See Fireflies at Nibley Firefly Park

Nibley Firefly Park: Luci the Firefly from  The Mystery of Luci’s Missing Lantern by Melissa Marsted and illustrated by Liesl Cannon Courtesy & © Liesl Cannon, Illustrator
Luci the Firefly from
The Mystery of Luci’s Missing Lantern by Melissa Marsted, illust. by Liesl Cannon
Courtesy & © Liesl Cannon, Illustrator

Author Melissa Marsted and Illustrator Liesl Cannon at the Stokes Nature Center Book Signing Courtesy & © Mary Heers Author Melissa Marsted and Illustrator Liesl Cannon at the Stokes Nature Center Book Signing
Courtesy & © Mary Heers

Just imagine waking from a very long sleep into a bright May morning in Cache Valley. This is the story of Luci, a western firefly, told charmingly by Melissa Marsted and illustrated by Liesl Cannon in their new children’s book, The Mystery of Luci’s Missing Lantern. After completing her transition from a larva to an adult firefly, Luci notices she has no light. She flies up Logan Canyon looking for her missing lantern, where the animals she meets encourage her to keep looking. But its a bluebird on top of Mt. Naomi, the highest point in the canyon, who turns Luci around and sends her back to where she was born, the Nibley Firefly Park.

There Luci finds her light. She sits down near the top of a tall blade of grass, and suddenly males fly by, flashing their lights, trying to get her attention. Luci discovers she can flash back. It’s a party – a big courtship dance.

You can see the story unfold if you visit the Nibley Firefly Park after dark. But please tread carefully. For fireflies, this is their Grand Finale. It has taken two years for them to grow from larvae to flying adults. Now they are choosing a mate. By July they will have laid their eggs in the nearby marshy ground and their life cycle will come to an end.

Any artificial light brought to the scene (such as flashlights and car headlights) seriously disrupts the courtship flashing. If you visit the Nibley Firefly Park this summer, please keep your light to the barest minimum, and – enjoy the party.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah

Nibley’s Firefly Park is located at 2400 South 1000 West.
Typically fireflies are active at about 10:00 pm.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy & Copyright © Mary Heers
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Western Firefly Project: A Community Science Initiative, Natural History Museum of Utah, https://nhmu.utah.edu/citizen-science/fireflies

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Postings

Bills, Christy, Utah Fireflies, Wild About Utah,Sept 7, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/utah_fireflies/ AND
Bills, Christy, Fireflies, Wild About Utah, May 15, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/fireflies/

Hellstern, Ron, June Fireflies, Wild About Utah, June 19, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/june-fireflies/

Strand, Holly, Firefly light, Wild About Utah, June 20, 2013, https://wildaboututah.org/firefly-light/

Marstad, Melissa C, Author, & Cannon, Liesl, Illustrator, The Mystery of Luci’s Missing Lantern, Lucky Penny Publications, LLC, Mar 16, 2021, https://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Lucis-Missing-Lantern/dp/1945243805

Guided Firefly Walks, May 30th-June 4th; 9:15-10:30 pm nightly, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org/centerevents/2022/5/30/guided-firefly-walks

Firefly Viewing at Nibley’s Firefly Park, Nibley City, http://nibleycity.com/index.php/departments/parks-recreation/489-firefly-park

Mendon’s May Day

Mendon’s May Day: Mendon May Pole Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer
Mendon May Pole
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer

Mendon Glacier Lilly Courtesy & © Mary Heers, PhotographerMendon Glacier Lilly
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer

Mendon Glacier Lilly Close Up Courtesy & © Mary Heers, PhotographerMendon Glacier Lilly Close Up
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer

Mary's Neighbor's May Queen Crown Courtesy & &copy' Mary Heers, PhotographerMary’s Neighbor’s May Queen Crown
Courtesy & &copy’ Mary Heers, Photographer

Never have I seen the coming of spring celebrated with more flair than Mendon’s May Day.

