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 http://www.nhnature.org/programs/calendar.php.

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!

December 5, 2016

Homeschool Programs

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center holds monthly homeschool programs for ages 4 to 6 and ages 7 to 10. Programs are held on the first Thursday of the month through April. 
Get HAPI!
Ages 7 to 10

Thursdays, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. 
January 5: Interrelationships
February 2: Populations
March 2: Habitats
April 6: Ecosystems
The primary interpretive focus of the Science Center's programs and exhibits is community ecology, which has four major concepts: Habitats, Adaptations, Populations, and Interrelationships (HAPI). Join us with your child to investigate these topics in depth.
All About Series
Ages 4 to 6
Thursdays, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.

January 5: Skunks
February 2: Groundhogs
March 2: Owls
April 6: Turtles
Join us with your homeschooled child to learn all about New Hampshire wildlife. Ecah session considers a different group of living things through activities, hands-on experiences, and a meeting with a live animal.
Cost: $9/member child per session; $11/non-member child per session
An adult must participate with children at no additional cost. Each additional adult pays child fee. 
All Homeschool Programs align with the New Hampshire Science Framework.

October 17, 2016

Golden Memories

To celebrate our fiftieth anniversary we have been hearing from our past staff, volunteers, guests, and others who have shared their golden memories. Here are a few:

"I was introduced to Squam Lakes Natural Science Center when my children were young. It was a special place to visit with them, and with friends and family. Seeing the animals in their natural habitat, playing learning games at exhibits, and attending various summer camp weeks helped my children to learn about our natural world. I can't wait to bring my grandchildren to the Science Center in the near future!" -Barbara Laverack

"Boy, it would be difficult to narrow it down to just one memory. I enjoyed programs and field trips as a kid, which no doubt contributed to my continued interest in wildlife. I remember very vividly the snowy owl and of course the crooked-nosed doe from those elementary field trips. I have incredible memories from my time as an intern, guided discoveries instructor, and assistant naturalist (2003-2006). From taking baby bats and woodchucks home overnight to giving programs with raptors and small mammals, every day working with animals and kids was different, fun and exciting. I also had a lot of fun designing the 40th Anniversary timeline in the Webster Building. It's hard to believe that 10 years has passed since then! I am incredibly grateful to all of my mentors/co-workers/friends at the center from that time. The things I learned from you are deeply woven into my career as a science teacher and curriculum writer today! Happy 50th!" -Sarah Benton Feitlinger

"I have so many wonderful memories of being a "Future Naturalist" in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was such an amazing program and I feel very fortunate to have had those summers to spend working with and caring for NH wildlife at the Science Center. Those experiences and the memories of the individual animals I fed and cared for so many years ago continue to inspire my creative work today as a wood carver. Thank you to everyone who made this memorable part of my youth possible!" -Lisa Laughy

"The first time I remember going to Squam Lakes Natural Science Center was in 1992. I took my Dad and four year old my daughter. We walked the trails as far as Kirkwood garden, and then stopped in the shop that was there at that time. My daughter decided to get a brightly flowered umbrella. We started back towards the welcome center, but just before we got to the field, a thunderstorm blew through. We took shelter (probably at the raptors area) until the wind died down. She was so pleased to be able to use her umbrella for the rest of our walk. Little did I know then that less than ten years later I would be working at the Science Center and renting their pontoon boats to get married on Church Island. Now I am taking my grandson to the Science Center each year. Some places just become family." -Nancy Durgin

"Our son worked at the Science Center when he was a student at Holderness Central. He really looked forward to going to the Science Center on his 'work days' and came home pretty excited about what he had seen and done that day. He has since gone on to get his PhD in Forest Ecology at the University of California-Berkeley, and although his time at the Science Center is not totally responsible for that outcome, I know that his time at the Science Center was seminal to his interest in the natural sciences. As a side note, our daughters also baby sat for the children of one of the first directors of the Science Center, an experience that made us realize that Holderness and the Squam Lakes region had a wonderful establishment." -Larry Spencer

September 20, 2016

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Receives Accreditation from Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center announces it has been granted accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) independent Accreditation Commission.

To be accredited, the Science Center underwent a thorough review to assure it has and will continue to meet rising standards, which include animal care and welfare, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete the rigorous accreditation process every five years in order to be members of the Association.

The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquariums professionals. The Science Center’s on-site inspection took place in May. The inspecting team observed all aspects of operations, including animal care and welfare; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff, and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; veterinary programs; financial stability; risk management; visitor services; and other areas. Science Center Executive Director Iain MacLeod attended a formal hearing of AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission on September 8 in San Diego, where he found out the Science Center has been granted accreditation for a third five-year period.

“The Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredits only those zoos and aquariums that meet the highest standards. By achieving AZA-accreditation, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center demonstrates that it is dedicated to protecting species and educating its visitors about the natural world,” said AZA Interim President and CEO Kris Vehrs. “The community can take great pride in knowing that the Science Center is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of conservationists.”

