It was a landmark year for the Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz! This year was the 10 consecutive bioblitz in this hugely biodiverse region. The event was held on Saturday, August 6, 2022 and was well attended considering the chance of rain! While some groups did get wet, and the wet weather certainly slowed down activity for some species (chiefly insects!), we ended the day with some sunshine and weather that was not too bad. All told, around 45 participants gathered to learn about and experience some of the biodiversity in the Sax-Zim Bog.
In the 10th year of this event, it becomes clearer and clearer that our field trip leaders are really the superstars of the day. Without their expertise and enthusiasm, this event certainly wouldn’t be as successful as it has become. Once again, we were able to offer 11 different field trips during the BioBlitz. This year saw the completion of a few different insect-based field trips, an early morning Bird Field Trip, and the return of a Fungi Field Trip. Each group had the goal to not just find species, but to educate about their species of expertise.
With this diverse slate of field trips, hopes were high that a few biodiversity milestones might be reached. One of those landmarks, high in the mind of Head Naturalist Clinton was the hope of reaching 3,000 species documented. Going in to the BioBlitz, we were just 60 species short of 3,000 on our Master Species List… Did we reach that mark???
Throughout the day, groups were able to document a total of 681 species! Of those species, 111 were new to the Master Species list!!! This means…. if you do the math…. that during the course of the day…. we surpassed 3,000 species documented!!!!!! A terrific milestone to reach during this event! We will have more on this milestone later, but for now, let’s recap how the field trips went:
Bird Field Trip
Early August can be a tough time for birds in the Sax-Zim Bog. Most species are quiet as nesting is over and they are busy raising chicks or getting ready to migrate. To make things even more difficult, the field trip only had 3 hours to document as many species as possible! In this mad dash, a couple of newly fledged Barred Owls were a highlight for the group as they tallied 34 species during the field trip. If you add together other birds seen or heard by other groups, a total of 66 species of bird were documented during the day. Many thanks to Development Director Sara’s husband Greg Cleary for leading this field trip!
Moths and Nighttime Creatures
Rain and wet weather did not only affect the dayflying insects, but it also played a role in keeping nighttime efforts lower than expected. Only 54 moth species, were documented during the Moths and Nighttime Creatures Field Trip led by Head Naturalist Clinton. The trip was also able to add 4 leafhopper species, 2 katydids, 5 beetle species, 1 bat, and 5 aquatic macroinvertebrates. But eventually, rain made its presence known and the field trip had to stop after only 2 hours of effort! With additions from other field trips during the BioBlitz a grand total of 65 moth species were documented.
Insect-based Field Trips
Excitingly, we were able to have a few different generalist insect-based field trips this year. Dr. Tim Craig was able to attend again, offering up his expertise in field collection to document a number of different families, but importantly, collect a number of specimens for ID with the use of microscopes and other resources. His group was able to not just sweep net insects, but also utilize pit traps to document insects passively during the night! This pit trap sampling was able to add a few more spiders to the species list for the day, but more on this later.
Bill Teft led a group on a generalist trip, which had the hopes to document insects, especially beetles in the sandier regions of the Sax-Zim Bog. Exciting for the group was one of two tiger species documented during the day: Big Sand Tiger Beetle!
Head Naturalist Clinton led the final generalist insect trip of the day, with a field trip focusing on Beetles and Grasshoppers. This field trip was very successful, even with the rain and was able to document 20 species of grasshoppers and relatives and 12 species of beetle. Other field trips added two more grasshopper species and another 12 species of beetle, bringing the final tally up to 22 species of orthoptera and 24 species of terrestrial beetle.
Butterflies and Ladybugs
While some trips had great successes, it was a very slow day for butterflies! In fact, nearly as many ladybugs were found as butterflies (5 butterflies vs 4 ladybugs). Rain, low numbers of blooming plants (normal for this time of year), and cold conditions make finding butterflies difficult to find and Jerry McCormick did his best to find species during the day and even spent time after the compilation to look for other species! When the sun came out towards the end of the day, butterflies made themselves known and an additional 6 species were documented, along with 4 additional ladybug species by other groups.
