Fireflies, fireworks and 'eating dirt'

July 05. 2014 7:54PM

MY MORNING of July 4 began with a report on peregrine falcons on New Hampshire Public Radio. Actually, it began much earlier, at 5:30 or so, with my last visit to the outdoor wood furnace to heave in the last big pieces of wood that signal the last fire until the beginning of the next heating season sometime in late September.

And so, Independence Day means more than parades and flags for me. It prompts the thought - for many people a real bummer - "Seven months of winter, seven weeks of summer."

On the eve of the Fourth, I went out onto the porch to watch the fireworks (summer lightning), listen to the thunder and the rain, and watch fireflies flitting around the front lawn.

How do they escape being bashed by raindrops? I think that the drops, as they fall, create a puff of air that pushes the insects away, back and forth like ping-pong balls, enabling them to fly (albeit erratically), but I've long awaited an expert explanation (where are you, University of New Hampshire entomologist Al Eaton?).

"Something Wild" is a great show to catch on NHPR on Fridays, and this one featured longtime birder and N.H. Audubon expert Chris Martin banding a peregrine falcon chick on the 13th floor of the Brady Sullivan Tower in downtown Manchester.

What a long way we've come. I remember helping White Mountain National Forest wildlife biologist John Lanier push bits of raw chicken down plastic tubes to hatching sites along cliffs in the western regions of the Whites. That was in the mid-1970s, during a frantic and widely coordinated effort to get these magnificent birds, the fastest creature on the continent, back from the brink of extinction.

Today, the falcons are back to healthy numbers and can be seen all over the state, another success story in this generation's attempts to right many old wrongs.

If you ingest your pound of dirt early in life, say by your first birthday, you establish a hardy gizzard and immune system and have a much better chance of escaping asthma and various allergies, according to a report in The New York Times.

Citing a study of children at high risk of asthma, the article reported that only 17 percent of children exposed to various allergy-causing factors during their first year developed problems later in life, compared to 51 percent of children who were not.

On our way down to Tanglewood, in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, to be part of the crowd at "A Prairie Home Companion," we were greeted by huge, blinking mid-interstate signs warning about the danger of fireworks and the strict application of laws.

Well, yes, fireworks in the hands of the careless can maim and occasionally kill, but so does just about every other form of recreation, tradition, pastime, habit or endeavor you can name.

I liked what Joe McQuaid wrote in his column several days before the Independence Day weekend, citing Founding Father John Adams:

"I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival . solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one end of this Continent to the other, from this Time forward, forever more."

Thus have bonfires and fireworks illuminated every night during this long Fourth of July weekend, our national birthday bash, from hilltop house and village and city square and waterfront to remote ridgetop camp.

John Harrigan's address is Box 39, Colebrook 03576. Email him at

New HampshireOutdoorsJohn Harrigan

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