Outdoor Radio

Occasionally During Morning Edition & All Things Considered
  • 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.

Zebra Mussel shells on the beach.
Kent McFarland

Zebra Mussels are an invasive species in Lake Champlain. Not only do they consume a great deal of the food supply in the lake, but they also attack native mussel species by sticking to them and robbing them of fresh water and food. The Zebra Mussel can reach a density of 100,000 per square meter, covering exhaust and intake pipes for water treatment and power plants.

A jumping worm upclose.
Kent McFarland

There are 19 species of worms in Vermont. Three of them are considered invasive; they are known as snake worms or jumping worms. These busy, invasive worms change the forest floor and the content of the soil, making it difficult for new growth to take root. This affects the habitat and food source of wildlife and the future of the forest itself.

Andrena parnassiae is a rare species of bee that only feeds on one plant, fen grass-of-Parnassus.
Kent McFarland

Fen grass-of-Parnassus has a beautiful white flower that blooms from mid-August to mid-September in Vermont. It is the sole food source for a rare species of bee, which are only referred to by their Latin name, andrena parnassiae.

Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra are in the backyard of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies exploring the biodiversity just outside the door.
Kent McFarland

In these times of social distancing, when people can feel disconnected from one another, it's important to realize that nature is just outside your door. From bird songs to green frogs' croaking chatter, stay connected to the outdoors by exploring your own "backyard biodiversity."

The sight and sound of the Red-winged Blackbird is a true sign of spring.
Kent McFarland

Birdwatchers know that when they see the Red-winged Blackbird return, spring is on its way. These birds are numerous and everywhere. The males are stark-black with a red epaulette, a striking flash of color on their wings, that they use to attract mates and ward off other competing males.

Blue jays help to plant new trees, expanding the forest.
Kent McFarland

Blue jays are pretty common. We see them all the time, and yet, they still have mysteries to share with us. Blue jays are also known as the "engineers of the forest." Their diet consists of acorns and beech nuts and they take these seeds to new areas and cache, or bury, their food. Sometimes they forget to come back to get these stored nuts and seeds allowing them to grow. The birds are planting new trees and expanding the forest.

Everyday at 4am the meterEveryday at 4am the meterologists of the Fairbanks Museum go to this white box, observe and record the temperature.ologists of the Fairbanks Museum go to this white box on the grounds and observe the temperature.
Kent McFarland

In the past 125 years, only two Januarys have stayed below freezing for the entire month. Some Vermonters relish a period of warmer temperatures while others lament the melting snow. Is there such a thing as a regular, consistent January thaw?

The male Bruce Spanworm moth has a small body and giant wings that allows them to fly in cold temperatures.
Kent McFarland

You don't expect to see a moth in November, but these winter moths have adapted to thrive in the cold. The operophtera bruceata, or the Bruce Spanworm moth, spends the summer as a catapiller in the canopy of hardwood trees. They eat and eat, getting bigger until they fall down into the leaf litter and pupate. As the weather turns cold, around the end of October, they emerge as adults. This comes in very handy for these moths, because most of the birds have migrated away and there are very few predators left.

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."