Nature on Campus: September 2015

Compiled by Eamon Corbett

A very bad photo of a very cool butterfly: Harvester in front of John Harvard

A very bad photo of a very cool butterfly: Harvester in front of John Harvard

This is our first “Nature on Campus” post, which we’ll publish every two weeks or so with news on nature sightings on campus and in Harvard Square. Feel free to shoot me an email anytime at you see anything cool around campus, and I’ll put in the next email roundup. Here are some highlights from the past month:

A Great Horned Owl was seen last night (September 30th) in a tree just north of Lev tower F. Credit goes to Karl Aspelund for the report; I couldn’t re-find it but will definitely be keeping an eye out!

Also in bird of prey news, Red-tailed Hawks continue to be seen around the Smith Center and elsewhere on campus. Both them and the owl are probably eating all the rats, squirrels, and rabbits that are everywhere, so they must be getting plenty of food.

A huge surprise in Harvard Yard, right in front of John Harvard was a Harvester Butterfly on September 9th. This butterfly is the only species in the U.S. that is carnivorous—its caterpillars prey on wooly aphids. As a result it is rare and restricted to wooded streams with alders where the aphids are found, so it’s very strange to have one in the yard, with no alders in sight.

The tiny bright red dragonflies that were abundant in the yard for most of the month are Meadowhawks. There are three almost identical species, one of which, the Autumn Meadowhawk, could be around through the end of October (and there are records in MA as late as December).

The famed Harvard Square Wild Turkey (which is probably actually a handful of different turkeys) was reported by Aislinn Brophy from Bow Street earlier this week.

Further bird sightings include a Hairy Woodpecker in the yard on 9/21 and a migratory Bay-breasted Warbler in the Lowell courtyard September 29th, both found by Corey Husic. Fall bird migration was in full swing through the month, with many nocturnal migrant Swainson’s Thrushes reported calling at night over the MAC quad and other locations by Harold Eyster.

Hope everyone is having a great start of fall! Send me any of your campus nature sightings (, and stay tuned for the next update!


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