New Lathrop Residents–Beaver!

by Barbara Walvoord

“There are old beaver signs. The beaver are gone–but they’ll be back,” said naturalist Laurie Sanders last spring when she walked our land along the north section of Bassett Brook.

She was right about the old signs. If you walk along Bassett Brook to the north, where it spreads out into a marshy area, and if you look into the adjacent woods, you’ll see many old tree stubs with that particular chewed-off pointy end that beavers make when they bring down a tree for their supper or their dam.

But a few days ago, Sharon and I went back in there again on our snowshoes, and to our delight, we saw fresh saplings chewed off, and lots of wide tracks the beavers make in the snow, dragging their tails behind them, and hauling wood into the water. The Lathrop beaver are back! Continue reading New Lathrop Residents–Beaver!

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Sounds of Lathrop Land: The Great Horned Owl

In the past few weeks, each time Sharon and I have walked in the Lathrop woods in the late afternoon, we have heard a great horned owl (Bubo virginianus). You can hear the sound on your computer at http://www.internationalowlcenter.org/ourowls/rustyandiris/backgroundinformation?gclid=CJyxg-fn6cICFUtgMgodc3MAnw. The photo above was taken by David Ponton, Getty Images. http://animals.about.com/od/owl1/ig/Owl-Pictures/Great-Horned-Owl.htm

You can also hear the sound if you start on the east campus by the blue shed and walk down the wide woods path, across the meadow, and just a little way into the woods beyond. This is perfect territory for our great horned owl: second-growth forest interspersed with fields and meadows. Continue reading Sounds of Lathrop Land: The Great Horned Owl

Tracking the Curious Lathrop Bobcat

by Barbara Walvoord

Sharon and I snowshoed in the wetland behind the Huckleberry Lane houses the other day. When we did it again the next day, we found a story in the snow. There were bobcat tracks on top of our snowshoe tracks. In the photo, you can see the edges of the snowshoe tracks and then, on top, the bobcat track.

You can tell a bobcat’s tracks because they are as wide as they are long and have four toes, with no nail marks. Our bobcat’s tracks told a story.

The bobcat’s tracks followed our snowshoe tracks along the edge of the woods, then down into the wetland, and across it for several hundred yards. We were pleased to have made a trail for it. This is a new twist on the land conservation committee’s efforts to provide trails on our land. Continue reading Tracking the Curious Lathrop Bobcat

The Waters of Lathrop #4: The Teaberry Pond

by Barbara Walvoord

On the east campus, behind the Teaberry Lane houses, near the blue garden shed, is a beautiful little pond, full of native cattails, with grasses and wild flowers along the edge.

But also along the edge, you may see a piece of thick black rubber exposed under the grasses and stones. That’s your clue that this is what the state of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection handbook calls a “wet basin with impermeable bottom.” Continue reading The Waters of Lathrop #4: The Teaberry Pond

Lathrop’s Alders

by Barbara Walvoord

No, I didn’t say “elders.” We have those, too. Our alders are growing all over the place at Lathrop. You can see them at this time of the year because of their tiny cones and catkins, still in place on the bare branches.

At Lathrop, the alder I most commonly see is speckled alder (Alnus incana). It’s a small, shrubby tree, often with leaning branches, that grows at the edges of woods and meadows, especially where it’s wet–and we have plenty of that. At this time of the year, you’ll see three things on alder branches: the cone-like fruits, the drooping male catkins, and the buds that will bloom in early spring. Continue reading Lathrop’s Alders

The Lathrop Manure Spreader

For the Lamp Post January 15, 2015

Barbara Walvoord

No, that’s not the name of the bird that just pooped on your car window.

At Lathrop east campus, we really do have an old farm manure spreader. It sits, abandoned and rusting, at the end of the Mulberry Lane fire lane. You can walk down to see it.

Our manure spreader would have been pulled by a tractor. A metal tag on the machine tells us it carries ten patents, filed from 1962 through 1976. People have been spreading manure on their fields for thousands of years, but here they were, still making improvements. Continue reading The Lathrop Manure Spreader