On the first Saturday in May, Maypoles with 20 foot long ribbons appear in the Mendon town square. By ten o’clock a couple hundred residents have gathered around the poles. A piano in the gazebo strikes the first chords and the May Queen and her entourage step around the corner of the church and onto the green. Suddenly everybody gathered in the square begins to sing. “Come to the woodlands, away, away”. Most people know the whole song by heart.

The queen is crowned and the real showstopper, the braiding of the Maypoles, begins. Mendon’s young girls, grades 1-5, pick up the ribbons. Braiding the poles is complicated. The girls have been practicing after school three times a week since the beginning of April. Last week I dropped in on one of the practices and counted: 3 Maypoles, 64 girls, and a little bit of chaos. There’s a march, a minuet. More songs. Stepping in, stepping out, kneeling, skipping. The girls bob up and down as they sing ”Apples blossoms swing and sway..”

Mendon is one of Cache Valley’s oldest pioneer towns, tucked up against the Wellsville Mountains. Winters were long and hard, and the coming of spring eagerly awaited. The beginnings of May Day can be traced back to the days when the young girls in the pioneer settlement raced up the hillsides to gather spring wildflowers to put in their hair.

The first May Queen, Seny Sorenson, was crowned with a hand woven wreath of flowers in 1863. Since then, every year, rain or shine, a queen has been crowned in the town square, and the maypoles have been braided with the same songs and dance steps. 160 years, with only a few changes.

The queen’s name is now drawn out of a hat from a pool of the town’s high school juniors. And this year, for the first time ever, the young girls will be getting store bought dresses. In the past, the mothers were expected to sew the matching dresses for their daughters. Not knowing about this tradition, you can imagine how bewildered I was when I had just moved to Mendon and answered a knock on my door. A woman I didn’t know handed me a dress pattern and proceed to say something about altering the interfacing. I was pretty sure she was speaking English, but I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. Luckily my good friend and neighbor quickly brought me up to speed. This wonderful neighbor had actually been Mendon’s May Queen over 50 years ago. “Do you want to see my crown?” she asked as she opened the door to her hall closet. And there it was, a tight ring of pink and white flowers, secured to a tiny satin pillow with a fading ribbon.

I had one more stop to make. I hopped in my car and drove up to the Deep Canyon trailhead high above Mendon. A short way up the trail I found it– a whole hillside covered with curly yellow Glacier Lilies, the “early blooming flowers” from the May Day song “Maying and Straying…” And believe me, this was a sight worth singing about.

This is Mary Heers, and I’m Wild about Springtime in Utah.

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Mary Heers, Photographer
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers AND Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Postings

Mendon May Day, https://www.mendonutah.net/may_day.htm

May Day Celebration, Mendon City, Utah, https://mendoncity.org/may-day-celebration/

Swan Life

Swan Life: Tundra Swans in Flight Courtesy & © Mary Heers
Tundra Swans in Flight
Courtesy & © Mary Heers

Tundra Swans at Dusk Courtesy & © Mary HeersTundra Swans at Dusk
Courtesy & © Mary Heers

Swan Life Book Cover, Courtesy & © Copyright Mark Nicolaides, All Rights Reserved https://www.swanlife.com/about Swan Life Book Cover,
Courtesy & © Copyright Mark Nicolaides, All Rights Reserved
https://www.swanlife.com/about

Tundra Swan in Flight Cygnus columbianus Courtesy US FWS Donna A Dewhurst, Photographer Tundra Swan in Flight
Cygnus columbianus
Courtesy US FWS
Donna A Dewhurst, Photographer

Swan Life: Tundra Swan Pair Cygnus columbianus Courtesy US FWS Tim Bowman, PhotographerTundra Swan Pair
Cygnus columbianus
Courtesy US FWS
Tim Bowman, Photographer

Mounted Swan at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer Mounted Swan at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer

Two weeks ago I got an excited phone call from a friend of mine in Fairview, Idaho.

