Sunday, May 18, 2008

A chat with Julie Z.

I enter a swamp as a sacred place.

~Henry David Thoreau

It never ceases to amaze me--the diversity of natural areas around us.
And, that as often as we go out exploring, there continue to be places brand new.

Siebenthaler Fen is part of the Beaver Creek Wetland complex, several miles east of Dayton, and less than an hour's drive from our home. A protected peat-forming wetland, it's fed by groundwater and offers a mile-long stretch of board walk, observation areas and a tower platform, from which to view these rare communities of plants and animals--without getting your feet wet.
And, for the 20th anniversary of the organization that oversees this unique area, an early morning walk led by Julie Zickefoose.

Big Beaver Creek, rimmed by willows and shrubby cinquefoil, reflected a bright blue sky in its quiet surface. While in the wet woods, the shaded water beneath the cottonwoods hides frogs and turtles.
Even on this cool morning, emerging.
Green frogs in green duckweed.
And the tiniest painted turtle that slips beneath the surface before excited fingers find their focus.

From the treetops, Orioles and Indigo Buntings shone brightly in the sunshine. Orange and blue. Defending territories in persistent calls.
The low, dense shrubby areas covering the birds and their nests well-- their songs the only clue to their presence.

Julie's ear caught the song of a Yellow-breasted Chat, and we watched--as she called him into view, mimicking his whistle and chatter. Flitting from branch to branch, before finally resting at the top of a small tree to sing in the open--his throat full with sound and pouring forth joy. In the thick green tangles, the bold yellow spot with black gape--he held us there, watching.

In the sedge meadows, Skunk Cabbage and Great Angelica showed their large leaves from between the narrow sedges.
What looked like grass, was not that at all.
There is roughness here--spines and burs.

Even into the woods, rushes in dark, clear water.
Just tall enough to hide beneath--if you're young.
And don't mind muddy feet.

So much packed into this rich area.
And so much richer with a leader like Julie.

Boardwalk down from Tower

Skunk Cabbage Rolls

Julie & me, after walk

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Marvin said...

Sounds like you had a great field trip. Thanks for the recap and photos.

Tom said...

Nina- great post on fens, most people don't understand these systems at all, even though they are some of the most diverse wetalnds in Ohio. Ohio last lost so many of these great sysems. And great pic with Julie!


bobbie said...

Your walk sounds and looks wonderful and the pictures are great. I'm jealous. We have a bog. Is that similar to a fen? Perhaps minus the peat?

nina said...

I'll attempt an explanation, Bobbie, having just learned this yesterday, myself.
Fens have peat, too, and are actively forming it--this one, about 8 feet so far. As it grows thicker, the groundwater (which contains nutrients)that feeds a fen is cut-off, changing the make-up of the water source from groundwater + rainwater to rainwater alone.
This change causes a more acidic environment and the designation, "bog." (anyone else, please feel free to jump in!) (bogs are fun to jump in to, too!)

The Birdlady said...

Wonderful walk - lucky you!

Rurality said...

Conversing with Chats? Wow.

Lynne said...

Thanks for taking me along on the walk. I'd have loved it. Nice photo of the "Nature Sisters".

Cicero Sings said...

Lucky you, a walk with Julie Z (I like her blog!) ... soaking up knowledge and sights and sounds.

NCmountainwoman said...

Once again you have given us a science lesson and some wonderful pictures to accompany it. Thanks for taking us on the walk.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you had a nice trip. The weather certainly seems a lot nicer there. Back home, there is almost nothing but rain and cold winds.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a great time in a facinating place. It was made even more special with Julie leading the way no doubt.

pineyflatwoodsgirl said...

I enjoyed your walk, as well, Nina! Thanks...

Old Wom Tigley said...

I to felt like I was there tagging along and enjoyed each pictures and the commentary.

mon@rch said...

Nothing like birding with the both of you guys would be have to be fun! Did you say Chat?? Thats my dream bird right now!

Island Rambles Blog said...

I really like this post...I have a fascination with old peat bogs, now I find that a fen is slightly different from a bog, I like that link too...oh ...I alway like it soooo much here at this site...sounds like you had a fun time in nature Nina...cheers.

Sandpiper said...

What a wonderful walk. That's a great picture of you and Julie. Must have been great fun!

Susan Gets Native said...

The Divine Mrs. Z RAWKS.
I'm jealous that you got to go flippin' BIRDING with her.
(I did get to go up on their birding tower, but I won't rub it in.)
tee hee.

dguzman said...

Oh Nina, you're reminding me of the birding walk I took with Julie at a PA birding festival last year. Best. day. evah!

She's amazing, just plain amazing.

And nyah back at ya, Susan, you little poop!

RuthieJ said...

What a fun trip with JZ and it looks like there was no weather jinx on your morning with her.
I'll be on her Birds & Blossoms tour in North Dakota in a couple weeks--can't wait!

Julie Zickefoose said...

Nina, we should go everywhere together. I had my 300 mm. lens on, clicking away at the birds, so I have no landscape or people shots. Tunnel vision. What a delight to see the sky and vegetation and people!

I have a check ready for the yellow-breasted chat who obliged us with his beauty, but failed to get his address.

Such fun to see you and Anton. And thanks for these gorgeous shots of the whole scene. I'm trying to get to the Fen in my blog but I'm still stuck in Michigan, with a festival in WV after that. With these trips comes a feeling of obligation to highlight the events I've attended, but they stack up pretty high in the blog pantry when you have several hundred shots from each one.

KatDoc said...

Bogs and fens - I always get confused. After the OOS trip to Cedar Bog (which is misnamed; it's actually a fen) I knew the difference, but I have forgotten again.

More Blog-girls meet up - Sweet! Why can't we all get together at one time?


nina said...

I'm thrilled you get a chance to share as many of your trips (through photos) as you do! Even my staying relatively close to home and swimming in pictures to edit, catalogue, compose into posts...I can only imagine YOUR pantry!
For those of us who travel "with" you, unseen...many thanks!

(p.s.--ready to hit the road at a moments notice!)