Category Archives: Nature NOW

Quote of the Week #82

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you will likely recall my talking about seeing a special kind of firefly that lives in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park–the synchronous firefly. I have written several posts about my experience witnessing the hundreds of these fireflies that light up night for two weeks every year in early June–Magic for your Soul, Soundless Music and 10 things you didn’t know about fireflies.

q-4278Recently I backpacked 4.4 miles to a remote campsite in the backcountry of the park with my husband and two new friends. We arrived at our site in late afternoon, set up our tents and sat back to relax until dark. We drank lemonade rum, snacked on cheese and crackers before our dinners and played a dice game called Farkle. All was well in our world.

Later, as darkness approached, anticipation was high. Our new friends had never seen the fireflies and I badly wanted them to experience the awe I felt the first time I’d seen them, many years ago after I moved to Asheville. With a nearly-full moon already high in the sky, darkness came slowly. At 9:00, I left everyone sitting by the empty fire circle, walking back down the narrow path, looking hopefully for signs of the fireflies. I saw only a few lights. Next I explored the area behind our tents, towards the wide, rock-filled river that provided constant music. Still only a handful of lights. Growing discouraged I ventured farther up the trail, hoping perhaps that would be the “spot” where the fireflies would be gathering. Again, nothing.

I walked back to the group, wondering how it could be that the fireflies were not here. Were we too early? Too late? Was the ranger who gave me advice wrong about this spot?

My friends were quiet, looking around like me.

And then! Here a light, there a light. Here a light, there a light! Tiny lights began flashing in the darkness, low to the ground. We made our way away from our open site, to another spot just on the other side of a small stream, in a denser part of the forest. There, in the silence of the woods, surrounded by darkness, the flashing lights surrounded us! They were everywhere!

Synchronous fireflies are different than other fireflies in that they all flash, flash, flash, flash and then somehow, a signal is communicated and they all stop flashing in unison, making the night black again. It remains black for a few seconds and then the lights start up again. And this goes on and on and on until somewhere between 11:00 and midnight.

Our small group of 4 stood silently in the forest, surrounded by flashing lights. At times they seemed to all dance forward, towards us before growing still again. Blackness all around.

Then the flickering of tiny lights again, decorating the darkness and creating a silent symphony of dancing light.

Later, after we all had our fill, we moved off to settle in our tents, which were by then surrounded by flickering lights. We took off the rain fly, lying in the tent and watching contentedly the dancing lights of tiny insects gathered outside of our temporary home in the forest. It is hard to describe. Difficult to convey the emotion I felt as I watched this. Impossible to communicate why I am moved to tears by this most simple natural event that happens at this time of year in this place every year and has for many, many years. It is magical. It is special. It is food for my soul…

And so, this week’s quote–two actually because as is often the case, I could not decide.

“Silence is life’s most sacred melody,” and:

q--2

“Life is passing rapidly. Fiercely commit to every moment you find beautiful and remember it. Record it. Fully, whole-heartedly inhabit it. Awareness is one of the greatest things you can possess in this life as it is as important as the very air we breathe and water we drink to stay alive.” –Victoria Erickson

q-

Do you agree? What magical moments have you been a part of lately? Have you ventured to the Smokies to see these fireflies? What was your experience like? Have you seen fireflies in a meadow or forest near you? What was it like? Use the comment box below to share your thoughts–I always enjoy hearing from my readers.

…Here’s to making time for a magic moment near you in the very near future.

One Minute Meditation: N.A.’s Largest Rodent: The Beaver

I recently spent some time in Western New York state, outside of Buffalo visiting my Mom. We started nearly everyday with a walk at a park nearby called Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve. This small, 292 acre park has numerous ponds, many of which have evidence of beavers and muskrats in them.

bea-4014

So now, put yourself in my shoes at this park…. it is getting close to dark. You are listening to lots of birds including Canada Geese and Red-winged Blackbirds. As you are walking down the narrow trail, a huge beaver climbs out of the water on one side of the trail and ambles across to the other side–right in front of you! Wow, what a cool animal. You look out across the water and watch a beaver tooling around, then see another feeding on the aquatic roots of the water lilies. He is chewing loudly! On another visit you watch a beaver feeding in a patch of willows, submerged by the recent rains. Every once in a while he pulls his heavy body out of the water to bend down another stalk, to reach its fresh leaves.

