Outdoor Radio

Every Third Wednesday Of The Month At 6:20 p.m. And The Following Thursday At 7:50 a.m.
  • Hosted by Kent McFarland, Sara Zahendra

The Vermont Center for Ecostudies and VPR unite the sounds and science of nature in this monthly feature. The program is hosted by biologists Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra, who share their knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm for wildlife education and conservation.

Zahendra has a BS in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. She pursues a number of interests including bats and bees. McFarland, a conservation biologist and photographer, is widely published in scientific journals, newspapers and magazines. Kent’s specialties include birds, insects and natural sounds. 

VPR’s Chief Production Engineer, Chris Albertine, is the audio engineer.

VCE, a non-profit group of biologists, promotes wildlife conservation across the Americas with scientific research and citizen engagement. VCE scientists study and protect birds, insects, amphibians and other wildlife from Canada to South America.

The cicindela repanda, or bronzed tiger beetle, is one of the many species that have been spotted in Vermont.
Kent McFarland

If you've been in the woods or in the garden and spotted a quick flash of metallic emerald that was there one second and gone the next, then you have probably encountered a tiger beetle. These insects earn their name. They are fast, fierce predators, even as larva. There are 16 species of tiger beetles that have been spotted in Vermont. Out of those 16, almost half are considered to be of conservation concern.

Kent McFarland

Hard hats in hand, Biologists Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra head to the docks at Lake Champlain. They are taking a boat to Papasquash Island, owned by Audubon Vermont, to help count the new breeding population of common terns.

Kent McFarland

In some regions of Vermont almost all the wood turtles we find are pretty old. We're not seeing their young grow up and join the population as we would expect. Maybe there's a problem with their nests or with the survival of the young. The Orianne Society, a non-profit organization "dedicated to the conservation of reptiles, amphibians and the ecosystems they inhabit," is currently researching and studying these wood turtles in an effort to conserve their numbers.

Kent McFarland

Most of us are familiar with honey bees and bumblebees, but did you know there are around 300 species of wild bees in Vermont? These insects depend on pollen as their food source, which also means they spread this pollen between plants. Our agricultural system, our food, is dependent on wild bees. With several species in decline, it's important that we maintain and perserve their populations.

Kent McFarland

There is currently a study going on in the Green Mountain National Forest investigating the impact of wind turbines on black bear use of important foraging sites. These sites draw bears from 20-to-30 miles away when the beechnuts appear. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is concerned that the turbines might be disturbing the bears' ability to get to their feeding habitats.

VPR's Norwich studio is located at King Arthur Flour at 135 US Rt.5 South, Norwich, VT. For precise directions to the studio, or if you get lost on the way, call the Norwich studio at 1-800-426-7820.
David Hall

The American Marten is about the size of a mink with a long body, short legs and a thick, furry coat. They can be brownish or reddish in color and have a buffy patch of fur around their throat. They are quite cute, with pronounced eyebrows that give them a quizzical look. Deforestation and hunting brought the marten close to local extinction by 1900. In the late 1980's, the marten was re-introduced into Vermont forests.

Kent McFarland / Vermont Center For Ecostudies

Originally aired January 18, 2017

Crows are the stuff of movies, mysteries and dark lore. They are also smart, gregarious birds with fascinating habits including a gathering called the winter roost when thousands of crows group together late in the day.

Kent McFarland

Even in the winter time, beaver ponds are active habitats. The harvested trees and brush attract other wildlife like deer and turkey to feed. The lodges themselves provide warmth for the beavers and other rodents, such as mice and muskrats. The North American beaver has seen a resurgence in the last 100 years after being trapped to near-extinction by European settlers.

 A female Pine Grosbeak is pictured atop a crabapple tree, visiting Vermont during this occasional irruption migration.
Nathaniel Sharp

In Spring, Vermont is awash with migrant birds; sadly, we don't see many species in the Winter. However, there are occasional irruption migrations as birds come from the north in search of shriveled fruit and seeds. Many of these winter arrivals are various species of finches including the Pine Grosbeak.