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center first received accreditation in 2006 and applied for and was granted accreditation again in 2011. They continue to be the only institution in northern New England to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

2016 has been a big year for Squam Lakes Natural Science Center with celebrations throughout the year for its fiftieth anniversary; publication of two nature books; the opening of the new Water Matters Pavilion, which includes 18 water-related exhibits and live animals; and more visitors learning about New Hampshire nature than ever before.

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has added many improvements and expansions over the past few years at the culmination of the Nature Matters capital campaign, which raised $4 million to help secure the future of the Science Center. The campaign funded new exhibits including Wood Energy, the Gordon Interactive Playscape, and Water Matters Pavilion, in addition to improving the behind-the-scenes living quarters for program raptors. The campaign also raised money to maintain facilities and exhibits in the future, and added to reserve funds.

“We are thrilled to have this recognition of our hard work and devotion to the highest possible industry standards,” said Iain MacLeod, Executive Director. “It is a testament to our staff, volunteers, and visitors, who throughout our history, have helped make the Science Center into the impressive institution it is today.”

September 7, 2016

Visiting a historical hearth - the Piper Homestead

By Danica Melone, Marketing Intern

About two-thirds of the way up the Forest Trail, a cove of pine trees opens to reveal a small cellar hole just off the path. Nearby, a large placard describes the scene with artifacts: fragments of dinnerware, a silver spoon, colonial coins, and other pieces left by the inhabitants of a family farmhouse built on the property. Opposite the cellar hole, on the other side of the trail, is the site of the barn that once stood before all was lost in a fire. The cellar hole and barn belonged to James and Sophronia Piper and their children; built in 1847 “between the Peak of Fayal and the Minister's Lott... a homestead on a narrow plateau tucked into a steep slope." (doc. 105.)

At this point, you might be wondering about how the Piper family came to be, or what the Minister's Lott is. The land that the Science Center sprawls out on is entrenched in a rich history dating back to the very beginning of Holderness. Its history is more impressive than simply serving as a small livestock and agricultural plot for the Piper family. In fact, the grounds were home to more than just one family; the Science Center grounds were originally owned by the Reverend Robert Fowle. (As a note, this was the beginning of European settlers continuing their dispersion outward from the East coast. Thus, this historical account does not reference any prior inhabitants, but it is critical to remember that Native Americans were present on and around Squam Lake at the time.)

Just prior to his settling in 1804, Robert Fowle, a reverend of the Episcopal church, was entitled to a plot of land called the Minister's Lott by "the town's eighteenth century charter" (doc. 400). The entitlement allowed Reverend Fowle to essentially "choose" where his Minister's Lott would lie, keeping in mind that by 1803, sections of the Minister's Lott must be portioned off for the Episcopal Church and cemetery. Reverened Fowle choose a nice plot of land right on "the North shore of Little Squam" lake, which he would eventually begin to section off and sell "for economic gain" (doc. 400).

Sparse census data from the 18th century tells us that Reverend Fowle began selling pieces of his property as early as 1804, with James Piper showing up in census records in 1847 as a neighbor abutting the north-side of the Reverend's property. In September of 1847, records show that the Revered Robert Fowle passed away, leaving the the property to his only heir; his nephew Robert True. Widow of Reverend Fowle, Martha Fowle, eventually sold the property to her son-in-law, Henry True later that year. Robert True, in the meantime, was schooling at the New Hampton Institute, St. Johnsbury Academy, and the Bangor Theological Seminary where he was classified "as a Congregationalists who was ordained an evangelist in 1881" (doc. 401).

Meanwhile, James Piper was buying up tracts of land and selling them; one plot was near White Oak Pond while were others scattered inland. Eventually, James Piper purchased the land “below the Peak of [Mt.] Fayal” by 1847 and quickly built the family homestead (doc.402). Sparse records from this time allude to a trail, most likely a Native American-used path, which was the only sign of inhabitance on this property prior to the Piper’s arrival. As the years passed, James Piper’s son, George, came into the land records as a new constituent of the property. In June of 1876, land records show a $1000 transaction ultimately giving half of everything owned on the Piper property to George Piper. This included an “undivided half of [the] homestead” and “one half of the stock of every sort” (doc.402).

Robert True ended up not returning to the homestead, allowing Henry True and his wife Martha True, one of three daughters to Reverend Robert and Martha Fowle, to continue to inhabitant the space. At this time, Henry and Martha True “rented” half of their property to Martha’s unwed sisters, Mary and Margaret, at the rate of $40/year. This was most likely a simple legal transaction for the sake of record keeping, yet still helps paint a picture of the economic hardships during the era. In 1875, the property would be sold to John Davison who was married to the daughter of James and Sophronia Piper, Betsy. By this point in 1875, James and Sophronia Piper were getting older and so John and Betsy Davison’s decision to reside “on the Southern boundary of the Piper Homestead made sound economic sense for the Davison/Piper family unit” (doc.403). Less than a decade later, James Piper passed away leaving Sophronia and their unwed daughter, Latitia, to finally sell the property in 1888 from the economic burden. Thankfully, the property was purchased by John and Betsy Davison, marking the official “joining of the two properties” (doc.403).

