Monday, June 30, 2008

Bird count: 82 species, 1,713 individuals

Final tally just in: 1,713 birds comprising 82 species.

Notables included Wilson's phalarope, king rail, least bittern, bald eagle. Any others? Note in comments, please.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Follow-up Event September 13

The History and Ecological Significance of the Middlefork Savanna Preserve and An Account of Species Found During BioBlitz

Saturday, September 13
Elawa Farm, 1401 Middlefork Dr, Lake Forest
2 - 4 p.m.: Slide presentations and Q&A in the main barn
4 - 5 p.m.: Guided walks in the preserve

Stephen Christy, landscape architect and long-time landscape consultant for Lake Forest Open Lands, will tell the incredible history of how the Middlefork Savanna was saved as a nature preserve.

Ken Klick, restoration ecologist for the Lake County Forest Preserve District, will present the results of today's BioBlitz.

Presented by the Gardeners at Elawa Farm, The Wildlife Discovery Center, the Lake County Forest Preserve District and Lake Forest Open Lands Association.

Expecting to top 1000

The last count of the day leaves us at 957 species.

The breakdown at 3:30 was:
  • 457 invertebrates
  • 127 vertebrates
  • 57 non vascular plants
  • 208 vascular plants

Here comes the rain. We're packing it in. We are confident after all is said and done, field totals will top 1000 species.

Wilson's Phalarope

A lone female Wilson's phalarope (as in the reference photo above) was spotted this morning at Middlefork Savanna, perhaps only the second such sighting in 50 years.

Unlike most species of birds, it's the female phalaropes who get the fancy feathers, and the males who are responsible for raising the young.


Curent count: 815 species.
  • Invertebrates: 379
  • Vertebrates: 121
  • Non Vascular Plants: 57
  • Vascular Plants: 258

Milk Snake

A exciting find. Milk snakes are very shy animals, and difficult to find. DePaul University Bryan Suson, of the Wildlife Discovery Center, and Caleb Gordon, of Lake Forest College, uncovered this fellow at about 1:30 a.m.

Worms and hot mustard

Studying an animal that lives underground can pose some challenges, as one might imagine. The scientists at DePaul University have an interesting solution: hot mustard.

They pour a mix of hot mustard powder and water onto the ground, and the worms come crawling up and out.

Something else about worms: most of Illinois has no native species of earthworms. The worms in your garden are primarily of European origin, their ancestors having arrived perhaps in potted plants. Dumped bait worms and their offspring also add to the nonnative population.

And another suprise: they're not necessarily good for the environment. Nonnative earthworms are ravenous beasts and they devour the leaf litter on the forest floor, literally eating up habitat that is critical for native invertebrates.

Surprises logged overnight

9 a.m. We're just about to inch past the 500 mark on the species count, surpassing the previous inventory at this site of 466 species.

The first birding group back this morning reported an interesting find: a rare butterfly. The 2" Silvery Checkerspot will likely be "one of the better butterflies" reported today.

Actual birds of note: a juvenile sandhill crane (an endangered species in Illinois), king rail, and least bittern are happy finds. Two birding groups are just returning with data.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tiny Insects Rule the Night

11 p.m. The sound of a lone coyote howl breaks the stillness as I walk back to the tally tent for an update. Mental note to make sure Canis latrans is on the list.

The tally tent is mostly quiet, save for a million mosquitoes and, ironically, the insect station. The folks from the Illinois Natural History Survey are busy emptying the evening's take into petri dishes and prepping them for ID.

To tell certain kinds of leafhoppers apart, you need a peek at ... well ... their private parts. That's no simple task when the animal is only 2 mm long. The insect must be soaked overnight in a solution of potassium hydroxide, which turns its exoskeleton transparent. Tomorrow, it'll reveal the full monty under a microscope and be added to the database.

Current species count is 201: 20 invertebrates and one vertebrate added. Many teams have yet to report.


At 9 p.m., the species count is 173: 50 invertebrates, 44 vertebrates (including this guy), 22 vascular plants and 57 non-vascular plants. Most field teams were still collecting data, so the numbers should go up much further once they're in and entered in the database. Stay tuned.

Hungry Scientists

We must do a shout-out to Sunset Foods, who donated food for this hungry crew. Burgers, dogs, with all the fixin's, and delicious pie (cherry, apple or blueberry) for dessert. It was beautiful and delicious.
The weather has cleared (knock on wood) and folks are logging their finds to the ecological database and heading back out into the field. First tally should be in soon.

3... 2... 1... go! 1... 2... 3...

We're off and counting. We had some wireless access issues (broadband in the middle of a Forest Preserve has its challenges), but the rain has held off, and teams got out into the field without a hitch. We'll have a first tally when they head back at dinner.

Off to BioBlitz

Laptop, check.
Rain slicker, check.
DEET, check.
Off we go ... keep your fingers crossed that the weather blows over Middlefork Savanna.

BioBlitz Blog, Flickr, Facebook

Geeked about BioBlitz but can't make it to the event? Catch real-time news and count updates from the field on the Middlefork Savanna BioBlitz blog beginning at 4:30 pm today.

Participants and event attendees are are invited to contribute photos to a live slideshow on the blog page. Use flickr tag "bioblitz08" to add to the photo feed. (And if you'd like, send them to the LCFPD photo pool!)

Finally, Facebook users, show your support by adding BioBlitz to your "Pieces of Flair". Search for "BioBlitz" in the button catalog.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

BioBlitz: T Minus 24 Hours and Counting

The Middlefork Savanna BioBlitz kicks off in just about 24 hours. Right now, LCFPD staff are hauling supplies to the Elawa Farm complex that will serves as "home base" for the 100+ scientists and support staff who will spend Friday night and all day Saturday finding and recording as many different species of plants and animals as they can.

Some basics before we begin:

  • BioBlitz: a 24-hours inventory of all living organisms in a given area. In this case, 713 acres made up of Middlefork Savanna Forest Preserve, Lake Forest Parks & Rec's Wildlife Discovery Center, and Lake Forest Open Lands' Middlefork Farm Nature Preserve.
  • Each field survey team will count just "their stuff" - the bird team will ID bird species, the fish team will ID the fish, the bat team will survey the bats, and so on.
  • They're not counting individual plants or animals, they're counting how many different kinds of plants or animals. And making a list of them all.
More background information and details are available at the Middlefork Savanna BioBlitz Web site at Watch here for news, count updates and photos starting Friday night.

All are invited to come out on Saturday from 1 - 4 p.m. Or sign up to tag along with a field team for an hour for an up close look at real science in action.