Dragonflies and Damselflies
If five species of butterflies during a butterfly field trip makes for a slow day, only four species of dragonfly and damselfly make for a really slow day! Here again, rain and cool conditions make it hard to find odonates and Jeff Fisher and his group were able to only find 4 species during the field trip. August is not a bad time to seek out interesting dragonfly species, but weather certainly makes things more difficult. Fortunately, at least for the end of the day’s tally, other groups found a few additional species to bring the total up to 12 species on the day.
If you have spent any time outdoors in the Northwoods during the months of August and September, you should have an appreciation for the diversity of fungi on the landscape. It had been a couple of years since we were able to offer a fungi field trip, so expectations were high (especially with some recent wet weather). The group, led by Gene Kramer, documented 39 species of fungi. Of these species, 22 were new for the Master Species List. Groups added almost 30 additional species, with 8 new species to the Master Species List! What a great day for fungi!
Galls, Burls, and Non-metazoan plant diseases
What is shaping up to be one of the favorite field trips offered a field trip focusing on Galls, Burls, and Non-metazoan plant diseases was once again offered and led by Sam Guida! An incredible 80 species were documented during the field trip. Of those species, 41(!) were new for the Master Species List. A little off of the 73 new species found last year, but we don’t mind! The world of galls is full of new and exciting discoveries. We are so excited to see what might be documented in the future!
Plants and Shrubs
We are lucky to have such knowledgeable plant ecologists and botanists in our region and our field trips are often led by those folks. Ethan Perry stepped in to lead a rather successful field trip documenting an impressive 170 species of plants, including ferns, mosses, trees and shrubs, and other vascular plants. He did such a good job, that only 26 additional species were found by other groups on the day!
Our final field trip officially offered on the day was an Aquatic Biodiversity field trip led by Murphy Stieninger. His crew were able to document 27 aquatic species, including a handful of fish species (1 new for the list), a number of aquatic macroinvertebrates, and even 2 new parasitic species (black spot and yellow grub, both fish-based parasites). The water levels this year were much higher than last year, which made accessing some locations difficult, but the group did very well through the day on a field trip that was perhaps most well adapted to being wet!
Other Species Groups of Note
This year was significant for the diversity found in non-field trip targeted species. What I mean here is that we found a great diversity of species not focused on by one field trip or another. For example, we documented 11 species of reptile and amphibian. This total is the best diversity documented on any BioBlitz we have offered! With the use of pit traps this year to help sample insects, we also were able to document some great ant diversity, with 7 species identified so far. And the pit traps came through in another big way!
Unfortunately, Chad Heins was unable to lead a Spider Field Trip this year, but he was able to ID a few spiders collected during the BioBlitz via the pit traps. This helped boost the spider total for the day to 17 species, including 3 new bog records (2 of which were also new county records!). Seven species of mammal during the day wasn’t a bad tally, either!
I hope you have enjoyed this tour through the BioBlitz species diversity! As always, if you want to read a recap of our past BioBlitzes, you can do so here.
Our great hope for this event is to inspire investigation of the places around you, whether that be the Sax-Zim Bog, your own yard, or some of the many wild spaces in the state of Minnesota and beyond. I think the field trips offered during our education season do a great job, but there is a nothing like a whole collection of “nature nerds” to really pass along excitement and awe of such a biodiverse place like the Sax-Zim Bog. Thank you to the many folks who have attended Bioblitzes from year to year and that continue to support and inspire our goals in the area.
What will Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz 11 bring?? We will just have to patiently wait until next year, but you can be assured, we will once again be showing off and teaching about the amazing biodiversity in the Sax-Zim Bog!
—Head Naturalist Clinton