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.
By John Sinton For the Gazette
I spent an absorbing three hours in some woods, fields and wetlands at Hospital Hill (now called Village Hill) in Northampton earlier this year. Take it from an old codger — if you’re ever offered the chance to accompany three skilled professional naturalists on a species hunt, jump at it! You’ll see whole worlds in clumps of weeds and grand surprises along the trails.
By Patrick O’Roark
You may have noticed some large, charismatic insect friends hanging out in tall grasses or low bushes lately, or perhaps absorbing the warmth of the sun on the side of a building.
Late summer and early fall is prime time for seeing praying mantises. The adults have finished mating and the females are out and about laying their egg cases, known as oothecae. As winter approaches, the adults will die and their oothecae will be left behind to overwinter, awaiting the warmth and moisture that comes with spring. At that point the conditions will be right and eggs will hatch. Somewhere around 100 to 200 nymphs will emerge from the ootheca, and this next generation will disperse amongst the grasses and shrubs that will be their home for the next several months.
By Ted Watt
When I was living in Boston, some evening every year in late spring, I would find myself walking across Government Center or through the North End and all of a sudden, over the roar of traffic would come these distinctive nasal calls. I would quickly glance around and then remember to look up. And there against the blue-black of gathering darkness I could see their zig-zagging silhouettes above the buildings. Their flight patterns (rapidly changing direction) and the white patches on the underside of their wings are distinctive. The common nighthawks were doing their aerial displays and feeding.
By David Spector
There is a bounty of animal life beneath our feet. Turn over a log in a forest for a glimpse at some of the hustle and bustle of soil creatures: Earthworms, millipedes, small insects and others feed on fresh or decaying plant matter.
By Lawrence J. Winship
For many years my wife and I have stayed warm by burning locally harvested firewood in a high-efficiency, EPA-certified airtight woodstove. Adding insulation, replacing leaky windows with low-E thermopane units, putting this stove into our inefficient fireplace — all are simple and cost-effective measures. We take pleasure and some pride in the annual rhythm and exercise of stacking and moving the wood. And we look forward to fall and winter when we gather around the warm presence of the stove, immune to power outages, independent from fossil fuel, reducing our carbon footprint. But a while back, new research concluded that biomass energy was not as carbon neutral as we had thought. Perhaps wood burning was even worse than coal! Ouch!! Were we making a mistake?
By Reeve Gutsell
With scraggly fur, a long, rat-like tail, a pointy snout, and a large mouthful of teeth (50 to be precise), opossums are more likely to inspire fear or disgust than praise. However, this unique North American marsupial is a relatively harmless scavenger and a friend to gardeners through its consumption of snails, slugs and beetles.
By Michael Dover
In the fall of 2015, I wrote an Earth Matters column on envisioning a fossil-fuel-free Massachusetts. I cited an analysis by the nonprofit Solutions Project that projected the likely mix of renewable energy sources from wind, water and the sun that together would eliminate the need for fossil fuels in the state.
By Tom Litwin For the Gazette Friday, June 15, 2018 Climate change is very much in the news, with the tumultuous politics in Washington, dramatic reports of melting ice caps and sea level rise, and growing concern about “extreme” weather events. As confirming data arrive daily, society is grappling with the complex challenges of this […]
The change of season from winter to spring is a welcome time of year, with our ice-covered Valley landscape a distant memory. Although we routinely benefit and suffer from the attributes of ice, we pretty much take it for granted.
By David Spector
The thrill or, from some perspectives, the annoyance, of being awakened by bird song raises questions for the inquiring naturalist. What is that dawn chorus of avian voices? Why does a bird sing at dawn?