, rocky areas, and wetlands. It will be interesting to see if the animal(s) continue to visit during spring and summer or only show up in the colder months. We will have to wait and see.

April 3, 2017

The lesser known New Hampshire heralds of spring

By Eric D'Aleo

April proclaims the beginning of spring on the calendar but is not always evident here in New Hampshire. Although southern New England may have green shoots poking through the soil and the hint of warm temperatures, further north there may still be snow on the ground and ice on ponds and lakes. However, there are still signs of spring. One I look for is the return of two small diving ducks: the hooded merganser and the common goldeneye.

The hooded merganser is a small but striking duck. Males have high contrast markings of black and white on their head, back, and chest, a brown scalloping pattern along its sides, a bright golden eye, and a slender black bill. Females are more subdued in their coloration, consisting mainly of browns and tans, with a red eye, and yellow bill similar in appearance to the male’s bill. Both males and females have a high crest on their head that looks like a Mohawk and can be raised and lowered at will. This species of duck prefers to feed in ponds and quiet waters of lakes and rivers. Once the ice opens up to reveal the water the mergansers return shortly afterwards. I have spotted them on the Squam River in Ashland during winter thaws only to disappear when it gets cold again and the ice reforms. Yet by March and April, the temperatures are warm enough to keep a permanent channel of water open, although the shoreline may still have ice. Then hooded mergansers are seen in pairs or small flocks as the males begin courting the females with their white, sail-like crests raised. Occasionally a male will make a low, gravely, groaning call advertising his fitness and interest in breeding. These small ducks also often dive beneath the surface in search for crayfish, aquatic insects, tadpoles, snails, and other mollusks on the river bottom.

Common Goldeneyes may also be seen briefly at this time as they pause on their spring migration north. The male has a black head with a white cheek spot next to its bill and a black back and tail. The chest and sides of the bird are white, while the female has a brown head with a gray body and wings. Both sexes have a bright yellow eye. These birds spend the winter along the New Hampshire coast and on large inland lakes or rivers where the water remains open. The goldeneye, like the hooded merganser, is a diving duck, using its back feet to propel it underwater. The diet of the goldeneye is similar to the hooded merganser, consisting of crayfish, mollusks, aquatic insects, and fish eggs on aquatic vegetation. Both species are very wary and best observed from a distance with binoculars.

March 27, 2017

Press Release: Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Celebrates Selection as Hannaford Cause Bag Program Beneficiary

Holderness, NH – Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has been selected as a beneficiary of the Hannaford Cause Bag program at the Meredith Hannaford during the month of April.

This exciting program has been designed to support local nonprofits like the Science Center. For every Hannaford Helps reusable bag with the good karma message purchased at the Hannaford located at Route 25 in Meredith, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center will receive a $1 donation in order to help fulfill its mission to advance understanding of ecology by exploring New Hampshire’s natural world.

“We are very excited to be chosen for the Hannaford Cause Bag program,” said Amanda Gillen, Marketing Manager at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. “It’s a great way for people to do something small to help support the mission of the Science Center.”

Learn more about Squam Lakes Natural Science Center at nhnature.org. For more information on the Hannaford Cause Bag program, visit www.hannaford.bags4mycause.com or www.facebook.com/hhbagprogram.

About Squam Lakes Natural Science Center The mission of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is to advance understanding of ecology by exploring New Hampshire's natural world. Through spectacular live animal exhibits, natural science education programs, an informal public garden, and lake cruises, the Science Center has educated and enlightened visitors since 1966 about the importance of our natural world. Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is located on Route 113 in Holderness, an easy drive from exit 24 off I-93, and is open daily from May 1 through November 1. The Science Center is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is the only AZA-accredited institution in all of northern New England. For further information about the Science Center, call 603-968-7194 or visit www.nhnature.org.

March 23, 2017

Stories to Tell – Nature’s Scavengers

By Eric D'Aleo, Naturalist

One thing is certain; nothing ever goes to waste in nature. This seems especially true in the winter when food is scarce. Something that was once passed over by an animal when food was abundant may now be an important source of nutrition even if it is carrion. However, some wildlife never turns away from this free meal. These animals we call scavengers. When we think of scavengers several species may come to mind -- turkey vultures, carrion beetles, and fly larvae to name a few. However, many predatory animals may scavenge for food at some time during the year, particularly in winter. Here in New Hampshire scavengers may include fox, skunk, raccoon, opossum, bobcat, coyote, and eagles. Two additional birds often seen scavenging on Science Center property in the winter are ravens and crows. Both of these opportunists feed on a variety of food during the summer including fruit, grain, small invertebrates, bird eggs, nestlings, mice, and carrion. But during winter their diet is more limited and they scavenge more often.

