The Great Canadian BioBlitz of 2015
Naturalists count plants and animals at annual BioBlitz
The Kingston Field Naturalists recently held their 17th annual BioBlitz at Wintergreen Studios on Canoe Lake Road. This 204 acre property, located on the Canadian Shield north of Sydenham, has a variety of habitats, providing living space for a diversity of plants, animals and other species. We are most grateful to the owner for allowing us onto this beautiful property. Habitats include wetlands (including bog, pond, lake and streams), woodlands (including shrubby swamp and mixed deciduous woodland) and open areas (including rocky outcrops and grassland).
The purpose of a BioBlitz is to list as many different species as possible in a 24 hour period, thus giving a snapshot of the biodiversity of the site. This one-day inventory of the living things in an area provides a baseline for observing future changes that could occur due to natural succession or invasive species as well as global warming. Both amateur and professional naturalists join forces to spot and identify species and to educate each other and the public about the diversity of the location.
Sixty six field observers spread over the property from 3:00pm on Friday June 12 to 3:00pm Saturday June 13 collecting information on everything from night time moths to early morning birds and from beautiful dragonflies to forest ferns. Participants included Kingston Field Naturalists, fellow naturalists from further afield, professionals, neighbours and youth. The public was invited. The weather on Friday was rainy with temperatures around 13C, not conducive to the activity, and just three people camped overnight. But we persisted and set our minnow traps and pitfall traps for invertebrates. By 9:00pm the rain had stopped and we spent 3 hours with moth lights identifying many beautiful species of this group of insects. Saturday, with temperatures in the mid- twenties and sun, was perfect. A delicious BBQ was held at noon on Saturday with quiz questions to identify natural objects for which prizes were awarded.
Guided walks were held throughout the event on a variety of natural history topics for those wishing to participate and learn about the ecology of the area. Topics included bird watching, and pond dipping as well as moth identification and dragonfly and butterfly listing and a plant identification walk. A couple of canoes were available to explore some wetland habitats. Other participants waded up to their waists to access the bog mat for different species. This year our non-species-listing activity was a sketching nature workshop held on the porch of the house (out of the rain).
All observed species were noted - from those that are very common to those on the endangered end of the scale. Plants varying in size from plankton in the pond to ferns, grasses and all herbaceous and woody plants were added to the tally. Spore-bearing species including fungi were included. All identified invertebrates including insects (butterflies, damsel and dragonflies, moths, flies, beetles, bees) and non-insect species (including spiders, ticks, centipedes, millipedes, slugs and snails), that were observed were also added to the tally. All vertebrate species (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) were noted.
The minnow traps left in the water overnight with bait and light sticks to attract species were well filled by morning. Observations enjoyed by participants included several Grey Ratsnakes, Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies pollinating Wood Lilies, an Arrow Spiketail (a lifer dragonfly for a professional naturalist), Luna Moth, Giant Leopard Moth and a Clearwing Moth. The Daisyleaf Moonwort and Rattlesnake Fern were new species for many. Three species of hawk were seen soaring about the same time. They were Red-shouldered, Broad-winged and Sharp-shinned Hawks. Active nests of Red-eyed Vireo and Rose-breasted Grosbeak were noted. Several special sightings of unusual or species-at-risk or of particular interest were added to the tally. A patch of 50 Showy Orchis was found, just past flowering. Several endangered Butternut trees were seen. A Fisher, a mid-sized mammal, was observed in the late evening. A Five-lined Skink (our only lizard) was an exciting find: a species of special concern. One Whip-poor-will, a threatened species, was heard calling.
Anne Robertson, coordinator of the event said, “Despite the wet weather on Friday the overall annual BioBlitz event was very successful and enjoyed by the participants, with plenty of ‘special’ species over a variety of different wildlife groups.”
How many species were found? The final tally is not in but we are hoping for about 600. We do know so far we have 7 mammal species, 58 birds, 3 reptiles and 4 amphibians. Within the invertebrates 22 dragon and damsel flies, 16 butterflies and roughly 50 species of moth were recorded. The final tally of plants including seed and spore bearers is well over 200 including 11 species of fern and 24 sedge species.
The Kingston Field Naturalists hope that future generations will also have the thrill of finding as much variety of life in this area in one day and would like to thank all those who joined us at this annual party held in a different location each year.
L to R
Damon Gee, Shirley French, Diane Lawrence, Janet Elliott and Erica Barkley
Photo: John Critchley