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First Northumberland Bioblitz covered 200 acres

From left, Mark Stabb of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Bioblitz leader Chris Ketola and guided-walk leader Doug McCrae kick off the first walk of the Northumberland Bioblitz event, escorting a group that included Willow Beach Field Naturalist Club president Brian Maxwell (back row).
SUBMITTED PHOTO

From left, Mark Stabb of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Bioblitz leader Chris Ketola and guided-walk leader Doug McCrae kick off the first walk of the Northumberland Bioblitz event, escorting a group that included Willow Beach Field Naturalist Club president Brian Maxwell (back row). SUBMITTED PHOTO

The inaugural Northumberland Bioblitz was a resounding success, as more than 50 biologists, skilled naturalists, environmental students and avid nature lovers scoured more than 200 acres to determine what species they could identify.

And the results are impressive.

The bioblitz spanned three properties, all of which are managed by different organizations in Northumberland County. The most well-known property surveyed during the event was Peter’s Wood Provincial Nature Reserve. This stunning piece of old-growth forest is owned by the province, but relies on the Willow Beach Field Naturalist Club to maintain the trails and infrastructure at this beautiful parcel of land.

Two other properties were also surveyed — the Pelton property, managed by the Northumberland Land Trust, and the Schultz property, which is managed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Although the final numbers won’t be fully tallied for a few more weeks, more than 200 species have been positive identified so far.

Some of the highlights include the incredible diversity of bird species that call these properties home, with more than 70 species identified. To give some context to that number, the species count for the recent flagship bioblitz held in Rouge National Urban Park was 96 — and that count stretched from the shores of Lake Ontario all the way to Newmarket.

Some of the bird highlights for the Northumberland bioblitz include a large and vocal population of Indigo Buntings and the incredible diversity of birds of prey that was identified (eight species so far).

Another highlight of the event is the thriving population of Red-backed Salamanders found in Peter’s Woods (it was hard to keep track of how many individuals were counted).

Another group of organisms that are flourishing among these properties are fungi. So far more than 50 species have been identified, and more will be added as experts examine their sightings and determine the final species count.

In a bioblitz, there is no such thing as bad data, but there are always a few groups of animals that are not identified or show signs of having a low population. Two groups that stand out in this are reptiles and bats.

Although a handful of Garter Snakes were identified, no other reptiles were seen during the blitz. We were hoping to identify turtles in the wetlands to the north, or perhaps some Milk or Hognose Snakes in the drier regions, but had no luck.

Although at least four species of bats were identified, the population of Myotis Bats was very low. This is sadly not surprising, because all three species of bats from the genus Myotis are endangered in our province, due primarily to the effects of White-Nose Syndrome on their populations. These findings are somewhat disappointing, but do nevertheless provide valuable data on the local population trends of these animals.

Aside from all the amazing species identified, other aspects of this blitz stood out as highlights.

The Biobus made the long journey from Guelph and spent Saturday afternoon on-site, answering questions and helping to collect invertebrate samples.

The event was also a hit with local families, one of whom attended five guided blitz walks. All of these walks had enthusiastic attendees who raved about the experience afterwards.

The Northumberland Bioblitz was organized by the Willow Beach Field Naturalist Club in co-operation with the Northumberland Land Trust and Nature Conservancy of Canada. However, an event like this brings many organizations and individuals together. Lower Trent Conservation donated the use of their tents for this event. And experts from Rouge National Urban Park, Blazing Star Environmental, University of Guelph, Sir Sandford Fleming College, York University, Trent University and other groups assisted with surveys.

Although this was the first Northumberland Bioblitz, the hope is that it won’t be the last. Although planning and decisions still have to be made by all the groups involved, the goal is to move the event to different biodiversity hotspots across the region each year so that we can better understand and appreciate the incredible biodiversity of living things that we share this county with.

— Submitted by bioblitz leader Chris Ketola