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.

Snowflakes with wings

By David Spector

Snowflakes here have an extra meaning: “Snowflake” is an old name for the bird that’s better known today as the snow bunting, one that we can see this time of year. This bird moves south for the winter from its arctic nesting range to relatively warm and sunny regions, including here in New England.

Published in Earth Matters on January 28, 2019.

“snow puzzles”

By Lawrence J. Winship

As we move deeper into winter, once again it becomes evident that living at 42 degrees north latitude has one certain consequence: We trade the bright long days of summer for the short, dark days of winter. Lower sun angles, later dawns and earlier sunsets are all caused by the tilt of our planet’s axis away from the sun. We spin at an angle of 23.5 degrees relative to our orbital plane around old Sol. Facing towards the light and then away in a perpetual annual cycle, we don’t turn our backs completely on the sun, as they do above the Arctic Circle — but it does get pretty dim! Season in and season out, Earth continuously radiates heat energy back to the cosmos, so the reduced solar input in winter throws our soils, forests and lakes into negative heat energy balance and they freeze — water like a stone.

Published in Earth Matters on January 11, 2019.

Rain, rain, go away: Local farmers wrangle with a difficult season

By Reeve Gutsell

Farming is hard. Ask any local farmer, and they’ll tell you the same thing: From wrangling with the vagaries of weather to struggling with pests and diseases, farming is hard on the body, the mind and the finances. Unfortunately, climate change is making life even more challenging.

Published in Earth Matters on December 31, 2018.

Mission to a vanishing sea-ice landscape, Part 2: Ecosystem

By TOM LITWIN For the Gazette  December 14, 2018     Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series. Part 1 was published on December 1.   Three days out of Dutch Harbor, the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy was coming into position about 75 miles off the southwest coast of St. Lawrence […]

Published in Earth Matters on December 18, 2018.

Earth Matters: Mission to a vanishing sea-ice landscape, Part 1: Icebreaking

By TOM LITWIN For the Gazette  December 3, 2018 Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series. Part 2 will be published on December 15. Ten years ago, I was part of a team of international scientists lined up along the railing of the 420-foot U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy as we prepared […]

Published in Earth Matters on December 3, 2018.

Don’t drain the swamp!

By Christine Hatch

I’m offended. I hereby register my formal and public complaint regarding using “drain the swamp,” to refer to removing excess, unusable or undesirable from politics in general and Washington D.C. in particular. While the latter may be a worthy activity — now more than ever, for the good of the swamp and clean air and water for every other living creature — in our physical, natural world, please don’t drain that swamp! Your life might depend on it! Here’s why.

Published in Earth Matters on November 19, 2018.

The magic of the woods, and the need to preserve them

By Kari Blood For the Gazette Friday, November 02, 2018 When I was a child growing up in upstate New York, there was magic all around me. I found that magic in The Woods, as we reverently called them, that surrounded our neighborhood. I could wander out through my own backyard to the footpath leading […]

Published in Earth Matters on November 2, 2018.

Sharing nature on Instagram

By Katie Koerten

I’m about as cynical about social media as anyone. I spend too many hours of my life on the Internet and I feel icky about it. Any benefits I get — seeing what faraway friends are up to, learning about events I might be interested in, reading interesting and important articles — are usually offset by the disappointment at the wasted time. Yet every now and then, social media can be a source of joy, and sometimes even does what it set out to do: connect people.

Published in Earth Matters on October 22, 2018.

Stalking a seldom seen dragonfly

By Joshua Stewart Rose

Seven years ago, I attended the annual meeting of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas — a mixed group of researchers, naturalists, and other dragonfly enthusiasts — in Delaware. There we heard that tiger spiketails (Cordulegaster erronea) were breeding in the northwestern corner of that state. Spiketails are large, distinctive dragonflies, black with bright yellow stripes and green eyes. Their namesake spike is an ovipositor, which the female jabs into stream beds in a sewing-machine-like motion to lay eggs. Many of us detoured on our way home to see them. This was the only time I had ever seen the species, which had never been recorded in Massachusetts — yet.

Published in Earth Matters on October 5, 2018.

Following the footsteps of great naturalists in Northampton

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.

Published in Earth Matters on September 21, 2018.
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