Hurry!! Spring Wildflowers at Lathrop

By Barbara Walvoord

Spring woodland wildflowers face two problems:

  1. They can’t bloom before the soil is thawed
  2. They can’t bloom after the tree canopy cuts off their sunlight.

Between these two events, nature provides a window, because forest ground, under its leaf litter, freezes more shallowly and thaws more quickly than ground in open fields, and because forest trees Continue reading Hurry!! Spring Wildflowers at Lathrop

We Shot Our Porcupine–On Camera

by Barbara Walvoord

Last year, Eleanor and Richard Johnson and their family saw a porcupine in the big hole in our 250-year-old Addison’s Oak, on the east campus, directly west across the meadow from the  community garden.  Now, finally, Chuck Gillies has captured our porcupine in a photo.

Our porcupine does not hibernate in winter, but might have stayed “holed up” during particularly bad weather. Otherwise, it has ventured out to eat bark. I’m sure that none of our Lathrop creatures is more grateful for spring, with its abundance of soft leaves and skunk cabbage. Continue reading We Shot Our Porcupine–On Camera

Lathrop’s PG-Rated Bird Walk

by Barbara Walvoord

To greet spring birds, the Land Conservation Committee has already sponsored two bird walks, and one to come (Thurs., May 19, 8 a.m., at north campus meeting house, led by resident Judy Hyde). 

A PG-rated moment occurred on the east campus, when we saw two northern flickers going at it in a dead tree at the edge of the south field behind Mulberry Lane.

To win his lady love, our flicker might have had invite her, and defend his territory, by drumming on objects with his bill. Metal makes the loudest sound: one northern flicker in Wyoming could be Continue reading Lathrop’s PG-Rated Bird Walk

Glyphosate, Gasoline, Goats to Attack Lathrop’s Invasive Plants

by the Farm/Fields Subcommittee of the Land Conservation Committee,  and Thom Wright, Paul Westerfield

We have made great progress  removing invasive plants, but  we still have large thickets of multiflora rose, which crowds out native plants and diminishes the nesting success of birds (U.S. forest service: (http://na.fs.fed.us/spfo/invasiveplants/factsheets/pdf/multiflora-rose.pdf )

To remove these impenetrable thickets, we could spray with glyphosate herbicide, we could flatten them every year with a ground-compacting, gas-burning brush-hogger, or….

Hey, how about getting goats to eat them?  A Boston Globe article recently reported on the growing use of goats, which love to eat the Continue reading Glyphosate, Gasoline, Goats to Attack Lathrop’s Invasive Plants

Great Gains by Garlic Mustard Grabbers

by Barbara Walvoord

Volunteers have been uprooting invasive garlic mustard in our east campus woods by Mulberry Lane.  Roger Herman, Ethel White, and Lyn Howe (all pictured), as well as Sharon Grace and  Barbara Walvoord, have pulled hundreds of these destroyers of our native woodland wildflowers.garlic mustard Roger crop 4 16 IMG_0789 (1)

We have not only grabbers but cheerleaders like Eleanor Johnson and Adele Steinberg (pictured), who stopped by Mulberry Lane to cheer grabbers Ethel White and Lyn Howe, visible in the background.

garlic mustard 4 16 014

Round One is complete, advantage Grabbers!  We have pulled nearly all visible second-year plants (the ones that produce seeds and then die for good).  In coming weeks,  the ones we missed will bloom, thus be more visible, and we’ll get them before they go to seed.  Continue reading Great Gains by Garlic Mustard Grabbers

Living to 100 at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

Not only we humans at Lathrop, but our wood turtles, too, can live to be 100.  A Massachusetts “species of special concern,” native wood turtles (Glyptemis insculpta) live along Bassett Brook.

In this “Year of the Brooks,” we humans at Lathrop are working to protect the streams where our wood turtles have spent the winter buried in the mud.  Emerging now, they’re dancing on the sandy banks.  Potential mates approach one another slowly, almost touching noses, and then sway their heads from side to side, dancing for several hours before mating underwater. A female may do it with multiple mates. In June, the female may travel quite long distances (for a turtle) to find just the right stream bank spot for her nest. After laying eggs, she and others lumber off to forests, fields, and wetlands for the summer. Continue reading Living to 100 at Lathrop

Red Winged Blackbirds: Marking Territory

by Barbara Walvoord

Blue flags mark Lathrop’s wetland territories, as part of our long-range planning.  But territories are also being marked by red-winged blackbird males, back from their winter migration, arriving ahead of the females.

When a male red-winged blackbird perches atop a bough or cattail, flashes his red shoulder patches, and sings out conkaREEEE, he is not fluting a joyful “tra-la-la spring is here,” nor a seductive “come live with me and be my love.”  Rather, he is growling to other males, “This is my territory, so get the hell out.”

Our red-winged blackbird is among the 2% of birds who are not monogamous.  He will mate with however many  females he can attract to his territory, and it’s the real estate they look at, not the red patches or the song. Continue reading Red Winged Blackbirds: Marking Territory

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