I participated in the first annual blogger bioblitz that took place from 21-29 April. I had high hopes of surveying several different locations on different days, but it ended up being a week very full of other things, so my participation was limited to last Saturday and Sunday. On both days, plant (vascular and non-vascular), lichen, and fungus (among other things) enthusiast Kitty LaBounty helped me out.

For practical purposes, I found it necessary to modify some of the stated goals a little bit. It just isn’t very feasible to count the number of plants for many species, especially bryophytes and vascular plants that tend to grow in (clonal) thickets. Weather conditions were such that it was also difficult to keep consistently accurate notes, so I also didn’t get good counts for birds. As a result, the species lists (when we finally get it fully compiled) will mostly be presence/absence data for plants, lichens, and birds, with a few other things thrown in. I had also planned to take photos of many of the things found, but inclement weather and signficant time limitations prevented me from being able to take any pictures on these days.

I had fun doing this, and would like to try again in the future. Next year, or perhaps sooner, when I might have a little less going on this summer. I would like to work on being able to include more invertebrates, insects in particular.

Saturday Bioblitz:
Saturday’s Bioblitz took place on a trip to Kruzof. Originally we were planning to boat to Mud Bay, then bike over to Shelikof to go birding with a visiting speaker (who has an interest in birds). This trip was planned long before I knew about the bioblitz, and since I had not managed to find time earlier in the week, I figured I should take advantage of the time outside to do a little bioblitzing, lest week run out with no bioblitzing done.

The forecast was not promising, but in Southeast Alaska, you don’t wait around for calm, sunny, and warm weather. It was a little bumpy on the way over, temperatures were probably in the middle 40s and there were rain squalls moving through (mixed with snow/sleet, even). We saw several species of birds and a couple of marine mammals on the way out. When we arrived at Mud Bay, someone who had spent the night in the cabin came out to let us know that the road still had quite a bit of snow on it. As it turned out, conditions prevented us from getting all the way to Shelikof. I had been keeping loose track of the birds we observed until the time we turned around, but we didn’t really start looking at the plants, lichens, and fungi until we started back.

With snow on the ground, it may come as no surprise that many of the vascular plants had still not come up yet. Still, in addition to the woody and/or winter/ever-green vascular plants, there were many bryophytes and lichens, plus a few fungi that we were able to find. We collected samples of several of the organisms whose identification not immediately clear, but with the end of the semester approaching, it may be a little while before Kitty has time to get them all identified.

Despite the very chilly and wet conditions it was fun to get out and see what there was to see.

Sunday Bioblitz:
Between other commitments, we only had a couple of hours on Sunday to squeeze in a quick bioblitz. The weather was similar to that which we experienced Saturday, but the time out in it was much shorter. For this bioblitz, I decided we should take a look along the Cancer Survivors Trail near Lower Moller field. It had been quite active bird-wise earlier in the week and it was a relatively small area with easy access, so it seemed like a good place to check out.

We basically walked around the little loop, with a short venture off the trail to check out plants and birds at the edge of Swan Lake. Despite the cool rain shower that was going on for much of the time we were there, the birds were quite active. Once again we collected a few bryophytes and lichens that Kitty wasn’t able to immediately identify, and it will be a little while before she has time to get them identified so I can finalize the species list.

I’ll probably add another post or two with more details (including species lists) when we’ve got the species better compiled, but one observation from the Sunday bioblitz that was especially fun was seeing Townsend’s Warblers hawking insects. I’ve seen them feeding in the branches of trees and shrubs before, but I had never seen them fly out to catch insects in the air. It was pretty amazing to see them fly out and maneuver around with their tail feathers splayed out. It was the first time I had seen that they have the white outer tail feathers.

4 thoughts on “BioBlitz”

  1. It sounds like you had rather unfavourable weather conditions! However, it’s neat that you got to see the Townsend’s Warblers hawking insects. That’s one of the nice things about spending some time outdoors doing field work — you often get to see something unexpected.

  2. Both trips were actually pretty fun, despite the conditions. I think living here, one just gets used to being out in the weather, or one doesn’t get out very much. One day earlier this year I saw someone working outside on a carpentry project (building a porch/deck). It was in the low-30s and blowing snow/sleet. When asked about the weather and work conditions, he said “The worst day spent working outside is better than the best day inside.” I guess that’s a sentiment that applies to me when it comes to getting out to explore.

  3. Carolyn, I’m working with the spreadsheets now. I’ve got some ideas for how to make the data entry a little less cumbersome (for example, not requiring a full classification, just the most specific ID possible). I know that looking everything up was a pain.

    Matt, I’m working with your data now — changing all your species names to be lower case 🙂

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