Saturday, July 1, 2017

Killbear Bioblitz

May ended up being a very intense month. I finished my thesis and defended (officially an M.Sc!), continued working full-time with the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. I know I've said this many times before, but hopefully blogs will be a bit more consistent now!

The last few weeks I've been helping to prepare a Bioblitz, part of Bioblitz Canada 150, at Killbear Provincial Park. 
Morning of the Bioblitz at Killbear
Now, what is a Bioblitz?  

A bioblitz is an event that brings together naturalists and taxonomic scientists to inventory as many species (mammals, plants, herpetofauna, fungi, insects, etc) that they can over a 24 hour period, within a set area.

The #Bioblitz150 event was created in partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Federation and these events are happening across Canada.  To learn more and to find other events visit:


So with this in mind we set out into Killbear Provincial Park and made this a community-wide event.  On June 10th, we hosted a variety of guided hikes that included plants, insects, birds, herpetofauna, fish, benthic invertebrates, and also led two night events that included owls and moths!  

My day started off at 6:30am where I woke up to start leading my first bird hike of the day (I did 4 in total).  Over the course of the day we ended up with 40 species, which is pretty good for this area!  These included American Redstarts (many!), Common Yellowthroat, Great Creasted Flycatchers, House Wrens, etc.  Many of the breeding birds that we had more or less expected to see.

Common Yellowthroat

Great Crested Flycatcher

Nesting Great Blue Herons

American Redstart
Our best find during our hikes was out in the old Maple Sugar Bush!  We were so excited to come across two Sandhill Cranes! We were also excited to have found (or at least heard) the Red-headed Woodpecker that has come into the campgrounds at Killbear the last few years.

Even thought the weather wasn't too "reptile friendly", groups on the reptile hike were able to see a small number of snakes including a Massasauga Rattlesnake that found its way onto Day Use Beach!  This snake was captured by park staff, processed (which includes pit tag reading, measuring weight and length) and then released!  You can see in the photo below that the rattle has multiple colours on it and each of these colours represent the different years that this particular snake has been seen and processed.  Research like this helps the park to understand population levels, snake home ranges, etc!

Park NHE Specialist, Kenton Otterbein, catching a Massasuaga Rattlesnake
Massasauga Rattlesnake
While I wasn't able to get out on a plant hike, lead by the amazing Dr. Gerard Courtin, I did get to spot some of my favourite plants throughout the habitats during bird hikes.  Some of these included: 

Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)

Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)
Squawroot (Conopholis americana)
Starflower (Trientalis borealis)

These were only some of the plants I had the chance to take a snap of on this busy day! We then took a pause for a few hours during our Bioblitz event to wait for the sun to set.  If you've ever been to Georgian Bay, you know that the sunsets here are worth not only waiting for but taking the time to sit back and relax.

Once the sky was dark, participants wandered over to the amphitheatre and we got ready for some owls and moths!   I started off our owl prowl by giving a quick introduction into the different types of owls in the area, the calls that they make, and what features make an owl such an amazing predator.  As we were calling them in for this educational experience, I also wanted to make sure I emphasized the use of calls and some proper etiquette when it comes to using them.  We started playing Barred Owl territory calls, to no avail. I then showed the crowed what a pair call sounds like, hoping that this might intrigue a pair to fly in....also to no avail!  After apologizing to the crowd we invited anyone to come up and try out their own owl call using their voice.  We had one person interested in trying his out, and what happens immediately after?  A pair of owls fly in and begin calling back! Both owls flew directly over the crows (where of course we witnessed their silent flight) and the gasps and "WOAHS" filled the air. It was SUCH a neat experience and I really hope that those attending talk about it for years to come.  

The owls kept calling as Mike Kent took the stage to do some mothing.  We set up a white sheet with some black lights and managed to attract a large number of moths to the area!  It was so much fun seeing the variety and trying to ID them.  I took a few photos but unfortunately haven't had a chance to identify them just yet (and of course I didn't write down what they were the day of!).  So hopefully as I go through my photos and ID some of the species, I'll be able to update the captions on them here!  As always, if you have an idea of what species they may be, please feel free to comment!