All posts by prairieland45

It Was a Warm and Rainy Night . . .

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for April 21-27, 2018

Snoopy thinks a “dark and stormy night” is the best setting for drama.  But a warm, rainy spring night is the setting for an amazing drama in Lathrop’s vernal pools.

On one such spring night, hordes of 7-inch spotted salamanders emerge from underground hibernation in the forest. They begin a dangerous, life-or-death march to a vernal pool to mate and lay their eggs.  Vernal pools dry up periodically, so they have no fish, which would otherwise eat all the salamander eggs. So it’s vernal pool or bust.

Predators’ talons, claws, and jaws snatch many of the marchers, but the rest keep going. Continue reading It Was a Warm and Rainy Night . . .

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New Discoveries at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of April 14-10

We humans at Lathrop might be a bit like Christopher Columbus, claiming to “discover” something, when lots of creatures knew it was there all along.  But, led by the distinctive “quacking” of mating wood frogs, we’ve “discovered” two vernal pools on the east campus (in addition to the ones already identified on trail maps for east campus and Fitzgerald Lake: https://lathropland.wordpress.com/trail-map-easthampton/)

Wood frogs can live ONLY in vernal pools, which dry up periodically and thus have no fish to eat the wood frog eggs. (Sounds, photos, and information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EF0DZ8TQBd8.)

Columbus reported his discovery to his queen.  We will register our vernal pools with the state, which protects these increasingly rare habitats. Continue reading New Discoveries at Lathrop

Who’s Climbing our Trees?

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of April 7-13, 2018

Archeologists say that our human progenitors started out swinging through trees, but later came down to live on land.  So our Lathrop trees don’t contain many humans (except the occasional grandchild).  But our trees do contain lots of other creatures.

One of the animals in our trees is the porcupine, photographed here on the north campus by resident Joan Cenedella.  For a porcupine, trees are home (they nest in tree cavities), dinner (they eat bark, buds, shoots, and leaves), and safety. Continue reading Who’s Climbing our Trees?

Teddy Bear Picnic at Lathrop

Teddy Bear Picnic at Lathrop

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for March 30-April 6, 2018.

Massachusetts is the third most densely populated state in the nation for people, and it’s becoming more and more densely populated with bears. So the state has a website about them. https://www.mass.gov/service-details/learn-about-black-bears

Our Lathrop bear population has undoubtedly grown over the winter, as pregnant sows have each birthed 2-3 cubs.  Out of the den by now, they’re all hungry, because the kids are growing and mom hasn’t eaten all winter.

Their first question is, “Where’s the picnic?” Continue reading Teddy Bear Picnic at Lathrop

Loners Go A-Courtiin’ at Lathrop

Loners Go a-Courtin’ at Lathrop

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for March 24-31, 2018

Woodcocks are loners.  The dads mate with multiple females and take no responsibility for child rearing. The moms lay their eggs on the ground.  If the eggs are threatened, mom may feign injury to draw away the intruder, but is quite quick to abandon the eggs. Mom feeds the babies for a week, and then it’s out on your own, kids.  During the summer, woodcocks mostly stay to themselves, walking along the forest ground, eating a paleo diet—meat (from worms, spiders, beetles, ants, and thousand-leggers), with a few salad greens on the side.  When disturbed, woodcocks remain still, their mottled coloring making them almost invisible. Continue reading Loners Go A-Courtiin’ at Lathrop

Lathrop’s Landscaping and Gardens: What’s Our Goal?

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally printed in the Lathrop Lamp Post for March 10-16, 2018.

Why are we at Lathrop considering planting native plants rather than alien plants in our landscapes and gardens?  Our goal is NOT to restore some imaginary pristine past.  The futility of such a goal is emphasized in journalist Emma Marris’ The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World (2011).

Instead, Marris suggests, we need to save nature by juggling seven possible goals: (1) protect the rights of other species; (2) protect Continue reading Lathrop’s Landscaping and Gardens: What’s Our Goal?

Wanted: Useful Plants for Lathrop Landscaping

Wanted: Useful Plants for Lathrop Landscaping

By Barbara Walvoord

At Lathrop, new plants are always being installed and old plants replaced. Imagine that you are interviewing new plant candidates for your garden or other landscaped areas around you.

Today’s candidates include two alien plants that evolved in Asia but are currently found on both campuses (burning bush [Euonymus alata] and daylily (Hemerocallis ‘stella d’oro’] and two native plants that evolved in New England and are currently planted by a few residents in their cottage gardens (native highbush blueberry [Vaccinium corymbusum] and native butterfly weed [Asclepius tuberosa], a member of the milkweed family).

Interviewer:  Do you look beautiful, and can you be kept looking neat?   All plants:  YES!

Interviewer: Do you need lots of water, herbicides, and fertilizer?  All plants:  Nope, not a lot.

Interviewer: Birds, bees, and butterflies are in decline.  How can you help them? Continue reading Wanted: Useful Plants for Lathrop Landscaping