By Cynthia Hacker
July nights are an exciting time to view the theatrics of summertime fireflies. They put on a spectacular light show even in your own backyard. But if you really want to be dazzled, head out to a meadow, where they do their best work. The most amazing venue in my neck of the woods is the Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary in New Paltz, NY. Nestled off the side of the historic Huguenot Street and hugged by the Shawangunk mountains is the 56-acre preserve, created to be a “forever wild setting” where grasses and herbaceous plants host a wide variety of animals, including a reported 140 bird species.
To see the fireflies, get to the sanctuary between 9:30 and 10 pm on a summer night. As you head down the entrance path, you will pass through a pine forest of blinking, glowing wonder. It’s Christmas time again and someone has decorated the trees with a thousand brilliant lights! Moving down the lane, you will reach a small wooden bridge over a vast marshy pond. At this hour, it’s luminescent with the strange green glow of algae. The flies have also lit up this place, in what again looks like the planned succession of moving Christmas lights, and if you listen closely, the bullfrogs are voicing their pleasure with a hearty “Gup! Gup!”
If you’re not afraid of the dark, venture into the labyrinth of trails after the bridge. They are dark and wooded, and a definite favorite of the flies. It is spooky and magical at the same time, their bright little signals could almost be the lanterns of fairies, who knows? It’s a veritable wonderland.
Trying to photograph fireflies takes a great deal of knowledge. Cell phone cameras don’t seem adequate. If you light up the area with a flash, you don’t see the lights you are trying to capture. If you take a photo without a flash, you don’t capture the lights.
Cynthia Hacker lives in New Paltz, NY. She spends her free time exploring the many wild places that grace the area. She is a writer and lover of nature.