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Nature nerds rejoice! The Field Guides is a monthly podcast that will bring you out on the trail, focusing on the science of our North American wildlife.

Nature nerds rejoice! The Field Guides is a monthly podcast that will bring you out on the trail, focusing on the science of our North American wildlife.
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Nature nerds rejoice! The Field Guides is a monthly podcast that will bring you out on the trail, focusing on the science of our North American wildlife.




Ep. 40 - Put a Ring On It, Part 2 - How Safe is Bird Banding?

Welcome to part 2 of our episode on bird banding! In this part, we look at what the research has to say about how birds fare during and after the banding process. All research that involves capturing and handling wildlife poses some level of risk for the target species. So, what about bird banding? Are injures rare? Do injured birds fare worse than birds that are banded without injury? Join Steve and Bill for a deep dive into a question that many bird banders have wondered about over the...


Ep. 40 - Put a Ring On It, Part 1 - All About Bird Banding

A bird alights on a nearby branch, and, for a brief moment, a flash of silver on the bird’s leg catches your eye. If you’re fortunate enough to get a closer look, you might notice that the reflection comes from a tiny, silver bracelet wrapped around the bird’s leg – a bird band. Bird banding (or bird ringing, for our European listeners) has been used for over a century to better understand the life histories of our avian neighbors. But that’s just one of many reasons why bird banding has...


Ep. 39 - The Alliterative Purple Pitcher Plant (Carnivorous Series #1)

Carnivorous plants are the renegades of the plant world. About 800 known species have gone from primary producers to immobile predators. In this episode, Steve goes on and on and on about everything you want to know about carnivorous plants (and a few things you don’t want to know). You’ll learn what it means to be a carnivorous plant, what it means to be a pitcher plant, and a few interesting things about the Purple Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia purpurea. Enjoy!


Ep. 38 - Ants in Our Plants

Have you ever heard of myrmecochory? It may not pop up much in casual conversation, but this strange word is your doorway to a tiny, fascinating world of ant-plant interactions. Myrmecochory is seed dispersal by ants (don’t worry, we cover how to pronounce it in the episode), and while it may seem simple on the surface, it’s a beautifully complex spectrum of behaviors and benefits, , including some questionable ones. Myrmecochory has long been considered a classic example of mutualism, in...


Ep. 37 - Bill and Steve Go Timberdoodlin'

In spring, a naturalist’s fancy turns to thoughts of Timberdoodlin’, and that means heading out into the spring twilight, finding a brushy meadow, and listening for the buzzy “Peent!” of the American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) . AKA the Timberdoodle, this odd bird (it’s a shorebird that doesn’t live near the shore) performs a strange and stunning sky dance that is a must-see for any wildlife lover. Join the guys as they focus on the fascinating natural history of this bird and head out on a...


Ep. 36 - Spring Science Geek Out!

Spring is here, and the guys hit the trail to discuss spring-related science, including how climate change is impacting global plant growth and how it’s changing bird migration. Plus, Bill gives a (sort of) rebuttal to Steve’s unprovoked and vicious attack on Charles Darwin from last episode. Happy Spring!


Ep. 35 - The Receding Hare Line (and More Snow-related Science)

It’s Snow-and-Tell time! We’re deep into winter right now, and spring seems snow far away. So, we decided to embrace the season and look into recent research around a topic that would be sure to provide plenty of puns for this write-up: SNOW! We delve into recent studies about how much snow actually falls on North America, if the indigenous peoples of the north really have 100 words for snow, how climate change is affecting snowfall levels, and how those changes impact Snowshoe Hare...


Ep. 34 - The Downy-Hairy Game

Did you ever wonder why Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers look so much alike? No? Neither did we, but it was because we always assumed they were simply closely related species. Maybe you did, too, but thanks to the wonders of DNA analysis, we now know that these two look-alikes are not even in the same genus. So, what gives? Researchers recently looked into this stumper-of-a-problem, and, in this episode, Bill and Steve break down what might be the cause. Oh, and Bill talks about how he might have...


Ep. 33 - Hart's-Tongue Fern - Restoring an Endangered Species

“Richer than millionaires! Happier than Kings! Envied by multitudes! May be said of hobnobbers with Hart’s-tongues.” So said one enthusiast of the Hart’s-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium var. americanum) long ago, and we think you’ll agree. This species is exceptional in many ways; its appearance (it doesn’t look like your typical fern), its uncommon habitat, and it’s rarity all add to the Hart’s-tongue fern’s mystique. This month, the guys hit the road, traveling to central NY and...


Ep. 32 - The Devil Crayfish (Feat. Dr. Wayne Gall)

Have you ever heard of a burrowing crayfish? We hadn’t, until our much-smarter-than-us friend, Dr. Wayne Gall, shared the story of how he discovered one particular species living in western NY 30 years ago - Cambarus diogenes - the Devil Crayfish. Wayne invited us to join him on a hunt for this species, to see if it was still present at Tifft Nature Preserve, three decades later. Now, we invite you to come along with us, braving deep mud, crayfish pincers, and audio challenges (Tifft is...

