11 Feb 2013

T&T’s First BioBlitz

Conservation & Education News, News of Asa Wright

 

If you visited Macqueripe Beach on Sunday 18th November, 2012, you may have included members of the TTFNC Bird Group, AWNC staff, and independent wildlife tour guides, spotted parrots, toucans, owls, hawks, hummingbirds, tanagers, trogons and while travelling on the road, fortuitously stumbled upon a Bushmaster. The mammal group was pleased to find a Robinson’s Mouse Opossum and the combined mammal, reptile and amphibian group saw Capuchin monkeys, a racer snake and some small frogs and lizards.

At the site, you would have seen booths by the Environmental Management Authority’s Youth Ambassadors, the Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC), the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalist’s Club (TTFNC), the Ministry of Food Production and the Zoological Society of Trinidad and Tobago. While this sounds like an ordinary wildlife display, it was more than that, it was a BioBlitz.

A BioBltiz is a biological survey that is carried out in a short period of time, usually in 24 hours. During a BioBlitz, scientists and other members of the public attempt to record as many different species as possible in a given area. In this case, the Tucker Valley Bioblitz, the first of its kind to be held in Trinidad and Tobago, started at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday 17th November and ended at 3:15pm the next day.

Scientists, students and nature aficionados embarked on various walks on Saturday night and on Sunday. Some, who camped out at Tucker Valley took night walks on Saturday and early morning walks on Sunday. On both days, specific groups searched for different target species – birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, terrestrial invertebrates, plants, marine and freshwater organisms.

Each group had interesting wildlife encounters. The bird groups, which included members of the TTFNC Bird Group, AWNC staff, and independent wildlife tour guides, spotted parrots, toucans, owls, hawks, hummingbirds, tanagers, trogons and while travelling on the road, fortuitously stumbled upon a Bushmaster. The mammal group was pleased to find a Robinson’s Mouse Opossum and the combined mammal, reptile and amphibian group saw Capuchin monkeys, a racer snake and some small frogs and lizards.

Subdivisions of the Terrestrial Invertebrate group searched for wasps, bees, ants and termites, spiders, scorpions, butterflies and land snails. A possible new species of orb-weaving spider was discovered by Jo-Anne Sewlal.

The freshwater group used different nets to collect samples of freshwater fish, crustaceans, insects and worms mainly from the Cuesa River. On Sunday, the group took a walk along the river to see such creatures as guppies, damselflies, crayfish and freshwater snails.

The marine group, did night and day

snorkels at Macqueripe Bay and among many sea creatures, were excited to see a Green Turtle on Sunday. Their smaller finds (a juvenile French Angelfish, scorpionfish, sea urchins and brittle stars) were collected to be temporarily displayed at the base camp.

The plant group collected many samples on Saturday night and embarked on a plant search on Sunday. They collected and identified a wide variety of trees, shrubs, ferns and orchids.

At the base camp, children also had the opportunity to get up close to a Blue- and-yellow macaw, a tree porcupine, a wild hog, a manicou, rabbits and tortoises, thanks to the Zoological Society’s Zoo To You programme.

The event provided a fitting occasion to launch The Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalist Club’s 2013 calendar and two new hand-held wildlife guides: The Trinidad and Tobago Wildflower Guide was done by the TTFNC and Trinidad and Tobago Wildlife Guide was put out by Mike Rutherford.

The BioBlitz tallied a total of 654 living organisms. With the success of this year’s event, we are sure that many await another for 2013.

The Tucker Valley BioBlitz was sponsored by First Citizens Bank and organised by Mike Rutherford, the curator of the University of the West Indies Zoology Museum (UWIZM), with assistance from members of the Trinidad & Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club (TTFNC) and the UWI Department of Life Sciences.

– J.L. Ryan

Thanks to Mr. Mike Rutherford for providing the information for this article.

The BioBlitz at a glance

  • Number of species:
Birds 97
  • Mammals: 12
  • Reptiles and Amphibians: 28
  • Freshwater organisms: 43
  • Marine organisms: 138
  • Terrestrial Invertebrates: 125
  • Total number of plants: 211
  • Total number of animals recorded: 443

 

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