April 7, 2014

Volunteers Needed to Help Prepare Trails for Season

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center holds Clean Up Day in preparation for opening day 

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center holds its annual Clean Up Day on Saturday, April 19 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Clean Up Day prepares the Science Center’s trails and grounds, including Kirkwood Gardens, for opening day on May 1. Some projects are messy and most work is outdoors so volunteers are encouraged to dress appropriately. Groups are encouraged to help out at Clean Up Day or another day leading up to May 1. Special projects are available for organized groups.

On Clean Up Day volunteers and staff share a complimentary picnic lunch after projects have been completed. Anyone interested in participating in Clean Up Day, including groups and families, should contact Carol Raymond, Volunteer Coordinator, at 603-968-7194 x22 or carol.raymond@nhnature.org.

March 31, 2014

Roadside Rescue

By Eric D'Aleo

Flickr/Linda Ruth
Okay, it’s time I came out and admitted it. Spring is not my favorite time of year. Actually let me rephrase it, parts of spring are not my favorite time of year. What I’m referring to are the cold, raw, wet dreary days in April when I am craving sun but all that nature can muster is a gray, overcast day with rain in the forecast. Don’t get me wrong, I like rain but after a long winter of cold temperatures I’m ready to skip the rain for a while and move into warmer, sunnier weather. I have the feeling that I’m not alone in this thought. However, a recent experience had me reconsider my point of view.
I was driving one evening last year in April and the weather was not the best. It was cold and raw from rain earlier in the day and a fog was creeping out from the fields across the road, into the woods, making the night time driving difficult by obscuring my vision. I slowed down and switched my lights to low beam to avoid blinding an oncoming car. There were puddles all over the road and I grumbled noting that the heavy rain would mean parts of my yard would become mini reservoirs for the next week because of its poor drainage. I focused my eyes upon the side of the road to avoid the approaching bright lights of the car and I could see branches and debris had been scattered about by the wind. The other car’s tires ran through a large puddle and splashed a small piece of wood into the air.

Suddenly, what moments before had appeared as a piece of bark grew legs as it lifted into the air and landed several feet away, directly in front of my car. Now I could see the bulging eyes and dark mask of a wood frog. I braked and slowed the car down hoping that I had avoided the animal when I saw several other frogs in front of me. This time I served in an attempt to avoid the frogs but I couldn’t miss all of them. I knew that the road was used quite often at night so I decided to pull on to the shoulder and get out to help. It was hard to find the frogs since the headlights did not illuminate much of the road and I quickly determined that I was putting myself and the frogs at risk and that I was not properly dressed.

I climbed back into the car and drove home to put on a reflective vest, and waterproof boots and to grab a flashlight before heading back into the dampness of the night. I carefully drove back the next mile to where the frogs were still crossing the road and found a small turnaround to park in. Once away from the car I could see the frogs moving across the road from the woods to the wetland where they would breed. I checked the road for oncoming traffic and then walked out and spotted a frog with my flashlight. I picked it up, noting how cold it felt, as I crossed to the wetland. Many of the frogs jumped before I could catch them or managed to escape from my hand, making me marvel at how these cold-blooded animals could respond more quickly than I could as my hands soon became numb. I spent the next forty minutes helping numerous frogs cross the road, moving to the side when there was approaching traffic. As the cars passed I imagined what people might have said if they knew I was out walking the road trying to rescue frogs. So, keep an eye out on wet spring nights and slow down for the crossing of frogs and the people that may be assisting them. 

March 17, 2014

Announcing Nature Matters

We are very happy to announce the community phase of our Nature Matters Capital Campaign. This comprehensive fundraising effort is designed to prepare the Science Center for the future with multiple exhibit expansions, infrastructure improvements, and long-term financial stability. The campaign goal is $4 million and approximately $3.6 million has already been pledged through leadership gifts.

The background thinking for the campaign began in 2010 after a review of our “Forging New Trails” strategic plan looking toward the future of the Science Center. After reviewing ideas and suggestions, goals were set and the Board of Trustees launched the Nature Matters Capital Campaign in 2012 to build four new exhibits and strengthen its financial foundation through expanded marketing and additions to endowment and reserve funds.

