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Education Innovation and Master Species List Milestone!

June 5, 2020 Category:
Skunk cabbage among the lush mosses deep off of Admiral Road.

After a winter of great field trips, learning, and exploration the summer season has been quite different. Certainly, a global pandemic could not have been predicted, so we have been trying out new ways to interact with folks through Sparky’s Virtual Birding Tours and the Clinton’s Bog-Venture series. While these are not a replacement for in person field trips or learning experiences we hope you have enjoyed the content! If you have not had the chance to check these videos out, here is a link to all of them! There will be more videos coming, so do stay tuned.

Even with our changes, the seasons still move along! Birds have arrived and are on territory; American Kestrel eggs are hatching; Canada Jays fledged a week ago or more and are mobile in family groups; Dragonflies and damselflies have started to emerge; Monarchs are back and looking for milkweed; bees are busy pollinating; folks are still visiting the Sax-Zim Bog; and we have reached a milestone for the Sax-Zim Bog Master Species List!!!

A curious and sooty-gray young Canada Jay breaks from its family group on Admiral Road.

If you have been following along with the Master Species List through the years, it should be no surprise that the list grows in spurts. (If you are not familiar, check out this post, or this one, or this one!) Our BioBlitzes often contribute a large number of new species in one shot, but there is also a significant number of species that are contributed to iNaturalist by visitors that also make important additions to the list. There is also a small crew of folks sending me emails about goodies they find when roaming, especially Jerry McCormick. Jerry, who you may recognize from leading the butterfly field trips during our BioBlitzes, is a force when it comes to finding interesting insects and I really appreciate his insight and excitement into these overlooked and underappreciated species in the Sax-Zim Bog.

“So what about this milestone, Clinton?” you might be asking yourself at this point. Well. We have officially documented 1800 species!!!! Here are a few interesting new species from the last couple of weeks:

Ants!

What an amazing group that I know terribly little about. During quarantine, I have decided that ants are my next group to study! Ants are important food species for Northern Flickers, provide delousing service for a number of bird species perhaps most famously Blue Jays, they create mounds that Red-bellied snakes use to overwinter inside, and are incredible in all facets of their biology. All photos are of specimens I have collected and pinned for study. Hopefully, this collection will be able to get used for education in the near future!

A soldier of the very large New York Carpenter Ant (Camponotus noveboracensis) from the Welcome Center.
Worker Smaller Carpenter Ant (Camponotus nearcticus) found at the Welcome Center. Just a little smaller than the huge New York Carpenter Ant (C. noveboracensis) found nearby.
Winged male Smaller Carpenter Ant (Camponotus nearcticus) found at the Welcome Center.
The tiny Shaded Fuzzy Ant (Lasius aphidocola) from the Welcome Center.
Equally as small Lasisus americanus from Warren Nelson Bog.
Oddly, another black and red ant from the Bog: Formica ulkei. This was found as part of a huge colony along the trail to the Owl Avenue Gravel Pit.

Roughened Darkling Beetle (Upis ceramboides)

Perhaps, a large, dark beetle may not be everyone’s favorite thing, but this is a really amazing beetle. The Roughened Darkling Beetle is a species that requires fires to survive as they love fire damaged birch. This species is also interesting in that it takes two to three years to develop into an adult. Because of its reliance on fires, and the loss of naturally occurring fires in many areas, it has been lost from much of its range in Sweden, Canada, and Alaska. This one landed on Kristina at the Welcome Center.

The texture of the elytra (wing covers) gives this cool beetle its name.

Short-bellied Slender Jumping Spider (Marpissa formosa)

Jumping spiders are a group of wonderful and diverse species. Short-bellied Slender Jumping Spider is a mouthful, but these little spiders are truly cool with their long body shape, when most jumping spiders are stout and chunky. This species is also currently listed as a Species of Special Concern in the state of Minnesota, though Chad Heins (Minnesota spider guru and BioBlitz trip leader) says they are more widespread than it appears in the state. This beauty is the first record for St. Louis County and only the second record in iNaturalist for Minnesota.

What an endearing spider!

Boreal Long-lipped Tiger Beetle (Cicindela longilabris)

The tiger beetle list in the Sax-Zim Bog is rather impressive, even without the addition of this incredible beetle. Boreal Long-lipped Tiger Beetle is the 8th species for the list. Eight might seem like a small number, but there are only 2 more species possible for the area! Tiger beetles are amazing predators in their adult and larval stages. If you have gotten a chance to observe them, tiger beetles run in short bursts and then stop when hunting. They must do this, as recent studies have suggested that they loose their vision because their bodies move too fast for their brains to process all of information!

Most tiger beetles have elaborately marked elytra, but not Boreal Long-lipped Tiger Beetle!

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Though locals have known about this species occurring in the Sax-Zim Bog, I certainly did not! I have had my suspicions that this species could occur here, but didn’t have plants to show for it. Until this May when Joan Hunn found a colony at the McDavitt Recreation Area (Zim Rec). It just so happens that on our way to see them, Kristina found some along the roadside on Norway Ridge Road! This is a plant I have hoped to see for about 10 years and I am so glad to have gotten to see it in the Sax-Zim Bog! Trailing Arbutus is a low growing plant, common in bogs and upland forest, though it seems in our area more common in the latter. Interestingly, their seeds are dispersed by ants!

Trailing arbutus smell amazing! Imagine jasmine + lilac + tuberose; wow!

It is important to have goals to reach toward and as an educator I often task myself with goals to measure program outcomes or outreach successes. However, for the species list, I think there is no better a champion for the diversity documented so far, or to be documented, than my wife and field companion, Kristina. She has set the goal of crossing the threshold of 2000 species documented: Not in the next few years, but hitting that 2000 species mark this year!!

For me, it is easy to see that the road ahead offers opportunities in greater learning about the community of plants and animals in the Sax-Zim Bog. Personally, I hope to use this opportunity to also teach you all through videos or field trips (when the time allows). I hope that folks who are users of iNaturalist do contribute species during your visits, both common and easy to ID, as well as the harder to document and ID species. And I also hope that if you do find something cool on your next visit to the Sax-Zim Bog that you send me a note on what you find!

200 species to go!

Until next time, I hope to see you (socially distanced of course!) in the Bog!

–Head Naturalist Clinton Dexter-Nienhaus

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