Check it out here:

Have you ever watched a beaver? Where were you? Have you seen evidence of them where you live? To learn more about beavers, check out this post I wrote a while back–ten a things you may not know about beavers  or this one, about how beaver’s use their long, flat tails. (Hint, they don’t use it to pack down mud in their lodges! But what do they use it for? Find out HERE!)

See you again soon! Have a great day!

One Minute Meditation:Falling Water

Imagine you are standing beside a towering waterfall, one that rises above you more than 70 feet. As you look up your face is gently misted by falling water. You can hear nothing over the sound of the water. No one else is around, only you. You close your eyes and listen to the constant sound of liquid hitting the gray rocks and splashing into the shallow pool…

Special Invitation: Blue Ghost & Moth Viewing Party!

Hey all and happy Monday to you. If you live locally in Asheville or western North Carolina, this post’s for you–a special invitation to come out and join me on Friday night to watch a special firefly. (If not, so sorry! I will feature another post after the party with some photos)

moth-5735

As you’ve likely heard me say a time or two, my husband and I live in the woods in south Asheville. We discovered some years ago that we have BLUE GHOST FIREFLIES on our property. Don’t know what a Blue Ghost is?

Blue Ghost Fireflies are different from other species of firefly in that their light stays lit for 30-60 seconds, 2 to 3 feet off the ground. So watching them is magical–it’s like ghosts are carrying lanterns as they move silently through the trees.

The firefly is only the size of a rice grain but his light is bright enough to light up the night, especially when there are a bunch in one spot. Females also have a light but have no wings so remain stationary.

On THIS Friday, May 26th, at 8pm, my husband and I are hosting a blue ghost and moth viewing party. We will sit outside and have a drink while we wait for it to get dark, then will learn a bit about these fireflies before going on a short walk to see some.

We will also put out a black light and white sheet to see what moths we might attract. I will mix up a special drink for the moths and will put it out near the sheet. After we watch the blue ghosts, we can walk over and check out what’s on the sheet. You never know what we might see! Here are a few of my favorite moths that I’ve seen other years:

Luna mothVirgin tiger mothInside of tiger moth's wingsTulip MothImperial mothTulip moth,maleA luna moth with another smaller mothUnidentified mothMoths Polyphemus mothTiger mothPolyphemus mothMoth on sheetMoth attracted to black lightMothMothFirefly in daytimeOrange patched-smoky mothA beautiful luna mothMultiple luna moths

If you want to attend, great, I can’t wait to meet you! PLEASE wear comfortable shoes for this! And note that we will not be using flashlights for much of the time in order to allow our eyes to adjust to the night. The driveway is wide and mostly level and we will not be off-trail at any time. But to get the address and directions, you must RSVP at my meetup site   or send me an email saying you’d like to go– sharenaturemore@gmail.com. To avoid overcrowding, I am limiting this to 20 people.

If you want to learn how YOU can attract moths to your yard, see this post or if you want to read about one of our more beautiful moths, check out this Tulip Tree moth. Or, here’s a quiz to see what you know about moths.

Lastly, if you are interested in learning more about moths, such as how to identify them, here is a link to a fabulous book–a Peterson Guide to Moths. 

Quote of the Week #76

Are you anxious for November 8th? If so, you’re not alone! Everywhere I go, it is what people are talking about.

art-3It is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the negativity and fearful for the future… so I thought I would offer you a moment of peace and quiet and some beauty to feel inspired by.

It is fall! It is a glorious season! And every day there are great reasons to get outside and enjoy it before it turns to winter.

And so, today’s quote, by John Burroughs:

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

MovementSerenityFloatingFall is here!CalmPearlsReflectionsArtist at workColorful hillsideLayersQuietMusicSpider ArtCaught!Splendid CollisionStillnessSilkWaterNature's jewelry Design

Where do you go to have your senses put in order? Or to feel soothed? Do you have a favorite spot? If so, I hope you make time to visit it soon. Happy day!

 

Do You See What I See?

1-It’s that time of year again–the time when I can’t seem to get anything else done because I just want to be outside, looking for spots of beauty to capture with my camera. Mornings are my favorite time of day –when the birds are singing and the sunshine is just beginning to wipe away the dew. Time disappears in those moments. Do you know what I mean? What activity do you do that makes time disappear?

Since you can’t come along with me into the fields, I thought I would share some of my recent photos. As you can see, there is no shortage of beauty! Which one is your favorite?