“The swans are back,” she said. I hopped in my car and raced over to watch as hundreds of swans plodded over the bumpy cornfields, devouring the bits and pieces of corn left behind by the harvester.

My next stop was the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, and sure enough, hundreds of swans were there too, dipping their heads into the shallow water and pulling up one of their other favorite foods, pondweed.

These magnificent migrating birds had already flown hundreds of miles from southern parts of the hemisphere, and had hundreds of miles still to go. They were here to briefly rest and recharge.

What happens to these swans in the next few months is a somewhat private affair. The swans pair up for life, and fly north to build their nests in remote areas close to the arctic Circle. I was curious. So I sent away for a book, Swan Life by Mark Nicolaides, who won the trust of a pair of mute swans on a nature reserve in England, and was able to observe them raise their young in the wild.

Mark’s story begins with Kay, the female, sitting on her nest. Kob, the male, was standing guard. Kay sat on the nest, rain or shine, for 6 weeks. But very soon after the chicks hatched, Kay hopped out of the nest into the shallow surrounding moat. The bewildered chicks had no choice but to plunge headlong out of the nest and plop into the water. It was their day one, and time for their first swim. Also time to learn to forage for their own food. Unlike bird mothers who bring food to their chicks, Kay got her chicks out of the nest and led them to food.

Over the summer, the young swans stopped looking like gray balls of fluff. They put on weight, stretched out their necks and wings and grew thousands of feathers. They learned to flap their wings and walk at the same time. At five months, it was time to learn to fly. Kay waited for a windy day, and took them to an open stretch of water. Pointing into the wind, she galloped over the water, pounding her wings, and lifted off. The young swans raced after her, the breeze giving them that little bit of extra lift. Their tails were still draping along in the water, but it still counted as flight.

Mark writes how the young swans went wild – like players who score a goal in the World Cup. They beat the water into a foam, dove underwater and came up like sea monsters with their mouths wide open, and finished with a flip upside down.

Meanwhile the weather was changing and it was time to migrate south. Almost to a day, five months after they hatched, the young swans flew off one by one, to join other migrating swans and begin their own adult lives.

So if you missed seeing the Tundra swans passing through Cache Valley this month, you’ll have another chance when they pass through in the fall. These beautiful birds, weighing about 15 pounds and averaging a wingspan over 6 feet, are a sight not to be missed.

But what I like best is the thunder of their wings as they run across water and lift off.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Mary Heers
Book cover: Courtesy & © Copyright Mark Nicolaides, All Rights Reserved https://www.swanlife.com/about
Photos: Courtesy US FWS, Donna A Dewhurst and Tim Bowman, Photographers
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Postings

Nicolaides, Mark, Swan Life, Lulu Press, June 3, 2015, https://www.amazon.com/Swan-Life-Mark-Nicolaides/dp/1326281208
Mark Nicolaides’ website: https://www.swanlife.com/about

Tundra Swans, All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Tundra_Swan/overview

Strand, Holly, Til Death Do Us Part, Wild About Utah, February 21, 2013, https://wildaboututah.org/til-death-do-us-part/

Tundra Swan, Utah Bird Profile, UtahBirds.org, http://utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/ProfilesS-Z/TundraSwan.htm
Other Photos: http://utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/BirdsS-Z/TundraSwan.htm

Cisco Fishing and Then Some

Cisco Fishing and Then Some: Ice Fishing at Bear Lake, Cisco Beach Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers
Ice Fishing at Bear Lake, Cisco Beach
Courtesy & &copy: Mary Heers

Ice Fishing at Bear Lake, Cisco Beach Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers Ice Fishing at Bear Lake, Cisco Beach
Courtesy & &copy: Mary Heers

Ice Fishing at Bear Lake, Cisco Beach Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers Ice Fishing at Bear Lake, Cisco Beach
Courtesy & © Mary Heers

Bonneville Cisco: Male and Female The more colorful male is larger below the tape. Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer. Bonneville Cisco: Male and Female
The more colorful male is larger below the tape.
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer.

