Going South for the Winter

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for Nov. 10-23, 2018

When we Lathrop human residents go south for the winter, we generally mean Florida or even Mexico.  Some of our Lathrop creatures think the same.  We’ve watched our monarch butterflies leave for Mexico, and maybe we went up to Mt. Tom to watch the hawks flying by on their way to warmer climes.

But to our juncos, Lathrop IS “south for the winter.”  They’ve spent the summer in Canada, in monogamous pairs, breeding and raising their young.

Some males may stay here in New England, while the females go on south to, say, Maryland or North Carolina. The guys probably do this in order to get back to Canada as quickly as possible next spring, so they can claim the best territory.  A gal, meanwhile, can spend the Continue reading Going South for the Winter


Birds! The Lathrop Cafeterias are Open All Winter

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for Nov. 10-16, 2018

Birds—you’ll be happy to know that Lathrop’s “Native Garden,” “Meadows,” and “Forest” cafeterias will remain open all winter.  We had to brush hog 1/3 of our east campus meadows so they don’t turn into a woods, but we left 2/3 of them standing.  The Inn native garden, and some resident gardens on both campuses, leave seed-pods standing, so you can get to them even when it snows.  Both campuses also have many shrubs and trees with seeds or berries.

Birds, note in the photo above that some of the seeds in our Inn garden are already eaten, so get yours early, like this goldfinch!

American Goldfinch Facts: An American Goldfinch pulling seeds from a seedhead.

We’ve been trying to eliminate the “junk food” section of our cafeteria– invasive shrub honeysuckle,  Japanese barberry, burning bush, multiflora rose, buckthorn,and oriental bittersweet.  A resident ornithologist calls them “bird candy,” because they’re not as nutritious for you as native berries.  Even worse, non-native buckthorn berries give you diarrhea, which weakens you, so avoid those especially. Instead, in our winter cafeterias we have been working hard to provide healthy foods like native winterberries, maple-leaf viburnum, chokeberry, and crabapples.


By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for Nov. 3-9, 2018

As invasive burning bushes (also called winged euonymus) turn red in fall, we can see how pervasive they are in our campus gardens and landscaping, and how they are invading our woods, reducing wildlife.

Several years ago, this hedge behind the Cranberry Houses was over run with bittersweet, whose red berries show up in late fall.

Since 2013, we’ve been removing burning bushes from our “free fifty” invasives-free wooded acres on both campuses, turning our forests back to native plants. Burning bush wood is great for turning on a lathe, so, from our largest cut-down bushes, resident Doris Atkinson has turned out beautiful Christmas tree ornaments.  A goal of Lathrop’s landscape policy is to steadily turn our campuses into more wildlife-friendly places, without invasive plants, so Doris will have to turn to another source for her turning wood.

Our Meadows are STILL Full of Butterflies

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2018

Our monarch butterflies have left for Mexico, but many butterflies will stay all winter. They survive in an astonishing variety of life stages—as caterpillars, as adults, or in cocoons–tucked into crevices, resting on the ground, rolled up in leaves, or attached to twigs.

The pearl crescent caterpillar stops eating its usual aster plants and spends the winter resting at the base of the plant until spring.  The adult arctic skipper crawls into a crevice or tree bark and goes into a dormant state.

Some butterflies, like this black swallowtail, overwinter in a cocoon.  In summer, it will stay in the cocoon only 2 weeks, but if the chrysalis forms in Fall, it will go into a hibernating state called “diapause” until warmer spring weather.

At Lathrop, we save our overwintering butterflies by mowing only 1/3 of our meadows and fields each year, so that 2/3 of the overwintering butterflies survive.

In a garden, the more plant material you can leave over the winter, the more butterflies you will save.  Leave fallen leaves on the ground. Continue reading Our Meadows are STILL Full of Butterflies

The Critical Importance of Old Trees

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Oct. 20-26, 218

Why we need old trees was the subject of an Oct. 16 talk by renowned expert on old-growth forests Bob Leverett. An engineer by training, he showed Lathrop residents how he measures the volume of old trees and the amount of carbon they sequester.  His research has shown that, contrary to popular misconception, old trees sequester the most carbon, compared to young trees, and old trees keep on sequestering more, as they get even older.  The protection of our western Massachusetts forests, as they age, Continue reading The Critical Importance of Old Trees

How to Walk Safely in our Woods and Fields this Hunting Season

By Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Oct. 13-19, 2018

Oct. 15 – Dec. 31 is the season for hunting deer and turkey, both of which are plentiful on our land.

But our critters can live in peace this fall, because, on the east campus, Lathrop has ended its longstanding agreement with a hunter,  that he and a few of his friends could hunt on our land in exchange for his mowing our trails and fields.  On the north campus, and the adjacent Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area, no hunting has ever been allowed.

However, we can’t completely guarantee that no hunters will trespass on our land.  So when walking our trails, wear orange or pink on your torso and head. Facilities Director  Mike Strycharz notes that orange clothing is a good idea anytime, because it’s easier to find you in the Continue reading How to Walk Safely in our Woods and Fields this Hunting Season

Lathrop’s Old Trees

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Oct. 6-12, 2018

On Tuesday, October 16, in the Mt. Tom room at 1:30, Bob Leverett will talk about old trees and then lead a walk/ride to Lathrop’s oldest oak—Ad’s oak– opposite the community garden.  We hope to have vehicle transportation for those who need it.

Trained as an engineer, Leverett began his activities on behalf of old-growth forests in the mid 1980’s and has become a leader in the old-growth forest movement.

He is the co-founder of the Native Tree Society, co-founder and President of Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest, chairperson for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Forest Reserves Scientific Advisory Committee, the co-author of the Continue reading Lathrop’s Old Trees

Nurturing Lathrop’s native plants and wildlife.