Tag Archives: night

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:


“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


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.

Posted in Animals, For My Soul, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Nature NOW, Quote of the Week | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

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)


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. 

Posted in Animals, Call to Action!, For My Soul, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Just for Fun, Nature NOW | Also tagged , , , 4 Comments

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?

Posted in Animals, Encounters of the Furred Kind, Just for Fun, Mammals, Nature NOW | Also tagged , , , , , , 2 Comments

Weekly Puzzler Answer #70

katydid-3As you’ve heard me say a time or two, I live in the middle of the woods. Lately, the songs of the KATYDIDS have been deafening at night! It always amazes me that such a small insect can create such a loud noise!

If you didn’t already guess it, the Katydid–a nocturnal insect– is the animal responsible for the sound from last week’s puzzler. Have you been hearing them at your house yet? Do you like the sound? Have you ever actually seen one? They are very well camouflaged, usually on something green making it difficult to distinguish them from a leaf. If you’re looking closely though, you can find them! I often see them when I’m out in the mornings doing photography in one of my favorite fields.


For me, I love to hear them, leaving the windows open at night to fully appreciate their chorus. The past few nights I have also heard the screech owl, which is an entirely different sound, but appealing in another way.

If you live in western North Carolina, you might want to join me in a few weeks when I give another program at The Compleat Naturalist–this one about Creatures of the Night on August 21st. In addition, I will be offering night hikes on several different dates that you will need to sign up for ahead of time. More information will be coming soon.

Hope you are having a wonderful weekend! Check out the next puzzler if you like!

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Quote of the Week #26

nite--2I recently spent a night camping on one of the balds along the Appalachian Trail at Roan Mountain. It was one of the those 90 degree days that often brings drama in the afternoons, but my friend Maggie and I figured we’d chance it, ready to take cover below if need be. As we finished our dinner and nibbled on chocolate and hot lemonade with pineapple rum, we heard a faint boom behind us, turning to find a wall of thick, dark clouds on the distant horizon.  Would they come our way?

Contentedly finding shapes in the swirling clouds and chatting pleasantly, we relaxed in our “lounge chairs,” waiting to see what would happen. After the sun was swallowed by the thickening clouds, we watched, seeing a wall of gray fall from the sky above the distant ridge. Rain. But not on our mountain top. Eventually the sky above the city lights darkened and we could hear booms of thunder, like far away bombs. Bolts of lightning behind the clouds lit up the night in a dazzling display of Mother Nature’s fury. What a show!

Amazingly, the storm dissipated before reaching us so we stayed warm and dry at our grassy campsite, retiring hours later to our tents beneath a star-filled sky. Much better than fireworks…or TV!

And that brings me to the quote of the week:



Posted in For My Soul, Quote of the Week, The Appalachian Trail, Wisdom for your Wednesday | Also tagged , , , , , Comments Off on Quote of the Week #26

Awakened at 3AM By Guess Who?

bearnow-So last night I was sleeping peacefully when I gradually became aware of some weird noise coming from the front porch. It sounded like something was moving back and forth, kind-of rhythmically but it was nothing I could explain. As you’ve likely heard me say before, I live in the middle of the woods, on a 5 acre piece of land at the bottom of the mountain. If I walk out my back door I can be in Pisgah National Forest in a few minutes. For those not familiar, this forest consists of more than 500,000 acres! So essentially, my backyard is a rather big and wild place!

Still hearing the unidentifiable sound, I grabbed my robe and walked through the dark to the living room, where I could see out onto the deck that runs around 3 sides of the house. In the dim light I could see a dark shape standing at the edge. I moved to the wall, and flipped the switch for the lights, all 4 of them and saw an empty deck. Now I was fully awake and thinking BEAR.

bearnow-9313I looked again and noticed the hummingbird feeder–one of 5 (3 hanging, 2 suction-cupped to windows, including a 2nd floor window) — was set neatly on the deck, empty of its sweet nectar. Hmmmm, it was looking more and more like bear. So I got the hand-held spotlight and stepped out the door, shining it in all directions but seeing nothing. No sounds either. Where could he have gone and how did he move so quietly?

I walked around to collect the other two hanging feeders, both empty. The one outside the back door, like the one in front, was set neatly on the deck rather than thrown halfway across the yard. I brought them in, turned on more lights, looked around, but still saw nothing. So went to bed.

But I was far from sleepy.

A little while later I heard a noise again, this time seeming to come from the back of the house. Again, I grabbed my robe and made my way through the darkness to the back door. This time I flipped on the light–a giant one that floods the entire deck and half the backyard in light. Wow! Guess what I saw? A big, black bear standing on his hind legs, reaching up to where the hummingbird feeder used to hang. He took up the whole space, nearly hitting the ceiling! Such black fur, so healthy and full-looking! The light didn’t phase him very much, though it did seem to force him into retreat-mode. He clumsily climbed over the deck railing, onto the stone patio and ambled towards the yard. He stopped short and then stood up again by the sunroom windows, then walked off and guess what? He stopped to get a drink from our birdbath! With his thirst now quenched, he sauntered off, swallowed by the darkness.

The backyard--and a previous bear visit.

The backyard–and a previous bear visit.

It is amazing to live in this place where wildlife regularly wanders into our yard. Wow! I enjoy the chance to see things and to learn about the animals who are my neighbors, including bears. It’s an animal most people will have to go to a zoo to see and an animal that provokes great fear in many.

For us this latest encounter does present a dilemma. Every night we bring in our seed feeders for the songbirds. Will we now have to bring in the hummingbird feeders too? I guess if it happens again, we will consider it. At least he was neat about things and didn’t break any of the feeders! I imagine him standing there in the dark, guzzling the sweet liquid, thinking wow, I have to make this one of my regular stops!

Bears are not strangers to our yard

Bears are not strangers to our yard

If you want to read more about black bears, Click HERE. 

Posted in Animals, Encounters of the Furred Kind, Mammals, Nature NOW | Also tagged , , , 2 Comments

Weekly Puzzler #56

Okay, so the other night when I was walking back from my pond exploration I came over a rise and heard this very deafening sound.

I am thinking many of you KNOW what animal is making it, so that as my puzzler won’t be all that challenging.

Do you know the size of this animal, or what it looks like? Or their latin name and why it is so perfectly fitting?

Thus, this week’s Puzzler has a BONUS question.  First, what animal is making this sound? and Second,  What size is this animal?CLICK HERE to learn the answer.

Are you hearing this sound yet where you live??


Posted in Amphibians, Animals, Weekly Puzzler | Also tagged , , , , 2 Comments