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 For more information on the Hannaford Cause Bag program, visit or

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

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 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

To learn more about volunteering at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center please visit

January 4, 2017

Chickadee 2200-79973

By Dave Erler, Senior Naturalist

Black-capped Chickadees with their distinctive black, white, and gray plumage are a familiar bird in New England. Yet to most of us, when we see one Chickadee it looks just like another. Occasionally one stands out such as the one that comes to the feeders at my home. This individual is easy to identify due to its several white tail feathers, meaning it is piebald or partially albino. Rarely you might see one with several colored plastic bands attached to one leg. This means a local researcher, authorized by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, marked it to help identify the different birds in that local population.
As a permitted bird bander myself, I have the opportunity to meet up close and personal many Chickadees through annual banding activities here at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. But lacking authorization to place colored bands on birds’ legs, I only use small standard US Fish & Wildlife Service aluminum leg bands. Although each of these bands has a unique series of numbers etched in the aluminum, the numbers are far too small to read unless the bird is in hand. Once released you might be able to see a bird that has a band on its leg, but you really have to recapture the bird to actually identify it as a particular individual.

Over the past forty years I have banded well over a thousand Chickadees and recaptured nearly as many. You might think that after a bird has gone through the trauma of being captured once it would try to avoid being captured again. With Chickadees that doesn’t seem to be the case. A number of years ago I banded one Chickadee and recaptured it a dozen times in the same day it was banded! Still most of the Chickadees are only recaptured infrequently and usually within one to two years of having been banded. Indeed the average Chickadee only lives one to two years, but a few individuals survive much longer. That brings us to Chickadee 2200-79973.

I first “met” Chickadee 2200-79973 on February 9, 2005. I don’t know if this individual was a male or female as both sexes look alike for most of the year. The sexes can only be determined for a brief time during the breeding season, and then only while in the hand by peeking beneath the underside feathers. (Females have a brood patch on their bellies and males a distinct swelling at their rear end opening called a cloacal protuberance.) At the time of banding Chickadee 2200-79973 was an average Black-capped Chickadee with a 65 millimeter wing chord (wrist to longest feather), 63 mm tail, 10 mm bill, and a weight of 11 grams (there are 28.35 grams/ounce). This Chickadee was banded that day during a school program. The students not only got see this little guy or gal but had the opportunity to record the data, place the band on its leg, and release it. All agreed it was a special little bird, although I didn’t realize how special at the time.

The next time 2200-79973 was encountered was on January 7, 2006. Other than the tail feathers being 3 mm longer than the year before it seemed to be just the same. We didn’t see this feisty little character again until March 20, 2008. At that age it had it had already beaten the odds living much longer than 95% of Chickadees. On March 4, 2011, it was captured again making it the oldest surviving Chickadee I had ever banded. Then on February 28, 2014, I was really surprised, as you have probably guessed by now, 2200-79973 was waiting in one of the traps. I don’t know when this bird actually hatched, but the fact that it was banded in the winter of 2005 meant its minimum age was at least 10 years. Although the North American longevity record for a Black-capped Chickadee is twelve years, five months, this incredible little bird had survived three years longer than the next oldest Chickadee I have banded. It is going on nearly three years since 2200-79973 was last encountered, but you can bet that every time I take a Chickadee from one of the traps, I haven’t given up hope that he or she might just prove to be the ultimate Chickadee survivor. Or maybe after getting caught five times in ten years he or she might just have figured out how not to get caught!

If you would like to find out firsthand how we catch, measure, and band Chickadees and other birds that visit our feeding station, you can join us on the following weekends this winter, on January 7 and 21, February 4, 18, and 23, and March 1 and 4. See full details and schedule at

December 24, 2016

Happy Holidays

At this time of year we send happiest of holiday greetings to you and yours. May peace and nature fill your heart!

- From all of us at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center

December 19, 2016

Please Support the Annual Fund

The trails, classrooms, and exhibits were often busy with families, children, and school groups this year when more than 60,000 people visited the live animal exhibit trail from May 1 to November 1. No matter your age or when you visit, you can always have fun and learn something new at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center.

To maintain the excellence and educational joy of the hands-on visitor experience we ask you to make a donation to the Annual Fund. Your contributions help us to care for and feed our live animals, to maintain our buildings, trails, and exhibits, to provide support to our volunteers and staff, and to offer high quality natural science programs for all ages. Your gift – no matter its size or how you choose to give it – will help us fulfill our mission to advance understanding of ecology by exploring New Hampshire’s natural world. And if your employer matches contributions, you might even double your gift. Your donation, large or small, is much needed and will be much appreciated.

If you have already made a gift this year, thank you. If not, please consider doing so now. You can donate online or mail a check to SLNSC, PO Box 173, Holderness, NH 03245>

Thank you for your support!