Have you ever walked through a store as they are trying to do an inventory, counting everything on the shelves? Now imagine the stock in the store are living creatures in a forest, hiding, very small, difficult to identify, or moving around. That is the task the Indiana Academy of Science took on earlier this month.
A large group of dedicated scientists, naturalists, and volunteers from across Indiana gathered recently at two local nature preserves. They took a rapid inventory of all the living creatures over a 24 hour period at Red-tail Land Conservancy’s White River Woods and McVey Memorial Forest. This snapshot in time survey of the abundance and variety of living organisms is known as a bioblitz.
Teams of scientists representing 16 different areas of research took to the field using their unique survey techniques. They counted bats, birds, butterflies, mammals, moths, mushrooms, as well as many other types of organisms. There were even archeologists present studying cultures that previously lived in the preserved area.
While there are limits to what can be found by only counting during a certain time of the year, the information gained is very valuable. Loss of habitat, pesticide use, growth of invasive species and the degradation of our rivers is causing a rapid decline in the diversity of our local wildlife.
While it will take a few months to finish identifying and tallying all the species that were observed at the bioblitz, there are some exciting preliminary results. Dr. Tim Carter found a pregnant Indiana bat, which is a federally endangered species.
Dr. Kamal Islam’s group reported 71 species of birds including a cerulean warbler and an osprey. Both of these are state endangered birds. In addition, a bald eagle, bobolink, and dickcissel were recorded along with several other species of long distance migratory songbirds.
The presence of these birds in June is very exciting because it is a sign that they are breeding here in the area. Dr. Islam stated, “Areas such as these two RLC properties provide important breeding habitats for these long-distance migratory birds and every effort should be made to protect areas such as these in East Central Indiana and elsewhere the state.”
There were some other surprising findings among butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects. Several species were seen which had not been reported in Delaware or Randolph counties. But there were fewer numbers of smaller insects like field crickets and damselflies than expected.
We look forward to sharing more about the biological inventory as the final results are completed. One thing is certain, preserving and protecting high quality natural areas in east central Indiana is having an impact.
McVey Memorial Forest is a 249-acre forest located in Randolph County along the Mississinewa River. Adjacent to the property is hundreds of acres of DNR-protected land making this area one of the largest wildlife corridors in East Central Indiana. White River Woods is a 117-acre preserved area along the White River in Delaware County. Both properties have trails and are open to the public. Please visit www.fortheland.org to learn more.
Join Red-tail and WIBP for a photo nature walk at McVey Memorial Forest 4-6 p.m. this Saturday, June 25. We will walk the trails and enjoy the abundance of living creatures at this preserve. Visitors should wear long pants and closed shoes. Please bring insect repellent and water.
Julie Borgmann is the education and development director for Red-tail Land Conservancy. Her passion is connecting people to nature for conservation and well being.