Tag Archives: birds

South American Migrants Cross the Border to Get to Lathrop

By Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for June 15-21, 2019

The Baltimore Orioles we’ve seen on both campuses these days have crossed the border from their winter homes in Central and South America to get here.  They apparently flew right over the wall, barbed wire, and check points.  Mexico didn’t try to stop them.

Their trip was not without its dangers, however, and their populations are declining.  Deforestation destroys the trees where they find food. Insecticides poison their insect food, and spraying into trees may kill the birds and their nestlings.  Traveling at night, they can become disoriented by lights or crash into tall skyscrapers and radio towers.

But the hardy survivors have arrived at Lathrop, where they will build their homes and raise their “Dreamer” kids. Continue reading South American Migrants Cross the Border to Get to Lathrop


Soap Opera in the Bluebird House

By Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for May 18-24, 2019

We might think of the bluebirds in our nesting boxes as happy couples singing beautiful songs while cheerily bringing food to their little babies. But life in a bluebird house may more resemble a cross between a soap opera and a war zone.

That beautiful bluebird song means “This is my territory, so get the hell out!”  A bluebird couple needs not only a nesting cavity but a nearby territory with lots of food.  So both parents patrol their territory aggressively.  House sparrows or house wrens may drive them out as refugees. Continue reading Soap Opera in the Bluebird House

With Family at the Holiday

By Barbara Walvoord

First published in Lathrop Lamp Post for Dec. 22, 2018 – Jan. 4, 2019

Lathrop’s blue jays are enjoying family time at the holiday (and every day). Mom-and-Pop pairs, mated for life, are still together now in the “empty nest” phase. This past summer, Dad was a super family man,  bringing food to his mate on the nest for the 17 days of egg incubation, then bringing food for her and the nestlings for another 10 days so she could be a stay-at-home mom.

Jays eat insects, grains, seeds, dead or injured mice and chipmunks, dead or dying adult birds, and occasionally other birds’ eggs and nestlings (though in one study, only 6 of 530 blue jay stomachs had remains of eggs or nestlings).  Jays can carry 2-3 acorns in the neck Continue reading With Family at the Holiday

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

Birds! The Lathrop Cafeterias are Open All Winter

By Barbara Walvoord

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!

American Goldfinch Facts: An American Goldfinch pulling seeds from a seedhead.

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.

Empty Nest

by Barbara Walvoord

First published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, June 16-22, 2018

The first time mama robin tried building a nest on the railing of our porch, the pieces of grass and unfinished nest parts kept falling off the railing.  Finally, though, she figured it out, and built this amazing nest.

It’s incredibly strong and useful, though without what we would call modern conveniences.

No hired contractors or power tools, so Mama had to bring in about 350 pieces of grass and twigs about 6 inches long.  She wove them Continue reading Empty Nest

Welcome Back, Warblers!

By Barbara Walvoord

Our warblers are back at Lathrop!   Cornell’s website lists 38 birds whose common names end with “warbler” (versus 32 named “sparrow”).  These include the hooded warbler, the orange-crowned warbler, the unspellable and unpronouncable prothonotary warbler, and the worm-eating warbler.  One of the largest bird families, warblers  (Parulidae) also include birds with other names such as ovenbird, yellowthroat, and redstart.

Warblers vary a lot.  Some live in forests, some in shrubby areas, some in marshes, and Lucy’s warbler lives in the mesquite deserts.  Some warblers are brightly-colored, some not.  Some sing beautifully, but the blue-winged warbler’s song sounds to humans like an insect buzz. Continue reading Welcome Back, Warblers!