Bonus 08 - The Field Guides Live! (at the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage)

Imagine a gathering of nature-lovers where, for three days, you could attend hikes, talks, and other programs on dozens of natural history topics. Such a gathering takes place each year in Allegany State Park in southwestern NY. For over sixty years, The Allegany Nature Pilgrimage has taken place the weekend after Memorial Day, bringing like-minded individuals from across the country to share their knowledge of and passion for all things nature-related. The guys were invited to lead a hike...


Ep. 31 - Magic Cicadas

Nearly every year, somewhere in the eastern US, a brood of periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.) emerges for the first time in 13 or 17 years. Each brood contains millions of individuals and it's probably one of the most spectacular displays that you would be lucky enough to experience. Before the episode, Steve and Bill traveled to Syracuse to see the tail end of Brood VII at a property owned by the Griffin Hill Farm Brewery. They recount that experience, explore the biology of cicadas,...


Bonus 07 - Wild Ideas...The Podcast (Feat. Gordon Maupin)

During this bonus episode, Bill interviews Gordon Maupin, former director of the Wilderness Center in northeastern Ohio and, along with Joann Ballbach and Gary Popotnik, the former host of "Wild Ideas...The Podcast". "Wild Ideas" was (and is) an excellent resource for information on natural history and it was a strong influence on our decision to start our own podcast after it ended in November 2014- less than a year before we released the first episode of The Field Guides. Enjoy the episode...


Ep. 30 - Have You Seen the Light?: Foxfire and Bioluminescent Fungi

Have you seen the light? This month, the guys take their first foray into the world of fungi, specifically bioluminescent fungi! Although fireflies and other glowing critters have been well researched, fungi that glow are not nearly as well understood. Often referred to as "foxfire" or "fairy fire", their glow was first documented way back in ancient times, but researchers are still figuring out what it's all about. Join Bill and Steve as they shed some light on the latest research into...


Ep. 29 - Jack-in-the-Pulpit, AKA George-Michael-in-the-Banana-Stand

This is the story of two guys who enter the woods looking for Arisaema triphyllum, the graceful woodland wildflower known to many as Jack-in-the-pulpit. Not only is it beautiful to behold, but this member of the Arum family has a fascinating natural history; it can switch its sex, fool midge flies, and cause botanists to have heated debates about subspecies. During the episode, Steve makes a contribution to botanical history by coming up with the best alternative common name Bill has ever...


Ep. 28 - Spring Ephemerals: The Spotted Salamander

The great salamander migration has begun! ...and ended... Every spring there is a small window of time when adult spotted salamanders emerge from their subterranean homes and mate in nearby seasonal wetlands. Bill, Steve, Rich, and Donna venture out to find these elusive critters. The first half of the episode takes place at Beaver Meadow Audubon center and is recorded in the typical style (...we see one salamander). The second half takes place at Donna's property and is much more free-form...


Ep. 27 - Spring Ephemerals: Skunk Cabbage

It's not a skunk... and it's not a cabbage... This month, Steve and Bill discuss Skunk Cabbage. The guys go over the spathe, spadix, contractile roots, and thermogenesis, among other things. We also pose maybe too many questions to our audience: 1. Is Skunk Cabbage a clonal species? 2. Can Skunk Cabbage have multiple inflorescences? 3. Do warblers nest in Skunk Cabbage spathes? 4. Does Skunk Cabbage heat up to to promote cross pollination? Enjoy (and help us answer these questions)!


Bonus 06 - Spring Ephemerals: Coltsfoot

Today we begin the first of many future episodes about spring ephemeral wildflowers. During this episode, Steve and Bill talk about Coltsfoot's adaptations, life cycle, use as a cooking spice, and toxicity. Unfortunately, the guys never figure out what the species name, farfara, means... if you know, share the love. Enjoy!


Ep. 26 - Don't Hassle Me, I'm Local: Ecological Restoration and Local Ecotypes

Can one specimen of a native plant be more "native" than another? For those ecologists who are working to restore damaged ecosystems, whether or not they should use local ecotypes is an important question to consider. In this episode, Bill and Steve hit the road to visit Sonnenberg Gardens and the NYS Parks staff working to help restore ecosystems with an emphasis on natives and local ecotypes.


Ep. 25 - The Eastern Screech-owl

Steve and Bill start off 2018 with an episode about Eastern Screech-owls. The guys talk about the Eastern Screech-owl's dichromatism, adaptations for hunting at night, and even call one in during the podcast. Make sure to wear headphones for this one- the birds calling in the distance aren't always easy to hear. Steve also gets really nervous about being killed by a bobcat for some reason... Enjoy!