November 17, 2014

Animal Facts: Bald Eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Accitridae
Genus: Haliaeetus
Species: H. leucocephalus

Fast Facts
Lifespan: typically up to 10 years in the wild (banding record 30 years 9 months)
Size: 6-7.5 foot wingspan; weight: 8-14 pounds; 30-37 inches tall
Eggs Laid: 1-3 eggs
Flight Speed: 35-40 mph
Status: Threatened in New Hampshire

What are tips for recognizing a Bald Eagle in the wild?
Adults are relatively easy to spot with white heads and tails, brownish to black bodies and bright yellow eyes, bill and feet. If you see a pair, the larger one is always the female! Immature Bald Eagles are well camouflaged with dark brown head, tail and body as well as white blotches on the underside of the wings. Young eagles don’t molt into adult plumage until four or five years of age. When soaring, Bald Eagles hold their wings level with their body (rather than the upward tilt of the Turkey Vulture). Their call is a squealing cackle, similar to a gull.

Where are Bald Eagles found?
Bald Eagles range only in North America, with the largest population in Alaska.

What do Bald Eagles eat?
Their prey is primarily fish, although Bald Eagles will feed on muskrats, squirrels, rabbits, waterfowl and carrion. Sometimes they will pursue and steal fish from Osprey.

What about nesting behavior and raising young?
Bald Eagles become sexually mature at four or five years of age and breed from March until May. Both male and female build the nest and add new nesting material to last year’s nest every spring. Nests are used perennially. Nests are usually built in treetops and can be seven to eight feet across, constructed of sticks with a lining of soft materials like grasses or moss. Two and sometimes 3 eggs are laid a few days apart in March to May, with an incubation period of about 35 days. If food supply is limited the chicks compete with each other and the strongest, usually the oldest, survive. In approximately 72 to 75 days the chicks fledge (take their first flight).

Fun Facts!
  • The name “bald” comes from the Middle English word, “balled,” meaning “shining white.”
  • The Eagle’s scientific name, Haliaeetus leuocephalus, means “sea eagle with white head.”
  • In 1787 the Bald Eagle was officially adopted as our national symbol.
  • In 1976 the Bald Eagle was put on the endangered species list, mainly due to problems with the pesticide, DDT which caused thin egg shells.
  • By 2007, recovery was successful enough to remove the Bald Eagle from the federal endangered and threatened species list. Still listed as threatened on the NH state endangered and threatened species list.

November 10, 2014

Eyes On Owls

Who’s watching you? Find out on Saturday, November 22 when Eyes On Owls presents a live owl program in conjunction with Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. All who attend are in for some fun with educational close-up views of these secretive birds of prey. Eyes On Owls Naturalist, Marcia Wilson will present “Who’s Watching You? Owls of the World.”

Wilson introduces the audience to owls found in New England and other parts of the world. A slide show begins the program by showcasing colorful wildlife photographs by Marcia’s husband Mark Wilson. Marcia imitates the owls’ calls herself, paying special attention to the more common owls that we might encounter in our area.

After a hooting lesson and much audience anticipation, Marcia brings out the live owls one at a time. With each owl perched securely on her gloved hand, she walks out among the audience with six different owls. There is plenty of time for close-up views, photos, and questions. Each owl presented has a permanent disability which prevents him or her from surviving on their own in the wild. These non-releasable owls serve as captivating ambassadors from the world of wildlife.

Attendees will learn about which owl eats skunks and detective tricks to reveal where owls live close by. They will also learn about what owl pellets give away about an owl’s diet, the food chain, and the web-of-life. Participants will learn how to protect owls and their habitats during this fun, interactive program.

“We are very excited to have Marcia and Mark present Eyes On Owls at the Science Center,” said Iain MacLeod, Executive Director of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. “Although the Science Center has owls as part of our exhibit and program collection, Marcia and Mark offer some rarer species that many people wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to see.”

Eyes On Owls is generously sponsored by Squam River Landing, Owls Landing Campground, Snowy Owl Inn & Resort, with a golf raffle provided by Owl’s Nest Resort & Golf Club.

The Howling Coyote Gift Shop will also be open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for holiday shopping.

Eyes On Owls will have two presentations at 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tickets are available for $10 for members and $12 for non-members. Tickets purchased the day of the event will be $15 per person. Tickets may be purchased in advance by contacting Squam Lakes Natural Science Center at 603-968-7194, option 7.

