Metchosin BioBlitz organizers Kem Luther and Moralea Milne sit with a dull leaved Oregon grape plant. About 60 biologists will join with citizen scientists to tally plant and animal life in the distirct.

Metchosin’s big count

BioBlitz wildlife census on Saturday expands into marine environments

One day per year, scientists and biology experts come together to count all that’s moving or planted in Metchosin.

The district is hosting its second BioBlitz plant and animal census on Saturday, where as many species as possible are found and tallied within 24 hours.

Bioblitz organizers want a sense of what is living in the forests across the district, but also to host an event that connects people to their environment.

“A lot of it is to come up with who’s living with us in Metchosin. It’s about knowing your neighbours,” said Kem Luther, one of the BioBlitz organizers.

Last year inaugural BioBlitz discovered three animal species never seen before in the district, the blue-grey taildropper slug as well as a pair of the nesting Western bluebirds and yellow montane violets. Discoveries such as these have led to other conservation projects in Metchosin, such as the distribution of about 40 bird boxes for Western bluebirds.

Coun. Moralea Milne, a BioBlitz organizer, has five of the boxes on her Sooke Road property and helped distribute them to other residents.

“Who knows what we’ll find. We didn’t know we were missing (the slugs, violets or bluebirds),” Luther said.

One species Milne hopes to count this year is the sharp-tailed snake. This snake is endangered and a few live on Milne’s property. None were spotted during last year’s blitz.

In all, scientists and citizen volunteers tallied 800 plant and animal species. A focus this year will be put toward counting flora and fauna in the fresh and marine waters, including at Blinkhorn and Matheson lakes and in Witty’s Lagoon.

“We chose the day that will have the lowest tides for a while,” Milne said.

The Capital Regional Districts parks will be hosting a beach seine that day for the public, to coincide with the BioBlitz at Witty’s Lagoon for the public at 10:30 a.m.

About 60 plant and animal biologists are coming out to the event to lend a hand.

“What we find is expectant on what specialists come,” Luther said. “If we get a different species it’s probably because we find different specialists.”

Some experts will be watching out for invasive species for future eradication efforts.

“We’ll have a list of invasive species that are emerging,” said Milne, citing carpet burr weed and Japanese knot weed as examples.

Last year it seemed many of the specialists were finding species outside of the area of expertise. A birder discovered a rare violet, a mushroomer found the blue-grey taildroppers and a botanist spotted the rare bluebirds. “A lot of people are multidisciplinary,” Milne said.

This year Milne will be taking on double duty at the BioBlitz as she also participating in the Baillie Birdathon, a fundraiser for the Rocky Point Observatory happening the same day.

She will team up with an expert and count as many birds as she can. The birds she counts will be recorded in both the BioBlitz and the Baillie Birdathon data.

The BioBlitz is also open to the public and all volunteers are welcome to participate. “We’ll assign you a team, you don’t need to know what you are looking for (to participate),” Luther said. “Be a citizen scientist.”

Volunteer BioBlitz teams will be formed at 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on May 5. at the Boys and Girls Club camp, 3900 Metchosin Rd. For more information see metchosinbiodiversity.com.

reporter@goldstreamgazette.com.