Kent McFarland

The Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area is a destination spot for bird watchers who come to see the thousands of snow geese that flock there.

Kent McFarland

There is a story behind roadkill. Millions of accidents every year are caused by collisions with wildlife. How can we manage roadways so that they are safer for everyone, vehicles and animals?

Bryan Pfeiffer

Many people don't think about insects, like dragonflies, as migratory. Most of Vermont's 101 dragonfly species stay through the winter but the Wandering Glider leaves with the changing of the season. This species can be found on every continent, except Antartica. In England they are called "Wandering Globetrotters."

Kent McFarland

You can call them clams or mussels, the names are interchangable, but they should also be called endangered. Here in Vermont there are eighteen separate species of freshwater mussels and of those, ten are listed as threatened or endangered while several others are considered rare.

A bobolink perches on strands of high grasses in South Woodstock at Top Acres Farm.
Kent McFarland

Which bird's song is a burst of tweets and twitters that sound like R2D2 from "Star Wars" movie fame? It is the bobolink and after wintering in Argentina, these small, songful birds have returned to nest in Vermont's high grasses.

ilbusca / istock

Biologists Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra head out to West Haven, Vermont at dusk to brave a cloud of mosquitoes in search of the song of the threatened whip-poor-will.

A turkey vulture soars over the National Life building in Montpelier.
Kent McFarland, courtesy / Vermont Center For Ecostudies

Outdoor Radio usually takes us to a mountain top,  pond or forest to get close to wildlife. But this month, biologists Sara Zahendra and Kent McFarland are on top of an office building in Montpelier. For the past several years, National Life employees have been able to watch turkey vultures out their windows. The birds are drawn to the rooftop for warmth and show off their huge wingspan soaring around the building. We learn how to identify turkey vultures from other big birds and how it is that they can eat roadkill and not get sick.

Bald eagle nests can be six to ten feet across and weight several hundred pounds.
Kent McFarland, courtesy / Vermont Center For Ecostudies

We are awed by the size, beauty and power of the bald eagle but Ben Franklin described it as a bird of "bad moral character. He doesn't get his living honestly and besides, he is a rank coward."

Outdoor Radio: Tracking Moose Population In The Region

Mar 14, 2018
A moose calf walks through deep snow. The calf was collared and can be tracked by the research team from UVM and Vermont Fish And Wildlife.
Josh Bluin, Vermont Fish And Wildlife

Sarah Zahendra and Kent McFarland from the Vermont Center for Ecostudies recently trekked through deep snow near Maidstone Lake in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom to find out more about Alces americanus, or moose, in our region.

Joining them on the journey was Jake Debow, a researcher working on an extensive cooperative project with Vermont Fish And Wildlife and the University of Vermont.

Kent McFarland captured this photo of a snowy owl in Killington.
Kent McFarland / Vermont Center For Ecostudies

As cold as it might get in Vermont, it's warm here to the snowy owl. They spend their summers in the Arctic Tundra. These are large owls, with a wingspan of five feet and striking yellow eyes. Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra, of the Vermont Center For Ecostudies, went in search of a snowy owl at the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison. We learn why it's a good year for spotting them in Vermont and what to do if you see one.

Find more info, video and photos at the links below:

A Great Black-Backed Gull calling among Herring Gulls at Grow Compost in Waterbury.
Kent McFarland, courtesy / Vermont Center For Ecostudies

Gulls are found on every continent on the planet. They're smart, resourceful, and graceful - but don't call them sea gulls! There are inland species, even some that live in the desert. Biologists Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra of the Vermont Center For Ecostudies, are joined by birder, Bryan Pfeiffer at Grow Compost in Waterbury. Hundreds of gulls (and other birds) hang out amid this huge expanse of compost enjoying an endless feast.

See more photos and learn about gulls in Vermont at the links below: