All posts by prairieland45

Lathrop’s Quiet Vernal Pools

by Barbara Walvoord

First Printed in Lathrop Lamp Post, Nov.  18-24, 2017

Last spring, our vernal pools were jumping with visible life.  Mating wood frogs quacked in a loud chorus.   On rainy nights, salamanders paraded en masse to the pools from their woodland borrows and rockpiles. New-hatched fairy shrimp darted about in the water. Later, tadpoles and baby salamanders popped out feet and developed lungs. Predators circled–turtles, snakes, owls.

All that springtime life and movement is a race against time, because, at least every few years, vernal pools, by definition, dry up in summer, creating an environment free of the fish that would otherwise eat the eggs of vernal pool creatures.  Fish-free is good, BUT–the creatures have to adapt to the summertime drying and wintertime freezing of the pool.  Fairy shrimp lay eggs that stay in Continue reading Lathrop’s Quiet Vernal Pools

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Reports from the Front Lines

by Barbara Walvoord

First printed in Lathrop Lamp Post Nov. 11-17, 2017

This photo was taken on the east campus along Bassett Brook Road at the corner of Huckleberry Lane–a visible “front line” on our property.

Three years ago, on this corner, there was a dense hedge of burning bush (Euonymus alatus), so dangerously invasive it is now illegal to propagate or sell in Massachusetts.  At Lathrop, birds are carrying it into our woods, where it is crowding out native plants without providing as richly for our wildlife as native plants do, and costing Continue reading Reports from the Front Lines

Staying Put: Barred Owls at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in Lathrop Lamp Post Nov. 4-10, 2017

Some humans and birds at Lathrop depart for warmer climes for the winter.  But not our barred owls (Stix varia). They are staying put.

All winter along, you’ll be able to hear them in or near our forests, often at dusk or at night, calling “Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for you-all?”   Hear it at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barred_Owl/sounds

Barred owls find their prey by staying put: they perch silently on a dead branch over land or water, then swoop  down to catch squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, rabbits, birds (up to the size of a Continue reading Staying Put: Barred Owls at Lathrop

Successful “Free Fifty” Celebration

by Barbara Walvoord

First appeared in Lathrop Lamp Post Oct. 21-27, 2017

More than 80 residents, Valley conservationists, and members of the public gathered on Oct. 21 to celebrate Lathrop’s removal of invasive plants from the “Free Fifty” acres of forest on both campuses–a unique accomplishment that science suggests will increase the wildlife on our land.  A program in the Inn was followed by guided walks on both campuses. The audience included many of those who helped us: consultants from 7 prominent conservation organizations, 28 resident volunteers who removed invasives, scores of residents who donated funds, and  3 granting agencies (Kendal Charitable Funds, Community Foundation of Western Mass., and the Northampton Community Preservation Committee).

Guided walk participants expressed their delight in walking through woods that are not choked with invasive plants, and said over and over how amazed they are at our accomplishment.  Lathrop is a visible participant in the Valley community of those who care about nature, conservation, and wildlife. A collage of photos is at Free 50 collage LampPostFree50 em.  Copies of the handout materials are at https://lathropland.wordpress.com/free-fifty-celebration-oct-21/

Late Blooming Flower Seeks Strong, Hungry Bumblebee

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post Oct. 14-20, 2017

On Oct. 6, believe it or not, I found these native closed  bottle gentians (Gentiana andrewsii) blooming along the eastern edge of the wide woods meadow on the east campus.  They look like buds, but they are in full flower; they won’t open more than this.

Gentians are pollinated almost exclusively by bumblebees, because those are the only pollinators strong enough to pry open the petals and get inside for the nectar.  Our meadows now are full of bumblebees, busy getting ready for winter.  “Aha!  A beautiful blue flower.  Hmm.  It’s petals are closed.  Well, there aren’t very many Continue reading Late Blooming Flower Seeks Strong, Hungry Bumblebee

Berries at Lathrop: Good and Bad

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in Lathrop Lamp Post Oct. 7 – 13, 2017

Imagine you’re a bluebird, say, or a chickadee. You’ve lived happily at Lathrop all summer long, eating lots of insects and feeding them to your nestlings.

Unfortunately, with cold weather, insects are getting scarcer.  But nature has provided lots of nutritious berries on shrubs and trees, hanging conveniently above the snow cover, out of the reach of bobcats and housecats.

As a bird, at Lathrop you’ll find good berries and bad berries.  The good berries hang on native plants.  You’ve co-evolved with these Continue reading Berries at Lathrop: Good and Bad

More Dwellings and a Marvelous Banquet Hall at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of Sept. 30-Oct.  6, 2017

We’re thinking of increasing the number of dwellings we have for humans at Lathrop.  But dwellings for some of our wild critters are increasing as well–the holes in our trees.  Once a farm, Lathrop’s undeveloped lands have grown up in trees, and, as our forests age, we have more tree holes made by rot and by woodpeckers, especially pileated woodpeckers, who attack a tree with their hammer-heads and their big bills, creating a big hole and a veritable storm of wood chips below them, as they dig for carpenter ants.

One of the many creatures that use tree holes is the Eastern screech owl, whose eery, whinnying cry you can hear at night (hear the cry at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Eastern_Screech-Owl/sounds). The screech owl is about the size of a pint jar. It sleeps in its hole during the day, and emerges at night to perch in open woodlands six to ten feet off the ground, waiting for its dinner.  Our land provides a Continue reading More Dwellings and a Marvelous Banquet Hall at Lathrop