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September 2020

Sheldrake’s First Backyard BioBlitz

Jocelyn Kleinman, Director of Education at the Sheldrake Environmental Center was extremely happy with the response to the first Backyard BioBlitz in August. “Thank you all so much for participating so wholeheartedly in our Sheldrake BioBlitz 2020.  It gives me great joy to know that we inspired many of you to get outside, to work together with your team, to learn a bit, and to enjoy nature.”


Team Leafy reported, “This has already been really fun!”


After the event, Kleinman heard from Team Woody. “I just wanted to say that my family had so much fun working on the BioBlitz! It was a great idea to create some challenges and my kids were very focused on spotting one animal from each group of vertebrates. I’ve attached the photo of the proud moment my son spotted an amphibian, the final category that we needed to complete the challenge! It was the perfect social distancing adventure for us on this drizzly day.”


Kleinman noted that, “So many cool things were observed, and amazing pictures were taken. Here’s some of what I found interesting:


• “Our teams made almost 2000 nature observations.


• “While most teams were based in the Sheldrake vicinity, we reached as far as Bedford, Sleepy Hollow, Thornwood, and Pelham.


• “The most observed species overall was the wineberry plant, whose berries were ripe all over the county during the BioBlitz. Its red berries were spotted by many!


• “The fungus with the weirdest name that was observed was the Dog Vomit Slime Mold. To be fair, though, so many of the names were weird (and great), including Carnival Candy Slime Mold, Shaggy Parasol, Wolf’s Milk, Bleeding Fairy Helmet, Chocolate Tube Slime, and Ceramic Parchment.


• “The red-tailed hawk and the Canada goose were tied for most observed bird species.


• “True to its name, there was only one observation of the Solitary Sandpiper.


• “We had one observation of an American Black Bear!


• “The most observed mammal was the Eastern Gray squirrel, almost double the number of observations than the Eastern Chipmunk.”


The Sheldrake BioBlitz observations help give scientists an accurate picture of the diversity of life in Westchester County. Participants have provided a wonderful snapshot in time that can be accessed for research by scientists around the world.


“When I originally planned the BioBlitz, I had thought of establishing it as an annual event, where we could participate in citizen science and track the changes in the plant, animal, and fungus life in Westchester over time,” Kleinman reflected. “But this was so much fun and we got such positive feedback that I’ve been thinking about planning another BioBlitz. I’m wondering what a winter BioBlitz would be like? , she pondered.


“It would definitely be more challenging in the winter--it’s cold out, some animals will have migrated, some animals will be hibernating, and it gets dark out pretty early. Despite all that, it might be the perfect time to BioBlitz, getting us outdoors when we need that extra push and helping us to feel connected to nature when we really need it.”