The campaign will fund the following new exhibits:
  • Wood Energy Exhibit: A model of sustainability – saving energy and dollars – using renewable, locally-sourced wood, it heats five major buildings on the Science Center’s campus. Exhibits will compare renewable wood heat to other forms of energy and demonstrate the state-of-the-art boiler system that was installed. This project was completed in February 2014 and exhibit will open for visitors in May 2014. 
  • Adventure Playscape: An outdoor play structure for children that will integrate climbing with interpretive learning and fun. This exhibit is scheduled to open in spring 2015. 
  • Water Matters Pavilion: A fresh and engaging experience with live turtles and mink, an outdoor water play area, native fish aquariums, amphibians, and more, which will teach visitors why water is vital for all life. This building and exhibits are scheduled to open in spring 2016.
  • Raptor Mews: Housing for the collection of more than a dozen hawks, owls, and falcons that the Science Center’s educators use in programs. The Mews will replace an aging winter bird quarters and other raptor living quarters. It is scheduled for completion in 2015.
“We are delighted to announce the community phase of this campaign and share how successful it has been thus far,” said Iain MacLeod, Executive Director. “In 2016, we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Science Center. The culmination of this effort and the opening of these exciting new exhibits will be an incredible way to prepare us for the next fifty years.”

For half a century we have followed our mission “to advance understanding of ecology by exploring New Hampshire’s natural world.” The Nature Matters Capital Campaign will prepare the Science Center for the long-term; yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Questions about the campaign may be directed to Executive Director Iain MacLeod at iain.macleod@nhnature.org or 603-968-7194 x 23.

March 3, 2014

Clouds can speak to you!

By Margaret Gillespie, Naturalist

In this view from my window, I can tell there is a good chance of rain or snow in a couple of days. How does that work? It’s all in the clouds! The clouds pictured are cirrus cloud often called “mare’s tails.” These high level clouds composed of ice crystals are whipped into formations that resemble horse’s tails by winds approaching ahead of a weather front. In other words, rain or snow is coming within the next 36 hours. The sight of “mare’s tails” is not as a bad omen to me but a sign to take advantage of the good weather I have at the moment.

February 24, 2014

Where do Birds Sleep?

We recently came across a great article, The Biggest Misconception About Birds that was published on Slate.com. Apparently the biggest misconception is where birds sleep with many people incorrectly believing that birds sleep in their nests.

Check out the full article here while includes some cool bird videos as well.

February 10, 2014

About the Eastern Coyote

Canis latrans

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

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 eats 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 fee 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, 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 them 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 thoat 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 uring 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 femals 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 our of the den at 3 to 6 weeks old when they are weaned. The pups are taught to hunt by both th emale and female at 9 weeks of age. The family will stay together until early fall. If a coyote survives its furst year of life it may live to be 4 to 5 years old or if it is lucky 10 to 15 years. 

Be sure to visit the Science Center's new Coyote Exhibit which will open spring 2014!

February 3, 2014

Horned Grebe

You never know what you might find on your doorstep.

A few weeks ago we got a call from someone at the Loon Mountain Ski area in Lincoln, reporting a strange bird sitting on the steps of the ski lodge. The person thought it was a Grebe. They brought it to the Science Center and sure enough it was a Red-necked Grebe. This close relative of the Loon breeds in the arctic and usually spends the winter months on the ocean (or on unfrozen sections of large inland lakes). Like the Loon, they are clumsy on land -- having legs positioned far back on their bodies and need a “water runway” to get airborne. They are perfectly adapted for a water-based lifestyle, diving under water to catch small fish and breeding on freshwater lakes and ponds. Loons and Grebes have both been recorded grounding themselves when they inadvertently land on open areas of tarmac which from the air they mistake for open water. Once on the ground they are unable to get airborne again.

When the Red-necked Grebe was dropped off, our animal care staff quickly assessed that it was uninjured and we quickly decided that the best course for this bird was to get it to open water (the ocean) as quickly as possible. Director Iain MacLeod put the call out to the New Hampshire birding community and an old friend of Iain’s – Dick Hughes from Exeter – came to the rescue. He and his daughter drove up to Holderness, picked up the carrier with the Grebe and headed for Seabrook Harbor where the bird was successfully released.

Imagine our amazement when the next week, we got a call from a resident in Plymouth saying he had a “baby loon” on their doorstep. Once the bird arrived here, a quick look determined that it was a Horned Grebe – a slightly smaller close cousin of the Red-necked Grebe. Iain put out the call and two more long-time birding friends of Iain’s – Sylvia Hartmann and Jane Hills came to the rescue. They drove up from Manchester and ferried the Grebe down to Seabrook for a successful release.
So . .  where might these Grebes be coming from. Iain’s best guess is that they are heading for the ocean after losing open water on the Great Lakes or Lake Champlain. Perhaps this very cold winter has frozen over sections of these lakes that haven’t frozen in recent winter. These Grebes were the lucky ones that were able to escape the ice and after mistakenly landing on solid ground were found and rescued. Hopefully these two little lost visitors have a second chance – thanks to some kind helpers.