I blog over at Chicks on the Case and we recently had a Guest Chick, Diane Kelly, who mentioned being fascinated with fireflies and explaining how they became part of her Moonshine Mysteries.
But it turned into a much broader discussion about the bugs and critters we were all too familiar with, and the ones we’ve never seen.
Fireflies, for instance. As a kid, I thought they were fictional. I mean, c’mon … they totally sound made-up. I saw them once as an adult, but just a few, and kind of fleetingly. I’d love to be surrounded by them on an inky night with their lit-up butts soaring and swooping around me. Assuming that’s what they do. I guess it would be a lot less fun if they bopped and stung. But even so, I’m always up for a new experience!
I wanted to find a photo of fireflies to illustrate this post so I typed it into the search bar at
I’m assuming the people who live with fireflies (or do you call them lightning bugs?) may not even notice them any longer and would perhaps mock my child-like wonder on that inky night.
Much the same way I mocked the people—scads of them—who had pulled off the highway out in rural Colorado somewhere, absolutely captivated by a prairie dog colony. We were on vacation and slowed down to a crawl to see what was so fascinating. Cars lined both sides of the two-lane road, people milled about with cameras poised. One of my kids finally figured it out and said, incredulously, “Have these people never seen a prairie dog?”
They’re as common around our town as golden retrievers wearing bandanas. So we floored it and beat them all to the Stuckey’s up the road.
Not as common was the day I freaked out when I looked outside and counted thirty-seven (37!!!) magpies in my backyard. I couldn’t even get them all in one photo. When I posted about it on Facebook, so many of my friends said, “What are those gorgeous birds?” And one proclaimed, “I thought magpies were a Disney creation!”
Again, they’re as common as robins—please don’t tell me you’ve never seen a robin—at my house. And they’re kind of jerks. They’ve been known to prey on smaller birds. They poke enormous holes in the weed block under my mulch trying to get at tasty bugs. (Why they can’t do the same thing in the lawn that needs constant aeration is a question for another day, I suppose.) They dominate the birdbath like bullies on the playground. They are big. So is their poop. There are a zillion stories about them dive-bombing unsuspecting bikers and joggers. They also make a lot of noise, a-screeching and a-squawking.
At our house I have ascertained that they begin their cacophony when a cat has been spotted. I know this because Nala hates cats with the white-hot intensity of ten thousand suns, and she feels it necessary to tell me when one is roaming the ‘hood. The magpies and Nala then carry on their loud, indignant conversation about the poor cat, just trying to live its best life. Maybe they’re not complete jerks; maybe they’re warning other birds about a potential predator.
I will say, however, that magpies are truly gorgeous things on their own. But thirty-seven of anything in my yard is simply creepy.
And I know because I’ve hosted birthday parties for kindergartners.