Both ravens and crows have been seen scavenging through the Science Center's compost pile searching for food. They seem to prefer to visit the area at different times with the ravens most often seen earlier in the morning than the crows. When looking at images from the same location of the two birds it’s easier to see the difference in their physical appearance.

The raven is clearly larger than the crow and has a thicker, sturdier bill. The crow’s bill is more slender, which makes it more challenging for it to feed on carrion since it’s harder for it to puncture the skin of a dead animal, squirrel sized or larger. The raven’s bill, being larger and heavier, is better able to handle the force needed to feed on an animal carcass.

The raven has a shaggy ruff of feathers sometimes visible around its throat and on its legs that the crow does not have. This gives ravens a rougher and stockier appearance. There is also a difference between their tail feathers. A crow’s tail feathers are all the same length so that when they are spread it appears fan-shaped. A raven’s tail feathers are longer in the center of the tail than on the edges, giving its tail a wedge shape when the feathers are spread.
Both species are social, but ravens are most often seen in pairs while crows are more likely to be seen in family groups.
Look at the two images below and see if you can identify which bird is the crow and which one is the raven. Keep an eye out for these intelligent birds during the rest of the winter to observe their scavenging strategy for survival firsthand.

February 24, 2017

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteering at the Science Center is enriching and fun. Learn something new and meet interesting people while sharing your talents and skills. Come explore with us and share your enthusiasm. We have a number of upcoming volunteer training opportunities. Learn more and see below for dates. For more information please contact Carol Raymond, Volunteer Manager, at 603-968-7194 x 22.

National Association of Interpreters Certified Interpretive Guide Training: April 6 through 9 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily
Interpreters are storytellers. They are tour guides, museum docents, zoo docents, park rangers, naturalists, and more. In this four-day course offered by the Science Center and National Association for Interpretation you will learn techniques to make connections with an audience, give meaningful and enjoyable presentations, and create thought provoking and relevant interpretive programs. Become a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association for Interpretation. Visit interpnet.com to register or contact Certified Interpretive Trainer Audrey Eisenhauer for more information.

Lake Education Assistant Training and Refresher: April 20 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Lake Education Assistants assist naturalists by leading lake testing activities aboard pontoon boats. Lake Education Assistants are at least 18 years old, enjoy boating in various types of weather, and leading educational activities. No prior experience is necessary. Lake Education Assistants are most active in May and June, and less so in July, August, September and October.

School Group Greeter Training and Refresher: April 25 from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
School Group Greeters are the first “face” school children see when arriving at the Science Center. Greeters board buses as they arrive, welcoming students, and helping them get started on their Science Center adventure. Greeters like to share a positive, welcoming demeanor, and their sense of organization. They are most active weekdays in May, June, September, and October. No prior experience is necessary.

Volunteer Instructor Training: April 27 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. 
Volunteer Instructors are trained to lead school groups in several ecology classes that include fun activities on site. The training on April 27 is an introduction to the classes. Trainees continue their instruction through observation and team teaching experiences before scheduling time to lead classes on their own. Volunteer Instructors are at least 18 years old and enjoy sharing knowledge and activities with school-aged children. No prior experience is required. Volunteer Instructors are most active weekdays in May and June, and less so in September and October. The training session is also open to previously trained Volunteer Instructors who would like attend as a refresher.

Water Matters Pavilion Host Training: May 1 from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. 
Hosts are trained to introduce visitors to the exhibits in the Water Matters Pavilion. One exhibit – the Watershed Table – may be opened to visitors to shape and create digital “watersheds” in sand. Other exhibits include live animal displays, animal video cameras, and other interactive activities. Water Matter Pavilion Hosts match their schedules with available time slots. No prior experience is necessary.

