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.

Chris Albertine / VPR

Putney Mountain is one of the high points in Vermont where bird watchers gather in early fall to see the migration of raptors and butterflies. Biologist Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra explain how raptors travel for hundreds of miles using as little energy as possible.

Kent McFarland / Vermont Center For Ecostudies

Monarch butterflies are hard to miss with their brilliant orange color and a wingspan that can reach four inches across. But recently they've been difficult to find because their numbers are in decline.

In this edition of Outdoor Radio, biologists Sara Zahendra and Kent McFarland track Monarchs in the flower-filled fields of the Burlington Intervale. We'll learn how Monarchs migrate to Mexico and the challenges to their survival.

Kent McFarland / Vermont Center For Ecostudies

The Birds Of Vermont Museum in Huntington has created pollinator gardens to attract and support bees, butterflies, flies and other insects. 

Kent McFarland

The lake sturgeon is an ancient, long-lived and peculiar fish that lives in Lake Champlain. Lake sturgeon can live as long as 150 years and weigh 300 pounds. They are basically a prehistoric relic — a fishasaurus!

Kent McFarland / Vermont Center For Ecostudies

This month, Outdoor Radio takes you to Salisbury, Vermont where salamanders, newts and frogs are crossing Morgan Road to a swamp where they reproduce. Dozens of volunteers are keeping a tally, and when a car comes along, the volunteers scoop them up so they don't get squashed.

Biologists Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra are joined by Herpetologist Jim Andrews as the volunteers work with clipboards and flashlights to participate in this rite of Spring.

Over the course of two and a half hours, 44 volunteers counted 512 amphibians.

Kent McFarland / Vermont Center for Ecostudies

Scientists are working diligently to help the majestic American Elm reign once again, after the tree was decimated by Dutch Elm Disease.

In this episode of Outdoor Radio, biologists Sara Zahendra and Kent McFarland of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies are in Plainfield at the foot of a disease-resistant elm. Scientists are taking branch clippings from 60 feet up to pair the buds with other resistant trees.

Kent McFarland / Vermont Cetner for Ecostudies

This is the time of year when Black-capped Chickadees congregate at bird feeders, making their distinctive sound. These affable little birds are stashing away thousands of seeds for the winter. 

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.

Biologists Sara Zahendra and Kent McFarland explain why snow geese are on the decline and why that's a good thing. You'll hear the incredible din of the birds as they rise up from Dead Creek in a cloud of winged snow. Here are some additional resources to learn about Dead Creek and Snow Geese.

Chris Albertine/VPR

We all learned the basics of how and why leaves change color in the fall. But on this edition of Outdoor Radio, we take a deeper look at the chemistry of foliage.

Sarah Carline

Biologists Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra head to central Vermont in search of the Timber Rattlesnake. 

Lisa Brown / Flickr: Mean and Pinchy 756935332

The evening chorus of crickets and katydids can evoke childhood memories of summer as we pause to listen to their distinct sound. But most of us know little about these insects. Known to biologists as Orthoptera (or-THROP-tir-ah), they can be found all over the world, except the poles.

Steve Faccio

Biologists Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies recently took a trip to the Bolton Cliffs in search of a mighty bird.

Kent McFarland

On an early spring day, biologists Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra stand in front of a vernal pool in Strafford. It’s noisy.

“The wood frogs are going berserk behind us,” says McFarland. “The sunlight has come down out of the clouds and warmed them up – they are ready to go.”

Kent McFarland

On a balmy, 25-degree afternoon in winter, three Vermonters go to the tiny town of Victory in the Northeast Kingdom in search of the fearless Gray Jay.

Kent McFarland

Biologists Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra glide out on to the ice covering Lake Morey in Fairlee.

“It’s February in Vermont and it’s pond hockey time,” says McFarland.

Kent McFarland

When you're on the ski lift or hiking up Vermont's mountains, take a look around to see the life zones of the trees on the mountainside. Biologists Sara Zahendra and Kent McFarland of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, rode the gondola at Stowe Mountain Resort for the view from Vermont's highest peak, Mount Mansfield.

Minette Lawnye / Flickr

The smallest birds to winter in the New England woods, golden-crowned kinglets are about the size of a thumb and weigh as much as a nickel. They travel as a foraging flock and keep warm at night by cuddling together, creating more volume with less surface area exposed.


Kent McFarland / Vermont Center for EcoStudies

The tiny Northern Saw-whet owl is migrating south right now and naturalists are tracking them as they pass through Vermont. On Outdoor Radio this week, we’ll visit a banding station in Montpelier to hear how these elusive birds are captured and banded.  

Kent McFarland / Vermont Center for EcoStudies

Chipmunks may be Vermont's cutest critter, especially when their fat little cheeks are stuffed with seeds.  This month on Outdoor Radio, we find out what they do with those seeds and learn how such a tiny creature survives a cold Vermont winter. Biologists Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra also explain how climate change is effecting chipmunks.

flickr / stinkenroboter / 13954037792

When the sun comes up, the dawn chorus erupts! Birds break out in song early in the morning, showing off their varied tunes and amazing vocal abilities. Biologists Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra were at the UVM Jericho Research Forest at 5:30 a.m. to listen, record and explain why and how birds sing. The program may help you identify some of the birds you can pick out of the chorus.  And Kent McFarland will demonstrate how the Wood Thrush can actually sing two notes at once!

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