Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for Nov. 10-23, 2018
When we Lathrop human residents go south for the winter, we generally mean Florida or even Mexico. Some of our Lathrop creatures think the same. We’ve watched our monarch butterflies leave for Mexico, and maybe we went up to Mt. Tom to watch the hawks flying by on their way to warmer climes.
But to our juncos, Lathrop IS “south for the winter.” They’ve spent the summer in Canada, in monogamous pairs, breeding and raising their young.
Some males may stay here in New England, while the females go on south to, say, Maryland or North Carolina. The guys probably do this in order to get back to Canada as quickly as possible next spring, so they can claim the best territory. A gal, meanwhile, can spend the Continue reading Going South for the Winter→
Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for Nov. 10-16, 2018
Birds—you’ll be happy to know that Lathrop’s “Native Garden,” “Meadows,” and “Forest” cafeterias will remain open all winter. We had to brush hog 1/3 of our east campus meadows so they don’t turn into a woods, but we left 2/3 of them standing. The Inn native garden, and some resident gardens on both campuses, leave seed-pods standing, so you can get to them even when it snows. Both campuses also have many shrubs and trees with seeds or berries.
Birds, note in the photo above that some of the seeds in our Inn garden are already eaten, so get yours early, like this goldfinch!
We’ve been trying to eliminate the “junk food” section of our cafeteria– invasive shrub honeysuckle, Japanese barberry, burning bush, multiflora rose, buckthorn,and oriental bittersweet. A resident ornithologist calls them “bird candy,” because they’re not as nutritious for you as native berries. Even worse, non-native buckthorn berries give you diarrhea, which weakens you, so avoid those especially. Instead, in our winter cafeterias we have been working hard to provide healthy foods like native winterberries, maple-leaf viburnum, chokeberry, and crabapples.
Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2018
Our monarch butterflies have left for Mexico, but many butterflies will stay all winter. They survive in an astonishing variety of life stages—as caterpillars, as adults, or in cocoons–tucked into crevices, resting on the ground, rolled up in leaves, or attached to twigs.
The pearl crescent caterpillar stops eating its usual aster plants and spends the winter resting at the base of the plant until spring. The adult arctic skipper crawls into a crevice or tree bark and goes into a dormant state.
At Lathrop, we save our overwintering butterflies by mowing only 1/3 of our meadows and fields each year, so that 2/3 of the overwintering butterflies survive.
First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Sept. 22-28, 2018
A well-equipped forest traveler needs three things: a defense against danger, a food supply, and a compass to find the way home. This little red eft that Doris Atkinson found on the east campus Bassett Brook Loop Trail is a well-equipped traveler. It’s a juvenile eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), at this stage called a red eft. We can’t tell sex at this point, but let’s call this one Eft—a guy.
This past spring, Eft was born from an egg his mother had attached to underwater vegetation in a pond. All summer long, Eft stayed in the home pond, breathing with gills and eating small aquatic creatures like mosquito larvae. Infant mortality was shocking–98% of Eft’s siblings were eaten by predators.
Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for July 28-Aug. 3, 2018
When you humans see us butterflies flitting from flower to flower, you may think we’re playful and carefree. But actually we’re frantic. As a butterfly, there’s a lot to do before you die, and for most of us, 2-3 weeks is it.
First, ya gotta eat. Flowers are your only food. And not all flowers. Those tubular flowers?—you have to be one of the species of butterfly with a long tongue. And some of us males, like the tiger Continue reading A Butterfly Reveals All→
First published in Lathrop Lamp Post of July 21-27, 2018
Skunks seem to be on homeowners’ “most wanted” list of criminals. The internet is full of ads by companies that will get rid of them for you.
At Lathrop, though, we want our skunks.
We do? But won’t we get sprayed? Not likely. Skunks are not aggressive. They move about mostly at night and try to avoid contact with us. When threatened, they spray their scent only as a last resort. First they will hiss, growl, and stamp their front feet.
A Canadian government website calls skunks one of the most beneficial animals for gardeners and farmers. They eat chipmunks, voles, mice, and rabbits, as well as grubs and insects that destroy crops. In fact, skunks proved such an efficient enemy of the hop Continue reading Wanted: Skunks→