Celebrating the Third Annual Bird Conservancy BioBlitz

By August 3, 2022Education, Event

Bird Conservancy of the Rockies recently hosted our 3rd annual Barr Lake BioBlitz, a wonderful day of exploration and a celebration of community science with opportunities for everyone to learn about Barr Lake’s biodiversity! This year’s BioBlitz on June 4, 2022 was our most successful to date, with 68 attendees and over 70 species of plants and animals recorded!

At our “home base” near the Nature Center, Ryan Bartlett of Colorado Native Bee shares his many bee identification resources with survey participants.

You may be asking – what exactly is a BioBlitz, and why do we host them? A BioBlitz brings together community members, students, naturalists, and scientists to find and identify as many birds, plants, insects, reptiles, mammals and other organisms as possible in a short period of time. The result is a snapshot of the biodiversity of a specific place. It’s a great way for people of all ages to learn about the world around them, personally contribute to the biodiversity data for Barr Lake, and connect with fellow nature lovers. As Lorna McCallister, Target Species Manager from the Butterfly Pavilion said, “The BioBlitz brings together community members and experts to not only learn together and get hands-on experience with our local nature, but to also make connections with each other and facilitate conversations about local research and conservation.” A record number of participants joined in our 2022 BioBlitz team effort, which included all manner of wildlife enthusiasts from absolute beginners to seasoned naturalists. Expert volunteers from Bird Conservancy, Barr Lake State Park, the Butterfly Pavilion, and Colorado Native Bee led different nature surveys, helping participants find and identify plants, birds, insects, and more. Some of our leaders’ favorite observations included these crayfish, mammal tracks, and weevils! Click on the links to see these observations in our iNaturalist project.

Participants of all ages had meaningful experiences. Morning bird surveys included numerous first-time birders, who were in awe of the abundance, diversity, and striking coloration of our native birds. Folks also got a chance to see birds up-close and personal during the morning bird banding sessions as well, which were very popular! Surveys continued to be well-attended throughout the day, with budding community scientists exploring every inch of the trails near the Barr Lake Nature Center. Survey leader Janine Runfola recalls one of the insect surveys in particular that was full of enthusiastic kids: “I love seeing the kids there and getting interested in science at a young age. They were all really excited to find insects and show them off. We had a great time sharing our finds with each other and then letting them go free. I loved their excitement.”

We used the iNaturalist mobile app to document our sightings throughout the day. iNaturalist is a popular nature app that helps users identify plants, animals, and fungi. Once photos are uploaded, other community scientists can also help identify species. You can see our iNaturalist project here – and if you’re a keen naturalist, feel free to help us with any observations that are still uncertain! Observations on iNaturalist can also be used by scientists interested in studying and protecting nature. It’s a wonderful example of a technology tool that can bridge curiosity and love of the outdoors with making a meaningful contribution to our scientific understanding of the natural world around us.

Lake James, Species Identification Specialist from the Butterfly Pavilion, leads an aquatic insect survey.

While the BioBlitz was primarily focused on species identification, survey leaders also had great opportunities to teach about nature and biodiversity more broadly, including topics like animal behavior, ecology, and invasive species. Chira Noce, SOLE Educator and leader of the mammal survey, noted that finding an area with tracks from at least three species “was a great find because we were able to practice track ID with a good variety of animals, as well as discuss the timeline that these tracks might have formed over, forcing us to think about factors such as weather, resources, etc.”

Chira Noce and Sara Hansen, SOLE Educators with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, displayed preserved hides to teach about mammal identification.

By the end of the day, survey leaders and participants alike were tired but satisfied. No matter our level of expertise, we all saw new species and learned new ways to find and identify them, and had a great time exploring this local biodiversity hotspot. The BioBlitz provided a great opportunity to advance our mission, immersing children and adults in nature and fostering stewardship values across generations. We had a wonderful time! Keep an eye out for next year’s event, which will likely happen sometime in June as well – hope to see you there!

We would like to thank all of our leaders and participants who made it such a great success. We would also like to thank our sponsors United Power, Bank of Colorado, Birds & Beans Coffee, and Fiesta Time Inc.

Photos by volunteer Eric Tokuyama unless otherwise noted.