Docent Training (for adults): June 19, 21, 21, 22 - 3:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Docents are volunteers trained to interact with guests on the live animal exhibit trail using educational props and live animals. Docents represent the Science Center at off-site events and also travel to assist naturalists with educational outreach programs. Docents must commit to 40 hours of training in their first year and 16 hours annually subsequently.
Cost: $50 (financial aid available) 

First Guides Training (for ages 14 to 17): June 28, 29, 30 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
First Guides is a teen volunteer program based on our adult docent program. Teens learn how to be a welcoming and informative presence for visitors, often demonstrating animal artifacts alongside adult docent mentors with live animals.
Cost: $50 (financial aid available) 

January 31, 2017

Stories to Tell - November Rut

By Eric D'Aleo, Naturalist

It’s amazing how much animal activity there is in the woods during the fall. Many hunters are aware of the movement of animals at this time, especially white-tailed deer, as they get ready for winter. The deer are busy feeding on the remaining green foliage in November and acorns to put on as much body fat as possible. It’s exciting to watch the changes that have occurred over the past few months on our trail cameras. Gone are the deer’s red coats of summer covered over by dark brown guard hairs of their winter coat which help them survive the cold weather. Fawns that once had spotted coats have grown and lost all trace of their baby coloration. The most noticeable change in the deer are the male’s antlers which have lost the velvet appearance revealing hard bone underneath to advertise their fitness to does and other males. All in time for the white-tailed deer’s breeding season, also known as the rut.

There was a lot of deer activity on our trail cameras from October through November. Most of it occurred late at night but there were times during the day when deer were active. It seems that several does and their offspring continued to routinely visit different locations on our property like they had during the summer. Yet one location, a crossing of two well-travelled paths, seemed to be visited by them most often. There was also evidence of more males on our property this fall than over the summer. There may have been as many as five bucks moving throughout the property. Some of them were young with small antlers but two were large bucks who spent a lot of time roaming around the woods looking for a doe that was ready to breed. Occasionally there would be a close up view of an antler on our camera, either because a buck was interested in it or was possibly choosing to investigate a young tree or sapling nearby where it could take out aggression by rubbing its antlers on the trees. Take a look the photos below.

Notice the difference in the color of the fur in the summer and the fall.
Fall coloring
Summer coloring

Although the fawn is not the same distance from the camera in each photograph, notice the disappearance of the spots by the fall.

Here are images of two different bucks from the same location.  Can you tell which one is more likely to be the dominant male?

Here are the two bucks again at different locations but exhibiting the same behavior.  They are smelling the ground for evidence of a female that is ready to breed.

This location proved to be a good spot for the does and their offspring to visit throughout the summer and into the fall.

This image was taken in early December.  Now with the breeding season over, the long winter begins.  When more snow accumulates, this area will be abandoned for stands of conifers that provide more protection for the deer from the elements.

January 25, 2017

Volunteers Give Generously to Science Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 25, 2017

Holderness, NH – Each year volunteers at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center donate their time and energy to support an organization near and dear to their hearts. Volunteers help in various capacities and areas including education docents; development and marketing; special events; office; Kirkwood Gardens; volunteer instructor; educator assistant; greeters; animal care; exhibits and maintenance; and First Guides teen volunteer program.
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center announced a total of 354 volunteers donated over 8,700 hours of service to the Science Center in 2016. According to the Independent Sector, a nonprofit organization that calculates the value of volunteer hour state by state, the Science Center 2016 volunteer service hours have a monetary value of over $206,000 for the year.

Approximately 62 million American adults volunteer annually in some way, with nearly 8 billion hours of service. Volunteering at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is personally rewarding but also offers benefits for the volunteer including monthly luncheons and educational programs, a gift shop discount, a membership discount, free trail admission on the days a volunteer is volunteering, use of the education library, volunteer newsletter, and an invitation to the annual Parsons Volunteer Recognition Dinner.

“We are so fortunate to have such an incredible group of volunteers supporting the Science Center,” said Carol Raymond, Volunteer Manager at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. “There are so many wonderful stories and experiences that our volunteers provide for our visitors. We wouldn’t be the same organization today without our amazing volunteers.”

The Science Center offers Docent and First Guide teen volunteer training in June and July. Full details and dates will be available at nhnature.org.

To learn more about volunteering at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center please visit www.nhnature.org/who/volunteer.php.