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.
First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of Sept. 23-29, 2017
This photo by Adele Dowell shows the next stage of the story of Mona the butterfly, which I’ve been tracking through this column. The story began when Adele Dowell planted native orange butterfly weed in her cottage garden. It’s a member of the milkweed family–the only plant family that monarch butterfly larvae can eat.
Mona’s mother laid her eggs on Adele’s butterfly weed and then died. Mona the caterpillar (I’ll call her a female) emerged from her egg and ate holes in some of the butterfly weed leaves, shedding her skin several times to accommodate her growing girth. She escaped being snatched by a mama or papa bird and becoming part of the several thousand caterpillars it takes to raise a nest of bluebirds or Continue reading Superbutterfly is Born!→
First published in Lathrop Lamp Post August 17, 2017
This fawn, recently photographed by resident Doris Atkinson on the east campus, is moving about with its mother, still nursing, but learning, among other things, the communication skills it will need as an adult.
Communication began at birth in May. A loud bleat meant “Mom, where are you?” and a soft nursing murmur meant, “Mmm, this is good.” By lying perfectly still, and having almost no body odor, our spotted fawn communicated to our coyotes and bobcats, “Fawn? What fawn? There’s nobody here–just dappled shade.”
But now that our fawn is up and about, it must learn to communicate within a complex social unit consisting of related females, their fawns and yearlings, and adult males, all of which have contiguous or Continue reading Lathrop’s Deer: A Complex Society→
Originally published in Lathrop Lamp Post, Aug. 3, 2017.
Summer music camps for kids are in full swing now, and Tanglewood is featuring its Young Concert Artists’ Series. At Lathrop, our coyote youngsters are also starting to perform in evening or pre-dawn concerts.
The young performers will have been born in April or May, in a burrow dug by their mother under a fallen tree or in a thicket. The den might be up to 15 feet deep and a foot or two wide. Careful moms will have made several dens so the kids can be moved from one to the other to avoid detection and keep down parasites. Not a bad excavation achievement for a critter weighing 20 or 30 pounds, with only her feet as tools.
(Originally printed in Lathrop Lamp Post July 20, 2017)
Butterflies are not as numerous as we remember from our childhoods, but numbers of them still visit our Lathrop gardens and meadows. This eastern black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) was sipping nectar from a native blazing star (Liatris spicata) in Sharon’s and my front cottage garden.
Butterflies may sip nectar from a variety of flowers, both native and alien. This eastern black swallowtail, says my butterfly book, will even sip from purple loosestrife, a horrible invasive that has made thousands of acres of wetland inhospitable to most wildlife. Continue reading Picky Eaters at Lathrop→
(Originally printed in the Lathrop Lamp Post, June 15, 2017)
At Lathrop, we find common garter snakes in lots of places–in our gardens, by our ponds and streams, under rocks or brush piles, and, like this one, in the grass along our walking paths. These little, non-poisonous snakes are super adaptable.
They adapt to life in very different climes, from southeast Alaska down through most of the U.S. Their range extends farther north than any other snake in the western hemisphere.