Lathrop’s Intrepid, Fierce, Scrappy, Sexy, Patient, Nurturing Hawks

by Barbara Walvoord

We often see hawks at Lathrop these days, circling overhead or perched on tree branches. Here is a red-tailed hawk at Lathrop:

Hawk at Lathrop. Photo by Barbara Walvoord
Hawk at Lathrop. Photo by Barbara Walvoord

Huckleberry Lane residents have also seen our red-shouldered hawk couple (Buteo lineatus), which is nesting in the trees behind our houses. Red-shouldered hawks prefer deciduous forest near wetlands and streams–that would be Lathrop.

We hear, too, their distinctive kee-rah. You can hear it at The calls are often mimicked by blue jays.

Hawks are intrepid travelers. Like some of Lathrop’s human residents, they head south in winter, flying as far as Mexico, on the Continue reading Lathrop’s Intrepid, Fierce, Scrappy, Sexy, Patient, Nurturing Hawks


A View from the Bridge

by Barbara Walvoord

If you walked down Mulberry Lane across the bridge between 3 and 4 p.m. on May 21, and looked down the incline into the woods, you would have seen a strange sight: Some Lathrop residents down amongst the wild flowers and bushes, bending over, picking plants up by the roots and putting the plants into pails. Gloria Russell did walk by, and gave the volunteers an encouraging cheer.

Photo by Diedrick Snoek
Photo by Diedrick Snoek

The residents down there were Roger Herman, Diedrick Snoek, Sharon Grace, and Barbara Walvoord. The plants they were pulling are garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), which is in bloom right now and will soon go to seed.

Roger Herman, Diedrick Snoek, and Sharon Grace with invasive garlic mustard they removed from Lathrop land. Photo by Barbara Walvoord, May 21, 2015.
Roger Herman, Diedrick Snoek, and Sharon Grace with invasive garlic mustard they removed from Lathrop land. Photo by Barbara Walvoord, May 21, 2015.

Garlic mustard is “one of the worst invaders of forests in the American Northeast and Midwest,” according to Cornell University’s New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse. Garlic mustard can spread even into undisturbed areas and is “one of the very few non-native plants to be able to successfully invade forest understories.” When it does invade, it changes the soil composition Continue reading A View from the Bridge

A Modest Proposal

by Barbara Walvoord

Hey, here’s an idea: instead of having to spray our bushes and flowers repeatedly with insecticides throughout the season, why don’t we grow plants that have insecticide already in their tissues, so the whole plant is automatically toxic to insects? Yeah, we could use neonicotinoids–a substance related to nicotine. When taken up by insects’ bodies, neonicotinoids interfere with the insects’ neural system. Great idea. And better yet, when the plant dies, it will return to the soil, and, because neonics last a long time, the soil will then pass on the neonics to new plants.

And hey, let’s put those neonics into our potting soil, and let’s sell landscaping and garden plants that already have neonics in them. Of course, we don’t have to tell consumers–they don’t care, anyway. They just want insect-free flowers and bushes.

Great idea, right? Wrong. Neonics may be present (but not labeled) in up to half of the flowers and bushes on sale this spring, but they are increasingly coming under attack because scientific data show their poisonous affect on our bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.


How to buy bedding plants with no neonicotinoids:

Plants are not required to be labeled as containing neonicotinoids.

  • Nasami Farm in Whately or or Project Native in Housatonic sell native plant s. No neonics.
  • Lowes has pledged to remove all neonics from its bedding and potted plants in the coming four years (
  • Home Depot announced last summer that it would label all its plants that contain neonics, according to the same NBC report.
  • For any nursery, ask about neonicotinoids. They go by names such as imidacloprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, thiamethoxam, acetamiprid, and thiacloprid.


If you lived in Ontario or in any European Union country, you couldn’t buy any plants with neonics, because those nations have concluded there is too much harm to bees, butterflies, and other Continue reading A Modest Proposal

Spring Peepers are Singing at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

There’s no more wonderful sound of spring than the spring peepers trilling their chorus in the evening. We hear them all around us at Lathrop now, but you’ll rarely see them because they are well camouflaged and can shade their grey and brown colors to match their background.

All that trilling emanates from little amphibians about the size of a thumbnail. They climb into shrubs or trees that hang over water–you’ll see why in a minute. They make that sound through an air sac that inflates to nearly half the size of their own bodies. It looks like a junior high school kid with bubble gum.

In this past harsh winter, you might have complained, “I’m freezing,” but stop whining. Storing sugars in their cells allows peepers’ bodies to literally freeze during their winter hibernation in the mud near a pond. No wonder they sing with such joy when the weather warms.

They’re out and about now, voraciously hunting down beetles, ants, flies, and spiders–and also trying to make more peepers.

Continue reading Spring Peepers are Singing at Lathrop