November 3, 2014

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Receives 3M Eco Grant to Expand Project OspreyTrack

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has been awarded a $33,264 3M Eco Grant to enhance Project OspreyTrack, a multi-year project that uses the tracking of Ospreys with GPS satellite backpacks as a teaching tool to foster awareness and understanding of bird migrations. Specifically the grant will allow the Science Center to create an eastern flyway network through participating nature centers and schools in 15 states from New Hampshire to Florida through which migrating Ospreys pass on their way from northern New England to South America. Curriculum materials will be created and disseminated and students will communicate and share their experience with Ospreys in their state as well as network with schools and nature institutions in Europe, Africa and South America. Other funding partners include Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH), which has helped fund the project since its inception in 2011, Jane B. Cook 1983 Charitable Trust, Meredith Bay Colony Club, and the Science Center’s own Innovative Project Fund.

Iain MacLeod, Executive Director of the Science Center and Project OspreyTrack leader is thrilled to be able to expand the project to other states. “This state-of-the-art technology provides near real-time tracking of these birds as they make their dangerous journeys from New Hampshire to South America, and allows exciting teaching opportunities for people of all ages,” he said. “Expanding what we have done in New Hampshire to all the states along the migration route has always been a goal of the project. Although the birds we tag nest here in New Hampshire, they rely on waterways (Ospreys are fish eaters) in every state they pass though and end up island hopping through the Caribbean and spend half their lives in South America – many in the Amazonian rainforest. So they are international travelers that know no boundaries,” added MacLeod. 

3Mgives is awarding almost $400,000 to 10 organizations with its 2014 Eco Grants, which are aimed at connecting kids to nature and improving environmental and conservation education for youth. Since 2001, 3M’s environmental giving program has invested more than $25 million in sustainability initiatives as part of the company’s vision of improving every life. The 2014 grant recipients are nonprofit organizations located in communities near a 3M facility. Recipients were selected based on criteria, which include: connecting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education with outdoor learning opportunities, improving environmental and conservation education, and increasing student visits and teacher preparedness—thereby extending the learning beyond a single visit.  

“3M is pleased to support innovative ideas that create energy and excitement around learning,” said Kim Price, vice president of 3M.  “We are committed to supporting initiatives that enhance environmental education through hands-on experiences with nature.”

About 3M
3M captures the spark of new ideas and transforms them into thousands of ingenious products.  Our culture of creative collaboration inspires a never-ending stream of powerful technologies that make life better.  3M is the innovation company that never stops inventing.  With $30 billion in sales, 3M employs 88,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 70 countries. For more information, visit or follow @3MNews on Twitter.

About 3Mgives
Since 1953, 3M and the 3M Foundation have invested $1.3 billion in cash and products around the world. 3M’s investment in communities where the company operates reflects the philosophy and practice of the governing principles they have operated by since 1908.  For more information, visit or follow@3Mgives on Twitter.

October 20, 2014

Animal Facts: Coyote

Canis latrans

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: C. latrans

Fast Facts
Lifespan: 10-15 years in captivity, 4-5 years in the wild
Size:4 feet long; 24 inches shoulder height; weight 25-35 pounds
Offspring: 5-7 young
Status: common

What do coyotes look like?
A cousin to dogs, wolves, and foxes, the coyote measures about 4 feet from head to tail, with a shoulder height of about 2 feet and a weight from 25-35 pounds. Eastern coyotes tend to be slightly larger than coyotes found in the west. They have a long and pointed muzzle with a small, rounded nose, and a keen sense of smell. They have sharp eyes, large sensitive ears that are directed forward, slender legs, and small feet with non-retractable claws. The fur is long, coarse, and dense that shows a slight seasonal variation, but varies greatly among individuals. There is not a difference in fur quality between males and females. Usually their colors is gray to cinnamon gray with the underside being buff gray and black.

Where do coyotes live?
The coyote's habitat in the east consists of brushy country bordering the edge of coniferous and second growth hardwood forests, also fields interspersed with thickets and marshlands. Coyotes do not do well in dense forests. Coyotes sleep on the ground in some cover all year but will make a den for their pups under a stump, hollow log, log pile, rocky ledge, vacant building, or dry culvert. They may even dig their own den or enlarge an abandoned burrow. A coyote den may be 2 to 4 feet underground and up to 30 feet long. It may have one or several concealed entrances in high vegetation. The home range of a coyote may be 2.5 to 26 square miles depending on the availability of prey.

