Three on the Road heads into the woods chasing fireflies. But not just any variety, synchronous fireflies. In the Smoky Mountains, people have to enter a lottery and be selected to be able to go into the park and see them. But they MAY be in your back yard here in Mississippi.
Lightening bug watching is an evening sport. So as the sun set and mist on the lake rose and the frogs started singing, we headed out to the dark woods just the other side of the fencerow at the edge of Richard and Judy Foster’s property off Rice Road in Madison.
Our garden variety of firefly that we used to catch and put in mason jars when we were kids were very cooperative, coming out while it was still twilight. But Richard explained the synchronous bugs like it totally dark.
“As long as you can see where you’re going, they’re not out,” said Richard.
While we could still see, we ambled on down to the place where the Fosters have been watching the synchronous fireflies for a few years, now; between their house and the Natchez Trace, and waited.
The road down whence we came melted into a vague gray fog in the gathering gloom, with the dim lights of the house far away. Before us lay the deep, dark woods.
“They come out late at night and they synchronize their blinking," explained Richard and Judy. "It’s a sight to see. It looks like Christmas Trees in the woods. When they come up they blink together. All of them.”
Let me say a word about the technical challenges of trying to video in the dark. It’s pretty tough to do. Technically, I pushed my camera almost to its limit. The video shutter is set to a quarter of a second. I usually shoot at a 60th or a 90th. With the lens open wide and the gain on 24db. Usually, it’s at zero. As granddaddy would have said, “That’s all she wrote.”
But I popped a 30-second exposure with my still camera. Here, the blobs of light in the upper part of the picture are our regular lightening bugs. But the BOTTOM, the little regularly spaced dots are the synchronous fireflies. And by the way, ALL of the light in the picture is from lightening bugs. There are no house lights or streetlights shining through.
“We didn’t think they were being found anywhere but in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and up there they sell tickets to see them. Here you can see them for free,” Richard and Judy went on to say.
In Mississippi, they come out around Mothers day and are just about gone by now. In the Smokes, this coming week is when they have their great viewings.
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