28 June 2011

Caledonia Gorge Protected Natural Area Bioblitz

Frederick W. Schueler & Aleta Karstad Bishops Mills Natural History Centre via Nature NB

The Caledonia Gorge (Protected Natural Area) Bioblitz - is well under way in Albert County, and participants are beginning to get over the fear that vehicles will rupture themselves on boulders or topple off the roads into the gorge, while the less-driveable roads are being deleted from the list of possible routes into the The  Protected Natural Area (PNA). This Bioblitz runs from 24 June -7 July, with an Open House on  5 July, 16h00-20h00.

This PNA is touted as the smallest of the ten largest PNA's in New Brunswick, so it's possible to get to a larger proportion of it than was the case last year at the Jacquet River PNA bioblitz, but it's still a wild core of hills and streams surrounded by logging and wind turbines; mostly lichen-swathed woods with more topography in a single step than we get in a kilometre at home in eastern Ontario. There are a few babbling brooks and a very few wetlands. The woods are protected from logging, but are worked over by Red Squirrels, Moose, and orange Arion slugs.

Participants are put up at a released-Pheasant hunting farm overlooking the Bay of Fundy, with a barnful of fellow taxonomic specialists mumbling over whether this specimen or that is more like the description, constant discussions of which vehicle can attempt which road into the PNA, granola bars and cheese sandwiches for lunch, Pheasant pie and Strawberry shortcake for supper, and the opportunity give  workshops on frog-skinning and methods of preserving slugs.

Albert County is a wasteland for landscape painters, since the fields are impossibly flat, the mountains are impossible curvaceous, the mud is impossibly red, the water is impossibly blue, the grass is impossibly green, the fog is impossibly misty, and the slugs (possibly Arion vulgaris, not previously recorded from Canada), are impossibly orange. Aleta is here as visiting-artist-in-residence, and you can see her paintings - http://karstaddailypaintings.blogspot.com/ - as they get posted.

It's magnificent that the NBM has been able to find funding for these biotic inventories of the larger PNAs (not strictly bioblitzes, since they're not confined to 24 hours).  There will be about 39 participants, with about 250 field days, with specialists working on Fungi, lichens, algae, Brophytes, Vascular Plants, Odonata, Beetles, Tabanid Flies, Butterflies, moths, Ants, Mollusca, Harvestman, Centipedes, terrestrial Isopods, Orthoptera, fishes, Amphibians, reptiles, small Mammals,  dendrochronology, water chemistry, and Artist-in-Residence.