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Photo Shoot Report: Siebenthaler Fen

September 4, 2011

© jmillerphoto - Ruby Meadowhawk dragonfly

Of the places I wanted to return to on my trip to Ohio, Siebenthaler Fen (or simply, the Fen) was nearly the top of the list.  I had lots of good luck out at the Fen last year, making some of my favorite dragonfly, damselfly, and butterfly images of the summer along the boardwalk.

Before I got there, I had some concerns about the place.  Last fall, Beavercreek Wetlands Association (BCWA) was in the process of trying to do some rehabilitation work within the Fen.  Full Disclosure:  I support BCWA monetarily.

A group of beavers had built a dam on the eastern boundary of the wetland, raising the water level significantly throughout the Fen.  So much so that portions of the boardwalk had to be raised in order to be passable and other portions had to have additional lumber placed onto the surface of the boardwalk to provide a somewhat dry and non-slippery surface for visitors to walk on.  In addition, rare plants native to the fen were getting drowned out due to the elevated water levels

The last action I had seen before hunkering down for the winter to complete my academic work was BCWA’s effort to lower the water level in the fen by putting a drain pipe into the beaver dam.  A possible negative consequence was it could put this year’s dragonfly population in the fen at risk.  Different types of dragonflies prefer different environments and a full-scale lowering of the water levels in the fen could either send that larvae downstream into less hospitable environs or keep them in the fen with higher water temps and changes to the pH.  As this work was being done in the fall and the larvae hitting the water in the fall would be the first emergents in the spring, I had some concerns.

© jmillerphoto.com - Eyed Brown butterfly

But multiple attempts were made to lower the levels and the beavers, as could be expected, did their best to continue to fight the attempts.  Posts on the BCWA Facebook page showed the struggle through the winter.  So I wasn’t sure what I was going to find when I got there.

I made three distinct trips to the Fen.  Once shortly after I arrived, once after a light thunderstorm, and once the day after a torrential storm.  And what I found was distinctly different conditions within the Fen after each trip.

Trip one was in the mid-afternoon.  This had never been a very productive time of day for me in the fen and this trip was no exception.  What I found were very dry conditions in the Fen.  Areas that had been very productive for frogs and dragonflies were now completely dry and the plethora of damselflies along the boardwalk were non-existent.  I struggled to find any dragonflies, with species such as the Common (Eastern) Pondhawk and Common Whitetail which were, remarkably enough, very common before were now very rare.  And Blue Dashers, which previously were very plentiful were also completely off the radar.  I did see a Ruby Meadowhawk, which previously was non-existent in the Fen.  In short, it looked like a species shift had occurred.  I was disappointed, but nature is what nature is.

© jmillerphoto.com - Viceroy butterfly

Trip two was mid-morning after an evening of thundershowers.  After trip 1 I wasn’t as enthused about returning and I figured that this might just be a short stop before heading off to one of the other places on my wish lists.  Instead it turned out to be a very productive morning.  Dragonfly numbers were not great, nor were they horrible.  Twelve-spotted Skimmers were present which is one of my favorite species in the Fen.  The Commons (Pondhawks and Whitetails) were much more common and Green Darners were present. Butterfly numbers were good and varied and I added two to my life list with Eyed Brown and American Copper butterflies photographed by me for the first time.  I also am likely adding a damselfly to my life list as soon as I can figure out what in the world it is.  It was a good 150 image walk through on the boardwalk.

Trip three was late afternoon after an evening of torrential rains.  And it was with this trip that I fully appreciated how much of a struggle BCWA is having with the property.  Areas of the boardwalk that were previously high and dry were instead flooded over.  Areas of the Fen which had been dry or drying were once again covered in reasonably deep water.  I made a few images, but I spent most of my time trying to maintain a upright and locked orientation while at the same time avoiding the water snakes that had found their way onto the boardwalk.  Even amongst the water, I may have also added one to the butterfly life list, and I will work to sort that one out soon, too.

Overall I can describe my visits as productive, eye-opening, and educational.  I did not make nearly as many images as I would have liked to, but the ones I made I am happy with and a number will end up in the portfolio, especially those that cover species I had not seen before.  I hope that BCWA is able to find a workable water equilibrium in the Fen along with the other outstanding projects that they are a party to–the Fen may be a full-time job all by itself.  I’m happy I made the trip into the Fen.

About the images:

Ruby Meadowhawk (Sympetrum rubicundulum) is a reasonably common dragonfly, though a bit of a stranger to the Fen based on my trips last year.  The extreme headshot is not one that I use often, but it seems to work with this one.

Eyed Brown (Satyrodes eurydice) is a somewhat drab butterfly, but against the green vegetation backdrop I think it works well.  I have another image or two with the wings closed which helped solidify the identification.

The Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) butterfly survives by acting and looking like a Monarch.  Beautiful butterfly in its own right and against the white marsh flowers it worked well.  Maybe a bit too much light to work with, but I was happy with it.  I have an HDR series that I need to work with this one as well.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2011 10:07 am

    Great photos, Jim. I especially like the Ruby Meadowhawk dragonfly image. 🙂

    • September 4, 2011 4:58 pm

      Thanks, Bob. If you like today’s Ruby Meadowhawk, you’ll really enjoy Tuesday’s 🙂

      Warm regards – jim

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