Enjoy! And have a wonderful Thursday!!

TogetherField of black-eyed susansShadowsCurvesDelicate fernsOnePollen grainsIn a lineAweReady to fallFlowersCommon whitetail dragonfly, maleLong legs!A beetle on a lilyAnother beetleA bee gathers pollenA jumping spider! I see you!DropsBacklitWater marblesZigzags One flowerRed-lined leafRaindropsBeautyA beetleUnfurling its proboscisReflectionsA female widow skimmerWater artA stink bugSimplicity A female hummingbird!VeinsPinkYellowHalloween pennantA slaty skimmer at the pondA painted ladyBanded pennant femaleStar-dust caught!! Calico pennantBlack birds chase an osprey! Such big eyes!A damselfly at the pond

If you need some more inspiration for the day, check out these past posts– What causes me to skip? What gift should every child have?  and finally, on Intimacy with the natural world. Enjoy.

Amazed By My Dog’s Ability to do This

schr-1063If you’ve been following along you might remember that I adopted a puppy in December, after fostering him and his two siblings for 5 weeks after their mother was killed by a car. Well Schroeder, the puppy, is now just about 7 months old. A lot has changed in that time, including that he no longer sleeps in his crate, an adjustment that has taken some time getting used to because he growls and then barks at every unfamiliar sound in the night–though this has gotten better as he is learning we are not fans of this.

…and you remember I said I lived in the woods, right? Well all kinds of animals are out and about when we are trying to sleep. There’s no telling how many raccoons, opossums, fox, coyotes, owls, bats, bears, deer, skunks, and other animals pass by the house in the dead of night.

Outside of our house... a deer in a sunbeam

Outside of our house… a deer in a sunbeam

Last night Schroeder woke us up at 3:30am, and it was pretty obvious from his loud and insistent bark that this was more than a mouse scurrying through the underbrush. We thanked him for alerting us, then hushed him and listened quietly, hearing an odd sound that was hard to identify.

Now fully awake, I got out of bed and tiptoed to the kitchen in the dark to turn on the spotlight. And waited a few minutes. At first there was nothing, but then, very quietly despite his GIANT size, a lone black bear came around the bend of the deck and strolled out into the backyard, schr-6063disappearing into the woods.

When I checked this morning, all 3 of our hanging hummingbird feeders were empty, though interestingly, still hanging perfectly. This bear has learned that 1. sugar water is good, 2.that we have sugar water and 3.that he can get it without  breaking or knocking the feeders to the ground. I imagine him standing on his hind legs, using his front feet to tip the feeder, drinking from the feeder like a person would drink a beer! (We will bring the hummingbird feeders in for a few nights after this in case he is still in the area and hoping for more sweetness)

We learned that our dog has AMAZING senses, as do all dogs. He can be asleep in his bed on the floor at the foot of our bed, the windows closed, and yet he is aware of a bear outside the house. His bark telling us a bear is present is much different than other animals that pass by. How does he do it?

From my research on the senses of dogs it seems the answer is SMELL.

Schroeder as a smaller puppy

Schroeder as a smaller puppy

Dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell, so much more acute than ours that it is hard for us to fathom. They have 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses–to our 6 million. According to a page about dogs on Nova’s website, “Dogs’ sense of smell overpowers our own by orders of magnitude—it’s 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute, scientists say. “Let’s suppose they’re just 10,000 times better,” says James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, who, with several colleagues, came up with that jaw-dropping estimate during a rigorously designed, oft-cited study. “If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well.”

Schroder a month ago

Schroder a month ago

…”Put another way, dogs can detect some odors in parts per trillion. What does that mean in terms we might understand? Well, in her book Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz, a dog-cognition researcher at Barnard College, writes that while we might notice if our coffee has had a teaspoon of sugar added to it, a dog could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, or two Olympic-sized pools worth. Another dog scientist likened their ability to catching a whiff of one rotten apple in two million barrels.” (Click HERE to read more of that article from Nova or HERE to read 10 things you may not know about bears.)

Amazing right? If the senses of dogs is that amazing, imagine what it must be like in other animals–like fox, coyote, bears etc. Knowing that, it seems amazing that we ever get to see them in the wild! And fully illustrates why every time I get a glimpse, however brief, of a wild animal in its natural habitat, I feel lucky. Do you? What animal encounters have you had lately?