What do coyotes eat and what eats them?
Coyotes are opportunists and eat a variety of animals including carrion, rabbits, white-tailed deer, rodents, insects, birds, snakes, frogs, lizards, turtles, fish, crayfish, and vegetation like grapes, apples, cherries, berries, and grasses. The main prey of coyotes tends to be rabbits, carrion, and rodents. Coyotes will often bury a meal if they are unable to finish it and return to it at a later time. There are few predators of the adult coyote aside from humans; young pups have more including the wolf, great horned owl, cougar, bear, golden eagle, and humans.

How do coyotes adapt?
Coyotes are active year round and are chiefly active at dawn and dusk and it is not uncommon to see one out during the day. They often lead a solitary existence or travel in a small "pack" consisting of a mated pair, the pups of the year, and possibly an older offspring. Coyotes are curious animals with a willingness to experiment with new food items and adapt quickly to new situations using it to their advantage. They may sometimes follow large animals using them to flush rodents and insects from a field or will scavenge along a highway. Coyotes may work in pairs to catch prey, splitting off from each other with 30 to 200 feet between them and walking parallel for some distance. They then come together for a short while and split again. A coyote may stalk and creep up on its prey, freeze momentarily, and then pounce like a fox or may hunt by chasing an animal in relays with other coyotes. A coyote usually attacks its prey from the front biting the victim at the throat and cutting the jugular vein, although they often attack the rear end of a deer. The keen sense of hearing, sight, and smell are very important to the coyote when hunting. They usually trot when hunting but may run as fast as 25 to 30 miles per hour. Coyotes are also strong swimmers and with their thick fur are well equipped to survive in temperatures as low as 20 to 30 degrees below zero. Coyotes communicate by howling, barking, and yipping. They also communicate by using their scent glands, and urine and scat posts to mark their territories.

How do young coyotes develop?
Coyotes may pair together for several years but do not mate for life. Breeding begins in February and gestation lasts for 60 to 65 days with the pups born in April or May. The litter size is normally 5 to 7 blind and helpless pups covered with dark, tawny hair. They are able to crawl after about 3 days and walk at 8 to 10 days. The eyes open at 10 to 14 days and they can run at one month old. The female may move the pups from one den to another during their first few weeks of life. The pups are nursed for two weeks and then begin to eat partially digested food as well as continue to nurse. The male provides the food for the pups and the femals until they are old enough to venture out of the den at 3 to 6 weeks old when they are weaned. The pups are taught to hunt by both the male and female at 9 weeks of age. The family will stay together until early fall. If a coyote survives its first year of life it may live to be 4 to 5 years old or if it is lucky 10 to 15 years.

Fun Facts!
  • Coyotes may work in pairs to catch prey, splitting off and running parallel to each other before coming back together.
  • Eastern coyotes tend to be larger than western coyotes.
  • Coyote pups are born blind and helpless but can run after just a month.

October 6, 2014

Hoots and Howls

For 23 seasons, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has brought Halloween and nature together at the annual Halloween Hoot ‘N Howl. This fun event showcases live nature related skits with an eerie and often humorous twist.

The 2014 Halloween Hoot ‘N Howl will be Saturday, October 18 from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. 40-minute guided tours along a newly designed trail depart every ten minutes from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. After each tour guests are invited to warm up with Halloween games and tasty treats. Guests are encouraged to come in costume and dress suitably for outdoor weather.

Reservations can be made by calling the Science Center at 603-968-7194. Cost is $8 for members and $11 for non-members. All registrations received prior to Friday, October 10 will receive a $1 per person discount. The Halloween Hoot ‘N Howl is held rain or shine.

September 29, 2014

Science Center Voted Family Favorite by Parenting NH Magazine

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has been selected by the readers of Parenting New Hampshire magazine as a “Family Favorite” award recipient for Favorite Environmental and Educational Center. Parenting New Hampshire magazine is the state’s premier parenting magazine and a resource for families who live in or visit New Hampshire throughout the year.

The Family Favorite awards, now in its fourth year, is an awards program that recognizes family-friendly businesses, services, and places in almost 60 categories – as chosen by the readers of Parenting New Hampshire magazine. Categories included Out and About, Baby Stuff, Birthday Fun, Shopping, Activities & Learning, Family Services, and Restaurants.

“The Family Favorite’s award program recognizes those places, people, and things that make New Hampshire a great place to raise a family,” said Melanie Hitchcock, editor of Parenting New Hampshire. “Whether it is a child care center, the library, or the playground, parents give each other advice on what and who is the best. The Family Favorites contest gives them the opportunity to share that information with the wider public.”

