June 27 - 28, 2009. Crownsville, Maryland. While traffic sped along Interstate 97, over 50 scientists and volunteers gathered within the 547-acres of unbroken forest at the Crownsville Hospital Center moving at a slower pace, however … the tempo was about to quicken.
The activity was a "BioBlitz" where scientists and volunteers are given a 24-hour period to spot, trap, net or identify by sound as many species of flora and fauna as possible within a given area.
Participants from the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation & Parks, Scenic Rivers Land Trust, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South River Federation, Smithsonian Institution, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, National Audubon Society, Maryland Native Plant Society and area universities accepted the challenge.
Activity began as the tranquil site transformed into an outdoor laboratory - tables strewn with papers, magnifying lenses and field guides, insect specimens pinned into display cases, large tents erected for shelter and a base camp set up.
The BioBlitz began at noon on Saturday as experts led teams of volunteers into the forest and through streams to identify dragonflies, butterflies, fish, plants, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Four hours later, a bit bedraggled and muddy but still inspired, the tally of findings began. “The information collected during the BioBlitz establishes the basis for a stewardship plan for this site,” said Karyn Molines, Supervisor of Cultural Resources, “and experts will aid in identifying rare species that require special protection.”
On Sunday, shortly after dawn, the birders headed out with binoculars in hand and honed listening skills. Skills, combined with luck, helped identify 54 species, including worm-eating warblers, summer tanagers, and orchard orioles. The large unbroken acreage of this interior forest harbors a special group of birds: Forest Interior Dwelling Species. These birds arrive in the spring from Central and South America to breed during the summer.
Participants also logged 10 different fish, 6 kinds of reptiles, and 7 amphibians. Half a dozen mammals from beavers to white-tailed deer were recorded. Insects were the most abundant group, including 18 species of butterflies and 22 dragonflies. Gary Hevel, an entomologist from the Smithsonian Institution, estimated at least 300 additional species of beetles, flies, bees, moths were captured. He will identify these in his lab.
“This endeavor affirms my commitment to land preservation and protection of the South River watershed,” commented County Executive John R. Leopold. “This incredible diversity of plants and animals demonstrates the importance of protecting extensive forests like those contained in the South River Greenway.”
The plant seekers discovered over 100 species, noting an impressive diversity growing within a short walk from the interstate.
While this particular 24-hour BioBlitz challenge may have ended, the overall count on this land is an ongoing process. Additional work to identify less common species lay ahead.
"What an undertaking!" said Frank Marzucco, Director of Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation & Parks. "This brings back childhood memories of exploring in the woods. When is the next one?"
Alyssa Domzal, Scenic Rivers Land Trust
Karyn Molines, Anne Arundel County
Cindy Wallace, South River Federation
Rebecca Bourquin, Fish
David Curson, Birds
Rosemary Frezza, Reptiles & Amphibians
Robert Frezza, Reptiles & Amphibians
Gary Hevel, insects
Dwight Johnson, Plants
Rich Mason, Birds
Joe Metzger, Plants
Sue Muller, Butterflies
Richard Orr, Dragonflies & Damselflies
Mike Quinlan, Reptiles & Amphibians
Sue Ann Ricciardi, Butterflies
Sheen Roos, Plants
Adam Smith, Birds, Butterflies
Linda Weir, Ferns