BioBlitz Bird Park 2003
We did it! The 2003 BioBlitz of Bird Park was held May 31 and June 1. It was kicked-off by Mr. Steve Fellers, Mt. Lebanon Manager, at 3:30 PM on Friday. For the next 24 hours, scientists from The Carnegie Natural History Museum, Duquesne Univ., Univ. of Pittsburgh, and the Western PA Conservancy counted every different living species in Bird Park. In addition, many volunteers from Mt. Lebanon and surrounding communities helped . I would like to make special note of the help we received from the High School AP Environmental class taught by Myra Amodie.
In addition to the scientific count, we also had a native plant dealer from Kirkpatrick Perennials in Butler, Chuck Teague and his Raptor show, Verna McGinley with her nature display, a craft booth hosted by high school students, and nature walks. Although it rained most of Saturday, fortunately the skies cleared for the children’s programs.
The total count of different species is 285. The total includes 37 species of birds, 186 species of plants, 3 species of amphibians, and 15 species of snails! Unfortunately, we did not have specialists to help identify the insects or fungi so they weren‘t counted. Similarly, many creatures do not come out in the rain. Even so, considering Bird Park is a 47 acre ‘island park’ in the middle of a very urban Mt. Lebanon, 285+ species is actually quite impressive. Similar efforts in the much larger Pittsburgh parks found between 967 and 1408 species. A preliminary comparison with a survey of Bird Park done in 1982 shows that nearly all of the species reported then were reported this time. In fact, we identified many new species.
Although we did not find anything exotic, we did have some very interesting finds. Tim Pearce, The Carnegie, identified 15 species of snails and slugs, seven of which are native to the area and the rest of which hitchhiked here from Europe. He also found find a punctum minutissimum, a minuscule (0.4-millimeter) snail that is about as small as a period on this page. He believes the creature, whose English name is “small spot,” is the smallest land snail in North America north of Mexico. Another interesting find was a cluster of small mites, hitching a ride on the abdomen of a crane fly. These were originally reported as ticks, but further analysis revealed their true identity. We were very pleased to find that the salamander population is recovering from a severe decline in the 1990’s. We also had the first reports ever of spring peepers (very small frogs) in Bird Park.
One of the most important pieces of information we gathered was a confirmation that invasive plants such as Japanese Knotweed, Garlic Mustard, and English Ivy are significant factors in Bird Park. These rapidly spreading plants are out-competing the native plants and threaten to seriously undermine the plant diversity in the park.
At this point, the Conservancy will evaluate the data in light of the Municipality’s plans for future Park uses. Bird Park is a great community resource that is subject to overuse. The information gained in the BioBlitz will help to make the case for preserving Bird Park as it is, and possibly with some habitat restoration, particularly along the stream. We will also need to consider a plan of attack for the invasive species.
The BioBlitz was great publicity for Mt. Lebanon and us. We made the front page of the Post Gazette South Section on June 4. The Tribune Review also ran a picture on June 1.
Click here if you would like to see a list of species.
Special thanks to BioBlitz sponsors: