Category Archives: lamp post

Going South for the Winter

by Barbara Walvoord

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


The Critical Importance of Old Trees

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Oct. 20-26, 218

Why we need old trees was the subject of an Oct. 16 talk by renowned expert on old-growth forests Bob Leverett. An engineer by training, he showed Lathrop residents how he measures the volume of old trees and the amount of carbon they sequester.  His research has shown that, contrary to popular misconception, old trees sequester the most carbon, compared to young trees, and old trees keep on sequestering more, as they get even older.  The protection of our western Massachusetts forests, as they age, Continue reading The Critical Importance of Old Trees

How to Walk Safely in our Woods and Fields this Hunting Season

By Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Oct. 13-19, 2018

Oct. 15 – Dec. 31 is the season for hunting deer and turkey, both of which are plentiful on our land.

But our critters can live in peace this fall, because, on the east campus, Lathrop has ended its longstanding agreement with a hunter,  that he and a few of his friends could hunt on our land in exchange for his mowing our trails and fields.  On the north campus, and the adjacent Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area, no hunting has ever been allowed.

However, we can’t completely guarantee that no hunters will trespass on our land.  So when walking our trails, wear orange or pink on your torso and head. Facilities Director  Mike Strycharz notes that orange clothing is a good idea anytime, because it’s easier to find you in the Continue reading How to Walk Safely in our Woods and Fields this Hunting Season

What a Beautiful Sight!

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post September 29-Oct. 5, 2018

Bright orange bittersweet berries in this photo taken in 2014 on Cranberry Lane may look beautiful draping our trees in fall. But the the really beautiful sight is the DEAD vines of Oriental bittersweet, as shown at the top of this article,–same patch of bittersweet, after we killed the vines.

Alien invasive oriental bittersweet vines smother a tree and weigh it down, often killing it.  Native grape vines do the same.  Grape used to thrive only at the edges of large contiguous forests, but these days, since our forests are so cut up, edges–and grapes–are everywhere.  It’s a native acting invasive.

Vine fruits feed birds, but alien and invasive vines also harm wildlife by killing trees and shrubs and forming a monoculture.  For example, an oak tree supports the larvae of 518 species of native butterflies and moths.  Maple supports 287. Continue reading What a Beautiful Sight!

The Well-Equipped Traveler

By Barbara Walvoord

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.

Now, as fall approaches, Eft, the lucky survivor, has exchanged gills for lungs and is leaving his natal pool to spend his 2-3 “teenage” years traveling in the woods.  His Continue reading The Well-Equipped Traveler

Sneaking in the Woods

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of Aug. 25-Sept. 3, 2018

By Barbara Walvoord

Last week I wrote about our wonderful success in removing invasive plants from our north campus woods.  More broadly, we’ve removed invasives from fifty acres of our forests on both campuses.

The bad news: Alien invasive ground covers like vinca (also called periwinkle or myrtle), pachysandra, English ivy, ajuga, and snow-on-the-mountain are sneaking into the woods from surrounding gardens or arriving when residents throw plant parts into the woods.  Continue reading Sneaking in the Woods

The House that Jack Built

By Barbara Walvoord

Most living things in our woods have either green leaves or mouths.  The ones with green leaves—the trees, shrubs, and wildflowers—practice photosynthesis–using sunlight to make food out of water and carbon dioxide.

The ones with mouths are creatures like insects and rabbits who eat the plants that have made food out of water and carbon dioxide, and then creatures like the bobcat, coyote, and hawk, who eat the creatures that have eaten the food that the plants have made.  This is the house that Jack built, otherwise called a food web. Continue reading The House that Jack Built