514 Species Documented in the Beaver Brook BioBlitz

Readers of our 2017 Spring Conservation News newsletter learned that a BioBlitz is an inventory of species living in a given area at a given time: a snapshot of life on a particular day. It usually includes multiple taxa, or groups of species, such as plants, birds, mammals, insects and “herps” (amphibians and reptiles). It may take place on a single property or cover natural areas throughout a region. It might span half a day or a 48-hour period.

The Land Alliance, working with a stalwart crew of 35 volunteers, hosted its first such event, a Beaver Brook BioBlitz, on Saturday, June 3, 2017. The morning started off gray (not the best weather for surveying insects!) but before long the sun emerged. Surveys took place from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Upper Brookville and Mill Neck properties throughout the Beaver Brook watershed: Hope Goddard Iselin Preserve, Planting Fields Arboretum, Upper Francis Pond, the Humes Estate and Shu Swamp. Expert naturalists led the investigations and were assisted by citizen scientists recording data. It was a great opportunity for dedicated individuals to learn to identify a diversity of species, try their hands (i.e. struggle!) with iNaturalist, a data collection app, and explore the beauty of the Beaver Brook watershed’s undeveloped lands and waters that make this corridor highly significant for wildlife.

Experts, who also volunteered their time, included staff and members of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Hofstra University, the Long Island Botanical Society, New York Botanical Garden, SUNY Farmingdale and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Among the 514-species documented that day were six mammals, seven fish, 54 birds, 337 plants and 103 arthropods. (These animals, including insects and spiders and crustaceans, have an exoskeleton, a segmented body and paired jointed appendages.)

While none of the species observed is threatened or endangered, several observations were noteworthy. One-flowered cancer-root (Orobanche uniflora), for example, observed at Planting Fields, is unusual, according to naturalist Rich Kelly, who was instrumental in organizing the BioBlitz. Black ash (Fraxinus nigra), we were told by the New York Botanical Garden’s Daniel Atha, “is a boreal, swamp species that survive in isolated pockets south of the glacial boundary. Like all American ash species, it is threatened by the Emerald Ash Borer.” Also, significant, commented NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Aquatic Biologist Heidi O’Riordan, was “finding several age classes of healthy brook trout. They are our state fish and require nearly pristine waters for survival. There are widespread efforts up and down the coast to protect the existing populations and restore populations where they were historical. The population there has been supplemented by stockings from Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery and Aquarium, but they are surviving and reproducing on their own” in Beaver Brook. In addition, while leading an exploration of Hope Goddard Iselin Preserve botanist Andy Greller, also a BioBlitz planner, found a large patch of pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) called it a “shocker”, saying he’d “never seen more anywhere.”

At midday, we gathered at the Hay Barn at Planting Fields, where park visitors visiting our information table learned about the vital Beaver Brook corridor and the diverse wildlife and plant communities it supports and from where Rich Kelly launched a walk in the Arboretum’s Synoptic Garden.

The BioBlitz substantiated what many of its participants already knew: the Beaver Brook watershed contains hundreds of acres of protected woodlands, wetlands, ponds and meadows that provide invaluable habitat for wildlife. Their connectivity and their value to preserving our underground water supply are additional reasons why the North Shore Land Alliance and its partners are so actively protecting land there.