Lathrop’s Ferocious Mink

By Barbara Walvoord

First published in Lathrop Lamp Post for Jan. 5-11, 2019

A resident spotted a mink crossing a road on the east campus.  Minks live in woods near streams, ponds, and wetlands.  That would be us.

Our mink is a fierce fighter and predator who has to survive a lot of challenges.

The first challenge is finding food.  The fish, snakes, and frogs are hidden now, but luckily there are still muskrats, rabbits, mice, voles, chipmunks, and birds.  Mink pounce on their prey, grasping it fiercely by the neck and biting down hard.

A warm, soft, waterproof fur coat helps our mink stay warm, even in the water. But that coat is also dangerous. Today online, you can buy Continue reading Lathrop’s Ferocious Mink


With Family at the Holiday

By Barbara Walvoord

First published in Lathrop Lamp Post for Dec. 22, 2018 – Jan. 4, 2019

Lathrop’s blue jays are enjoying family time at the holiday (and every day). Mom-and-Pop pairs, mated for life, are still together now in the “empty nest” phase. This past summer, Dad was a super family man,  bringing food to his mate on the nest for the 17 days of egg incubation, then bringing food for her and the nestlings for another 10 days so she could be a stay-at-home mom.

Jays eat insects, grains, seeds, dead or injured mice and chipmunks, dead or dying adult birds, and occasionally other birds’ eggs and nestlings (though in one study, only 6 of 530 blue jay stomachs had remains of eggs or nestlings).  Jays can carry 2-3 acorns in the neck Continue reading With Family at the Holiday

The Government–A Turtle’s Friend

By Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of Dec. 15-21, 2018

“Sarah’s turtle,” a rare wood turtle, was photographed by Sarah Gauger several years ago, as the turtle came to lay her eggs in the loose soil of a Cranberry Lane garden.  Sarah’s turtle is probably still around; wood turtles live 40-60 years.  But her species is dwindling. Development is depriving wood turtles of the unique environment they need: streams (where they spend the winter underwater), loose earth to lay their eggs in spring, and surrounding forests where they spend part of their time.  They need safety in crossing the roads that lie between.  They are vulnerable to pesticides.  They need a varied diet–slugs, worms, tadpoles, insects, algae, wild fruits, leaves, grass, moss, and carrion.

So as Lathrop moves forward with our own development, the government uses several mechanisms to help us protect Sarah’s turtle, and more broadly, our land, its water, and its many wild creatures. Continue reading The Government–A Turtle’s Friend


By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of Dec. 8-14, 2018

At Lathrop this season, we feast, give thanks, and recite our religious stories of miracles that happened in disastrous times: In a land cruelly occupied by Romans, angels sang; wise men followed a star; and the holy family fled to escape the horror of Roman soldiers moving from house to house slaying Jewish babies at the behest of a craven ruler.  When foreign occupiers forbade Jewish religion and destroyed the temple, a small band of Jewish guerrillas retook the temple and, by a miracle, were provided with oil to keep the sacred temple candles burning for the eight days of Hanukkah.

At Lathrop, in the midst of our holiday feasting, the latest climate reports foretell the disaster to come—drought and flooding will threaten our food supply. Many of our wild creatures will move out or die.  New invasives will appear. Extreme storms and floods will disrupt our electricity, gas, and roads. Refugees from abroad and from our own coasts will arrive in our Valley. Financial turmoil will endanger our own investments and Lathrop’s business plan. Continue reading Miracles

I’ll be Home for Christmas?

By Barbara Walvoord

First published in Lathrop Lamp Post of Dec. 1-7, 2018

We human parents at Lathrop are welcoming our children and grand children home for the winter solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Mawlid al-Nabi–special foods, gifts, gatherings, warmth, security.

For a Lathrop bobcat mother, however, winter holidays are the time to kick the kids off the property.

Not that she hasn’t been a good mother.  You try providing milk for up to six blind helpless babies, keeping them safe from coyotes, hawks, and foxes, and then hunting food for them (all meat, no easy prey such as grass or leaves).  Then she has to teach them how to pounce on mice and rabbits (but leave the porcupines alone), and how to sneak up on a deer while it’s lying down, then pounce on it suddenly, bite it through the neck as hard as you can, and hang on for Continue reading I’ll be Home for Christmas?

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.

Nurturing Lathrop’s native plants and wildlife.