“We are honored to be chosen by the readers of Parenting New Hampshire magazine as a family favorite,” said Amanda Gillen, Marketing and Visitor Services Manager at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. “For nearly 50 years we have been bringing families nearer to nature and the award helps to spread our educational message.”

The Family Favorite Awards voting took place online from June 1 through July 31, 2014. Parenting New Hampshire received almost 1,100 votes over the two month time period. The results of the reader’s poll will appear in the October 2014 issue of Parenting New Hampshire.

September 16, 2014

Fall Foliage Cruises on Squam Lake

The fiery red orange of sugar maples; the deep russet of oak leaves; the shimmering yellow of aspen leaves; the bright red sumac leaves. Fall foliage season in New Hampshire must be experienced in person to appreciate the beauty of the changing seasons. A great way to get outside and see the landscape is with a cruise on Squam Lake offered by Squam Lakes Natural Science Center.

Squam Lake is the second-largest lake located entirely in New Hampshire at 6,791 acres. It served as the location for the filming of On Golden Pond in 1981. It is known for its wildlife including Common loons, bald eagles, great blue herons, and more. It is also famous for its amazingly clear water, rocky shores, celebrated islands, historic homes, and scenic mountain views.

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center offers Squam Lake Cruises daily through Columbus Day weekend. Cruises run at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. These 90-minute guided tours on one of the Science Center’s canopied pontoon boats hold approximately 23 people and are a nice, intimate way to see and learn about this beautiful landscape. Binoculars are available on cruises for wildlife viewing at no additional cost.

Reservations are recommended for Squam Lake Cruises by calling 603-968-7194, option 7.
Photo by Ellen Edersheim

September 8, 2014

Got Heat? Get Wood

At this time of year, the days begin to feel cooler even with the deceptive summer weather that seems to linger. Fall is just around the corner and that often brings up the thought of winter, which many people try to avoid thinking about. For me, fall makes me think about heating, specifically wood heat. Most people who heat with wood have already cut, stacked and stored it for the upcoming heating season prompting me to think we are not much different from the squirrels that gather nuts and seeds for their winter needs.

Last fall Squam Lakes Natural Science Center started planning for its future energy use that’s a bit different. We converted our heating units for four buildings from fossil fuel to wood. Why? There were many reasons that helped us to make this decision but two stood out. First the cost of natural gas and heating oil has fluctuated over the years making it difficult to project a budget for our yearly heating needs. The second reason was that we wanted to find a source of fuel that was “local” and renewable. These reasons led us to the solution to heat with wood, not a wood stove, not a wood furnace, but a dual stage wood gasification boiler. These units are sometimes confused with outdoor wood furnaces but there are significant differences between them.

One concern people have with a wood furnace is the smoke particulates released into the air that affect air quality in the area. This happens because the fire is regulated by a draft fan that controls the burn rate of the wood depending on the heat demand from the building, which causes the fire to vary between a full burn and smoldering. Outdoor wood furnaces operate at relatively low temperatures resulting in inefficient combustion causing energy to go up the chimney as smoke.

Dual stage wood gasification boilers are constructed and operate differently. There are two burn chambers. In the first chamber the fire burns at a relatively low temperature and low oxygen level. This forces organic gases from the wood into the secondary combustion chamber where super-heated oxygen-rich air is introduced. This allows burning of gasses at very high temperatures, resulting in low particulate emissions because of an almost complete combustion of fuel. During the first 20 minutes of operation of our dual stage wood gasification boilers the only visible emission is steam. After the units reach their optimum burn temperature the steam dissipates and there are no visible emissions.

The heat generated from our wood gasification units is transferred and stored in two water “jackets” that surround the boilers and hold 5400 gallons of water. These act like batteries, storing heat until it is needed by one of the five buildings. Then the heat is transferred across a heat exchanger to insulated pipes that run underground to deliver the heat to each building. Cooler water returns from the building through other insulated underground pipes where it is “recharged” by the boilers.

This process is exciting for us because the wood gasification units will replace five oil or propane furnaces and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Our wood travels a distance of less than ten miles from standing tree to log at the boiler. The ash produced during the gasification process will be used as an amendment for composting. We also expect to lower our heating fuel bill, but the amount saved will depend on how effectively we manage the heating process. Conservatively we expect to reduce heating costs by 50%. This process also provides us a direct link to our fuel, through cutting, stacking, and burning, making us more aware of how much is used and where it comes from. Finally, this project allows us to broaden our scope of opening a window to the natural world to include physical examples of how our actions impact the world around us.