For two weeks every January at Bear Lake, the Bonneville Cisco, averaging 6 to 8 inches in length, swim out of the deep waters to spawn in the shallow, cobbled shoreline on the eastside. They come in the thousands, broadcast their eggs and sperm into the shallow water, and leave.

In the recorded history of Bear Lake, there is a picture of a Swedish immigrant who, in the early 1900’s, took his gill nets to the Eastern shore and caught Cisco. Over the years, after gill nets were outlawed, people started using small nets on long poles to pull the Cisco out of the shallow water. Bear Lake, at close to 6,000 ft elevation, is cold in January. Anyone fishing would tend to hop from foot to foot trying to stay warm. From a distance it looked like dancing. And so the Cisco spawning run got its name: Cisco Disco. In 1980 it became part of the Bear Lake Winter Festival, including a free fish fry breakfast at Cisco Beach.

So on Jan 22 I showed up at daybreak and found a fire blazing in a firepit, and hot oil starting to boil over propane cookstoves. Out in the water, up to their waists in hip waders, people were swinging their nets through the frigid water. No one was catching fish.

The Cisco were running late.

So we ate whitefish instead, and homemade scones with raspberry jam, and agreed the Cisco would probably show up the next week.

I borrowed some hip waders and boots from a friend. As I drove back to Bear Lake, I noticed the outside temp showing up on my dashboard said -6 degrees. I wondered if I was tough enough to fish for Cisco. But when I pulled up at Cisco Beach I was surprised to find that for the first time in six years, the water had frozen. People were hammering holes in the ice with shovels and pick axes.

The Cisco were already there. Soon the air rang with happy cries of “I got some!” Everyone was counting. When they got to 30, the Cisco limit, they gathered up their takings and left. Most were going home to put the fish in the freezer. Come warmer weather, they would use the Cisco as bait when fishing for the bigger fish in the lake, the Whitefish, the Cutthroat, the Lake Trout. After all, Cisco are the main diet of these larger fish, and a very tempting bait.

I thought I was done with winter fishing until I started to notice more and more pop up tents on Bear Lake and the local reservoirs.

“Ice fishing?” I asked friends.

“We love it!” they said. I asked if I could go along.

I had always thought ice fishing meant standing over a hole in the ice, shivering and hoping against hope a fish might come along. Boy, was I wrong.

The propane heater quickly made it cozy inside the pop up tent. The auger, powered by an electric motor, drilled down through 2 feet of ice in less than 2 minutes. Then the sonar fish finder took over.

“Fish at 12 feet,” my friend said. I let out some line.

Its so much easier to catch fish when you can drop of tasty bit of bait close to them. The 3 of us caught 38 fish in three hours.

And I got hooked on ice fishing.

This is Mary Heers and I am Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer
Audio: Shalayne Smith-Needham and technical engineers J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin
Text: Mary Heers

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Wild About Utah Postings

Bingham, Lyle with Ron Goede, Voice by Linda Kervin, Bonneville Cisco, Wild About Utah, February 11, 2009, https://wildaboututah.org/bonneville-cisco/

Fishes of Utah: A Natural History (Hardcover)
by William F. Sigler (Author), John W. Sigler (Author), Joseph R. Tomelleri (Illustrator),
http://www.amazon.ca/Fishes-Utah-William-F-Sigler/dp/0874804698, pp 23, 24, 194-196

Are Bear Lake’s Ciscos a Joy or Curse?, Angler Guide, http://www.anglerguide.com/articles/112.html

Winter Fishing Comes Naturally at Bear Lake, Utah Outdoors, http://www.utahoutdoors.com/pages/bear_lake_winter.htm

Bonneville Cisco (Prosopium gemmifer) [Version 2020-04-20], Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, https://wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/sensitive_species/fishes_bonneville_cisco_2020.pdf
Bonneville Cisco, USGS, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=922