Earth Matters

Every two weeks, the Hitchcock Center publishes a column, "Earth Matters: Notes on the Nature of the Valley," in The Daily Hampshire Gazette. Writers include Hitchcock staff and board members, former board members, presenters in our Community Programs series, and friends of the Center. Look for the column at the end of Section C of the weekend Gazette or on their website. We will keep a complete list on this site, so if you miss seeing a column in the newspaper, or want to see it again, come here at any time.

How to get the birds to pick the feeder in your yard

By Joshua Rose For the Gazette

For many of us, our most intimate interaction with birds is through feeding them. At our feeders, we can witness the comings and goings of migration, vivid breeding plumage molting into low-key winter colors, new fledglings learning to fly and feed themselves, even death.

Published in Earth Matters on March 9, 2018.

Garter snakes emerge for their grand coming-out party in March and April

By Patrick O’Roark

In nature there are many signs that spring is approaching. Beautiful sights (such as blossoming wildflowers) and sounds (like the increasing variety of bird songs) fill us with happy anticipation of the warmer weather and longer days to come. But nature’s signs of spring aren’t limited to the traditionally beautiful. The creeping, crawling and slithering creatures of the forests and fields are also responding to the warmer temperatures and longer days. Common garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) will soon be emerging en masse from their winter refuges in a remarkable annual spring event.

Published in Earth Matters on February 23, 2018.

Kids learn inventiveness by inventing

By Katie Koerten

Recently I’ve been doing engineering and design workshops with third-graders. At the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, w e’re known for our educational programs about nature and sustainability. But all of us Hitchcock Center educators are also doing programs on engineering and design; it is curriculum that fosters confident, innovative thinking — crucial to tackling the problems facing the natural world.

Published in Earth Matters on February 9, 2018.

Hurricane Irene: It wasn’t the wind, it was the water

By Christine Hatch For the Gazette

“What are you going to do about the wall of water coming down the river?” The call still rings in the ears of Deerfield Select Board Chair Carolyn Ness. The sun was already shining, the storm had passed, people were out in kayaks — and yet a 30-foot-high wall of water, the accumulation of rain from all of the upstream watersheds, was on its way downriver.

Published in Earth Matters on January 26, 2018.

Red crossbills, an enigma of variations

By David Spector For the Gazette January 13, 2018 An evolutionary conundrum may soon appear in your nearest stand of spruce trees. This winter, red crossbills, among the most puzzling birds in North America, are moving south and east of their usual haunts. As it does every few years, this species is likely to appear, […]

Published in Earth Matters on January 13, 2018.

Thick is the new thin: Keeping ourselves warm outdoors in winter

By Ted Watt For the Gazette

How do I, as a naturalist spending a lot of time outdoors year-round, keep warm on cold winter days? I take some cues from animals that stay active in the fields and forests around us.

Published in Earth Matters on December 29, 2017.

How do animals live through our winters?

By Ted Watt For the Gazette

Each year as autumn advances I find myself amazed anew by the ongoing cycle of life in the face of approaching sub-freezing temperatures. Water, the facilitator of life processes, freezes solid and life-giving processes cease. Dormancy, hibernation, migration — there are so many strategies by which life manages this potential catastrophe.

Published in Earth Matters on December 15, 2017.

The case of the songless songbird: Cedar waxwings

By David Spector

Now is a good time to get outside to look for cedar waxwings, a striking songbird with an interesting story. Indeed, any time is a good time, as they are here year-round and always interesting, both for what they do and for what they don’t do.

Published in Earth Matters on December 1, 2017.

When do we find our place in the landscape?

by John Stinton for the Gazette

I recently went cycling with a friend who told me that he’d had a wondrously strange experience — the world around him suddenly became intensely bright and immediate to his senses. How could that be, he asked? After 70 years of living, what had he been missing?

Published in Earth Matters on November 17, 2017.

In memoriam, Elizabeth Farnsworth, writer, illustrator, scientist, naturalist

By Michael Dover For the Gazette

Elizabeth Farnsworth died suddenly at the end of October. I’m certain that anyone who has read even one or two of her many Earth Matters columns shares my sadness of this momentous loss.

Published in Earth Matters on November 3, 2017.
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