The Davison family thrived on the property for many years; as they realized their agricultural prospects were not well-suited for the region, so they began mixing “tourism with agriculture and forestry” (doc. 403). In the beginning, the Davisons used the “old Fowle parsonage as a summer boarding house” to accommodate the increasing presence of tourists (doc.403). As their niche industry grew, the Davison’s replaced the boarding house “with a more ambitious structure, the Central House,” which was later re-built after a fire, and renamed again as the Holderness Inn (doc.403). Though historical records do not provide the exact date, sometime after 1888, The Piper Homestead burned down leaving only a cellar hole along the path which is seen today on one of the Science Center’s hiking trails.

Our historical record recounts a day in 1977 when the great-grandson of James and Sophronia Piper, John Davison, walked the trail with the second Science Center director (then called the Science Center of New Hampshire), Robert Nichols. The great-grandson of these two historical figures, remembered the past uses of the land: thriving gardens and agricultural patches with timber lots nearby provided the family with many basic needs. Incredibly, John Davison recalled at one time being able to see the expanse of Squam Lake from the cellar-hole site, which was also used by the Piper family as a favorite family picnic spot.

Today, the remaining sites of this history include the Piper cellar hole, the Holderness Inn, and the Bridge Cemetery in Holderness. The Piper cellar hole and its artefactual remains may be visited via a short hike from the Science Center at the junction of the Forest and Mount Fayal hiking trails; a peaceful spot where you may look back in time by standing in what was once the side yard between the Piper’s homestead and barn. The Holderness Inn has seen various uses from the Science Center over the past century and now serves as beautiful, historic structure housing the Squam Lakes Artisans shop and Kirkwood Café, all on the same floor. In addition, the Holderness Inn represents the last of the “grand hotels” to still be standing while the others, built around the lakes in a similar grandiose fashion, have since burned down and were never rebuilt. Reverend Robert Fowle’s Episcopal Church burned down before his own death, though the date is unknown. Reverend Fowle’s second task as the first Holderness minister was to develop a plot of land for the cemetery, eventually named Bridge Cemetery. Legend has it that the location of Reverened Fowle’s headstone in Bridge Cemetery marks where his pulpit once stood in the church.

With all of that new information regarding historic land use at the Science Center, I’ll leave you with this [sorry, lengthy] excerpt from our historical account: “The Minister’s Lott represented the first phase of Holderness settlement, reserved for the first settled minister of the township, Massachusetts-born Robert Fowle of the Episcopal Church. The Piper Homestead reflected the second phase, used by a native-born son to provide a home for his family, his father’s lands already burned by other demands. However, by the end of the nineteenth-century, changing economic strategies forced the consolidation of the two properties” (doc.403.)

Thankfully, you are able to visit three of these historic locations in Holderness, with two being located right on the Science Center property. Enjoy a fresh, locally-made lunch on the terrace of Kirkwood Gardens from Kirkwood Café (open during July and August), and visit the incredibly creative Squam Lakes Artisans shop inside. If you have a few extra hours (we suggest a 90-minute minimum), take the easy hike up to the Piper cellar hole on our Forest Trail. The site of the cellar hole and it’s artifacts rests just below where the trail becomes “narrow, steep, and winding, [yet] it serves as a reminder that hill farms existed in isolated sites and yet still maintained fragile links to a larger world” (journ. 005).

Excerpts in this blog are from a report written by Blake Allen, Director of the Pakistani Educational Leadership Institute (PELI), College of Graduate Studies at Plymouth State University) and the Holderness Historical Society.

August 15, 2016

Upper Pond

By Danica Melone, Marketing Intern

I have never been disappointed with extra walking for the reward of the reaching the Upper Pond. Towards the end of the exhibit trail, between the Raptor Exhibit and marsh boardwalk, signs offer guests another attraction up a path to an unseen pond. I've found that guests tend to divert past this attraction, likely because it brings guests up a path towards which may or may not be a worthy sidebar for their trip. In contrast, on the rare occasions I do come across guests at the Upper Pond, they too are floored by its serenity.


The Upper Pond is accessible via a short, easy path through the woods; adding perhaps 3 minutes to your walk but many more if you stay to look! Two docks stretch out over clear, calm water while massive trees and bushes curtain the pond; almost completely muffling the distant sound of children and families on the exhibit trail. Aptly positioned, several wooden benches beckon from the shaded vegetation, overlooking the peaceful waters. On the other side of the pond stands a weathered bird house; its perfect reflection in the water is an ode to the tranquility this spot offers. The trail parallels the edge of the water, leading from one dock to the other, delivering guests back down to the marsh boardwalk through a field of tall grasses and wildflowers.

Finding frogs, watching fish, listening to the birds, enjoying the breeze, are only a few of the activities I find myself doing every time I’m up there. This part of the Science Center is a hidden gem for a family photo, a peaceful spot for meditation or yoga, or the perfect rest stop for simply enjoying the sights and sounds of a thriving ecosystem. Next time you're visiting the Science Center, don't skimp your trip; make sure to at least walk by the Upper Pond, I'm sure you'll see (or hear) something beautiful!