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RTPI/SUNY College Lodge BioBlitz completed

Posted on Jul 25, 2014

One week ago today we were readying ourselves for the 3:00PM kickoff of the RTPI/SUNY College Lodge BioBlitz. It took place at the SUNY College Lodge Nature Preserve in Brocton on about 200 acres of beautiful habitat on the escarpment near Lake Erie. A BioBlitz is a 24-hour race to identify as many species of plants and animals of all kinds on a given site – this can be anything from an entire town, a river or lake, or a bounded property.

We had a few dozen experts join us over the Friday and Saturday time period with specialties ranging from ants, spiders and other small insects, reptiles and amphibians, moths and butterflies, mushrooms, birds, dragonflies and damselflies, fish and aquatic creatures, to a team of plant experts who could identify anything!

Our RTPI crew alone surveyed for nearly every single form of life we could find. The one immediate problem that came to my mind was that we could have a weather issue on Saturday for some of our species with clouds and showers moving in for most of the day. We decided to start on the insects and warm-weather creatures – you can see Twan and Sean in the below photo working on dragonflies.

BioBlitz Twan Sean

BioBlitz marsh

While we hit those odonates we recorded amphibians and reptiles as well as birds. After we’d sufficiently recorded a decent number of dragonflies and damselflies – they were in relatively low abundance and a lesser diversity than I’d hoped – I started to worry about the lack of butterflies we were finding. One issue at the College Lodge that needs to be addressed is how much lawn is cut in some of the few forest openings like this one.

BioBlitz gas cut

This provides very little habitat for pollinators and going forward I would love to see this changed. We divided to conquer more of the landscape before the afternoon sun left us and I went off to find very few butterflies as we only ended up six species for the 24 hours – ugh! As the afternoon wore on into the evening I shifted my tactics to try to pick up more birds as I increasingly suspected they would be tough to find on Saturday with even worse weather than initially hoped. I did a bit of “hawk watching” with my scope overlooking Lake Erie to see what I could snag.

BioBlitz scoping

BioBlitz Lake Erie

Yep, that is Canada across that water and it could be seen exceptionally clearly through my scope with details plainly visible. Randomly added species like the Common Green Darner dragonfly helped this period add a few basics to the list. Thankfully the evening also made a few more birds call out or fly by with food during this otherwise quiet avian period of the year as many are occupied with young and not wanting to advertise their location.

The afternoon also featured the first of several walks taking place during the BioBlitz in order to educate the public on selected groups of species. We kicked it off with wildflowers by Dr. Jonathan Titus from SUNY Fredonia, an expert on the College Lodge property who has lead the effort to protect it for many years and was vital in assisting us organize this BioBlitz.

BioBlitz plant walk

As night fell we switched tactics and targets with our team putting out turtle, fish and mammal traps to (safely and humanely for subsequent release) capture the tough to find creatures. We also got ready to do some moth work with sheets and ultraviolet lights to attract as many nocturnal insects as possible. I led a bat and owl walk with the bat aid coming from Taylor Stearns, a graduate student and TA from SUNY Fredonia, and we were thankfully able to find a few bats and a few Barred Owls for a group of at least 30 people.

The next day brought more rain than anticipated as steady showers overtook the region with a slow moving shortwave passing through and persisted throughout the day with only short breaks of drizzle serving as respite. Many insects were basically eliminated from our count, as were a lot of the birds. Thankfully we still were able to hold walks for visitors for more plants and wildflowers as well as mushrooms and amphibians.


We also let the people see what was in our mammal traps – a House Mouse, Deer Mouse and White-footed Mouse plus an Eastern Chipmunk.


Our researchers grabbed what they could outside and did a lot of identification work and analysis inside the College Lodge. Various microscopes were set up with reference and outreach materials available for scientists and the public as well as plenty of food for our team!

BioBlitz College Lodge
BioBlitz research

These mushrooms did not count as part of that food though some of them are definitely edible. We will leave that to the team to figure out and not try to find out on our own…

BioBlitz fungi

At the end of the 24 hours we had at least 540 species of life! That is a remarkable sum for such a small site and it depicts the importance and significance of the property to conservation and natural history. I believe we may be able to approach 600 when all is said and done. It will take months for some of our experts to be back in their labs and able to pin down some difficult identifications and thus the grand total will not be known for some time. However, I will update everyone with the current count soon and post a complete list of all the life forms we discovered. Our thanks to all of the scientists who helped us find everything we could in the field, some traveling hours to volunteer their time, and to the folks who joined us for walks and talks during our adventure. We are already planning another BioBlitz for 2015 at a different but familiar location in Chautauqua County with even more experts and students involved.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator