Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve BioBlitz #2

Lake Superior Vista from Yellow Trail Overlook (Photo by Clinton Nienhaus)

It was mentioned last year and I will say it this year: A BioBlitz is an incredible thing! Even the most familiar places can hold new secrets. For me, the trails at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, are, in part, familiar territory. A trail, however, is an ever changing landscape. Last year, almost to the day, a massive wind storm toppled many large, mature trees in the Duluth area and Hawk Ridge was no exception to losses. Many of these trees were great trail markers and "old friends" to observe as you made your way to Summit Ledges or toward Amity Creek. Since the wind storm, much of the forest has been impacted. How will this influence the plant and animal communities within Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve? Perhaps, a BioBlitz may be the best way to investigate this question!

Education Director Clinton preparing the group for the day
(Photo by Sparky Stensaas)
Sunday July 23, saw the second a BioBlitz that has run at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve in conjunction with the Bog to Ridge BioBlitz supported by Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory and the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog. For those unfamiliar with a bioblitz, the even takes place at one location during a general time frame to find as many species as possible! Now, this may be limited by the expertise of the trip leaders or the participants, but it is a great way to catalog species that can be found in an area. The Hawk Ridge Master Species List (soon to be available online!) is still growing and changing. Lots of information has been gained on birds that migrate through and breed at the Nature Reserve, however, there is very little information on moths, beetles, fungi, bumble bees, spiders, and insects in general. Last year, the BioBlitz added 75 new species including new information on 26 species of lichen! Lichens had not been surveyed from this location, so even the most common species were new to the list. In total, 11 total participants were able to find 159 different species including Ragged-fringed Orchid, Black Bear, and Diamond Spider!

The group looking at the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve trail map (Photo by Sparky Stensaas)
This year, we were able to find 156 different species, including 49 new species for the species list, with 12 total participants: Nearly a mirror image of last year! Just like last year, cloudy and inconsistent weather tried to slow down participation. However, those who did participate were able to add a huge number of species to the master list. Nearly 1/3 of the species observed on Sunday were new to the Master Species List! Big surprises include adding 27(!) new species of plant and 20(!) new species of invertebrate! Exciting invertebrates include Giant Cranefly (Tipula abdominalis), a beautiful species of Orbweaver (Enoplangtha ovata), and a species of bumble bee mimicing Robber Fly (Laphyria sp.)! Another fun surprise for the day included a few neat bird observations like an early flyover by Evening Grosbeaks, Red Crossbills, and tons of Cedar Waxwings! Also noted by the bird group were many of the breeding warbler species at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve including American Redstart, Ovenbird, Black-throated Green, Mourning, Chestnut-sided, and Nashville Warblers.

A beautiful and tiny Orbweaver (Enoplognatha ovata)
found near the Pine Plantation (Photo by Sparky Stensaas)

Though you can't tell from the photo, the Giant Cranefly (Tipula abdominalis) has a leg span of nearly 4 inches! (Photo by Sparky Stensaas)

You might need to look twice at this bug to see that it is not a bee!
This is one of the bee mimicing Robber Flies (Laphyria sp.)
(Photo by Sparky Stensaas)
A BioBlitz is great event to show folks the diversity of even the most familiar landscapes. Each year, interest in finding and documenting species grows within the general public. Citizen science is as popular as ever and is easier than ever for those interested in reporting sightings. This year, Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve has added a new way for visitors to record the diversity they encounter: iNaturalist!

iNaturalist is a site for the citizen scientist with interest in every piece of the natural world! On iNaturalist, you can document species found in an area with a quick photo and submit these observations to the website for confirmation of ID and is a great way to record any species. Within iNaturalist, you can submit observations on your own, or to projects. Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve BioDiversity is the project where you all can submit your observations of species on your adventures through Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve! This project is looking to record documentations and add to the knowledge of the species diversity at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. All you have to do to submit data is make an account on iNaturalist and snap a few photos! You can then upload those photos to the project and share in the understanding of the biodiversity of Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve!
Participants at species compilation, looking over some final species IDs
 (Photo by Janelle Long)
All in all, when we see and observe and document the biodiversity around us, we getting a better understanding of the places and species around us. Hopefully, the interest in the diversity at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve will extend to your yard and beyond!

-- Clinton Nienhaus, Education Director