Like many others, I’ve been kept off the trail for days by this extreme heat--a wave so wide-ranging and long-lasting that I’m hard-pressed to find a direction to explore, a place escaping the blanket of humidity that, each day by dinnertime, catapults the heat index well above 100 degrees. Waiting out its wrath from within my air-conditioned cocoon, the only exercise I’ve undertaken in these last days has been little more than wading through a backlog of images.
Though the comfort index was much greater weeks ago, lacking the humidity of late July, each retreat into the shaded woods from the blazing sun above the boardwalk was a welcome respite. Although the greatest attraction of this fen, for me, would be the sedge meadows, these wet woods hold their own allure in the shadow and light. Tall, straight stands of tulip poplar mingle with a dense growth of white cedar and black ash. Sprawling arms of poison sumac tempt the unknowing for a touch. And the faded forms of spring’s first green, skunk cabbage, now lie lazily on the dark, rich soil.
Bright light ahead indicates the first brief patch of sedge meadow. These open areas, bathed in just several inches of cool, crystalline water, are filled with a tangle of sedges, grasses and forbs and hide one of Cedar Bog’s most beloved summer citizens—the Elfin Skimmer dragonfly. Endangered in Ohio and known in only 3 sites statewide, this smallest of North American dragonflies at less than an inch in length is a tiny relative of the much larger and more common Common Whitetail, often seen cruising the edge of my pond in great numbers for months each summer.
Elfin Skimmers on the other hand, are found only in bogs and fens, and then, in only select isolated communities. Almost impossible to spot at rest, the yellow- and black-striped females are easily overlooked in flight as well, looking more like wasps than dragonflies.
Kneeling down on the heated boards and scanning the sedge mat, I am finally able to see several bluish elfin males barely clearing the tips of the stems as they flit from post to post, patrolling tiny, invisibly-marked territories one foot from the ground. From this angle, nose to the ground and leaning as far into the meadow as I dare, while still being firmly planted on the boardwalk, I notice that there’s even a pair in a mating wheel!
Most will never even see them.
A couple emerges from the shaded path in the woods and hurriedly walks past me, continuing their course along the trail. Perhaps they’ve seen this all before—
the rare, tiny dragonflies,
the clever orchids peeking from the grass.
But I would hazard a guess that they have not.
Not for lack of time, nor retreat from the heat, nor lack of knowledge that these things exist—for the bounty of rarities found in Cedar Bog is well-proclaimed.
But for the very reason that tiny dragonflies and clever flowers have in this day become a rarity—
to many, those things just don’t matter... enough.