Category Archives: critters

Single Female Seeks Polygamous Male for Hookup. No Childrearing Responsibilities

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Feb. 10-17, 2018

Our skunk females at Lathrop have not been truly hibernating, though they have been hunkering down in dens, sometimes with several other adults, sinking into a torpor, but emerging during balmy nights to search for nuts, seeds, old berries, mice, voles, garbage, and food left out for birds, cats, or dogs. Skunks prefer a second-hand den dug by foxes or woodchucks, but if they have to, they’ll dig their own den, which might extend 3-4 feet below the surface and be up to 20 feet long, ending in a comfy chamber lined with grass and leaves. 

About mid-February, our lady skunks are beginning to look for love, though from our point of view, it’s hard to tell what a gal sees in this mating thing.  When she finds a guy, he holds her by the scruff of the neck with his teeth and climbs on from the rear.  After sex, he wanders off to find other females, and when the babies are born, about two months later, he takes no responsibility for any of them. In fact, if he finds them, he may even kill them. Continue reading Single Female Seeks Polygamous Male for Hookup. No Childrearing Responsibilities


Winter Dens at Lathrop

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post Feb. 3-9, 2018

We know that our Lathrop bears are hibernating in their cozy dens.  But also, in the ground, tiny dens hold hibernating bumblebee queens (Bombus sp.), who, along with hundreds of other native bee species, help pollinate our crops and our flowers.

These hibernating bumblebee queens were born last summer.  The old queen who produced the new queens is dead now, as are all her other children: the early-born female worker bees who helped her all summer, as well as all her male children, who didn’t help at all, but flew off in pursuit of one of those new queens.  After mating, the males all died. Only the new queen survived, carrying her eggs in her body, slumbering in her underground den, using up the body fat she gained last summer from gorging on nectar.  Continue reading Winter Dens at Lathrop

January Babies

January Babies

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post Jan. 27 – Feb. 2, 2018

For our Lathrop creatures, it’s good to have babies as soon in the new year as possible, so the babies can grow big and strong during the summer.  But problem:  if a baby is born now, how do you keep it warm and fed in a Massachusetts winter?  Some of our Lathrop creatures have to wait for warmer weather, but some have solved the problem and are having their babies right now.

Our birds have to wait for warmer weather so they can keep the eggs and chicks warm in a mud-and-grass nest.  Frogs don’t have to care for their young, but they can’t hop to a pond, mate, and lay eggs until the water, and their own bodies, warm up in spring. Continue reading January Babies

New Homes at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post Jan. 20-26, 2018

Lathrop residents are probably not supposed to just go out and build new homes on our land without master planning, Quakerly consensus, building permits, and all that, but I have to admit that’s what Sharon and I have done.

The new homes are located on Huckleberry Lane, behind the current homes.  The new townhouse unit is nestled into the woods, right on the edge of a lovely wet meadow.  It contains multiple homes all in one structure–very efficient.

New residents have already moved in, so Marketing– you are off the hook. Continue reading New Homes at Lathrop

A Low Salt Diet

A Low-Salt Diet

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post Jan. 13-19, 2018

Walking in the east campus woods recently, some friends and I came upon several trees gnawed like this one in the photo. After some debate and research (is it bear? termites? pileated woodpecker? Bigfoot?) we decided it’s porcupine.  Just because the bark is up in a tree, no problem.  Porcupines are great tree climbers.

The problem with trees, though, is that they are a low-salt food. Matthew Miller of the Nature Conservancy, says, “North American porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum) feast on a high-potassium, low-sodium diet of foliage, causing them to excrete high Continue reading A Low Salt Diet

Open for Breakfast

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Jan. 6-12, 2018

After much planning, sawing, hammering, and decorating, the Inn dining room is now open for breakfast for our human residents, who can descend on a cold winter morning to enjoy their eggs, toast, and fruit.  But there are other breakfast buffets at Lathrop–for our birds.

For several years, Sharon and I have been setting up a breakfast buffet around our home on Huckleberry Lane.  The first thing we did was to remove the invasive Oriental bittersweet vines that were strangling a row of crabapple trees across from our front yard.  The trees are now thriving and loaded with fruit.  Then we planted a native winterberry bush, now full of bright red berries that typically last into the winter (hence its name), and provide important food for birds. Continue reading Open for Breakfast

Countin Residents at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

At Lathrop, we count  not only our human residents, but also our avian residents, through bird walks throughout the year and through the annual Northampton Christmas Bird Count. On Dec. 17, more than 150 birders in teams will go walking and driving, rain, shine, sleet, or snow, for 24 hours, covering an area that includes both our campuses.

The Northampton group is among tens of thousands of bird watchers in the national annual event, sponsored by the Audubon Society, and also locally by the Hampshire Bird Club and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment

 In the 1800s there was something called a Christmas side hunt where people would choose sides and go out during the holiday and hunt. Whoever brought in the biggest pile of dead birds and other animals won.  In 1900, as the Audubon movement was increasing awareness for conservation, ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed a Christmas bird census rather than a bird kill. Continue reading Countin Residents at Lathrop