NANPA Bioblitz

I think this is a squareback marsh crab.

The North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) has a bioblitz underway from June 4 to June 15. A bioblitz is an identification of all the lifeforms you see in a certain period of time. All the bioblitzes in which I have participated required a photo to be uploaded to iNaturalist.org. This is my third bioblitz and I thoroughly enjoy them. It forces me to take pictures of every lifeform I see and I find myself noticing things I would have otherwise missed. When I upload to iNaturalist, the software gives a preliminary identification and I either agree or disagree. I usually agree and then experts review the photo and either identify something else or agree with the identification. A minimum of two agreeing identifications are required to achieve research grade status.

Regis and I started our participation today. He went to the beach and got his best photo of a swallow-tailed kite. He got some photos of the kite eating on the fly, but the kite was too far away to identify the food item so I included one of the closer shots here. This is not the first time Regis got an image with a swallow-tailed kite eating while flying, which is how they always do it.

Swallow-tailed kite.

While he was at the beach taking pictures, I was trudging through the marsh behind our house. It was a muddy experience. I got some crab pictures but more importantly, identified what may be a problem in the marsh. We recently noticed an area in the marsh that has become devoid of grasses. We thought the water channels were changing. In the meantime, I have been doing research on the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve for personal reasons and saw some information on periwinkles killing off marsh grasses. Today, I entered the area devoid of marsh grasses and this is what I found.

Periwinkles on a single blade of marsh grass.

That is a lot of periwinkles on one lonely blade of grass. I suspect this is a sign of periwinkles killing off the marsh grasses. I am reaching out to the GTM Reserve to see if they have any biologists working on this issue. I found the following information from the University of Georgia website.

“Periwinkle snails are easily spotted in most salt marsh, feeding on the cordgrass just above the water line. They don’t actually consume much of the grass – they are more interested in the fungi that live on the grass. But their chewing damages the grasses’ surfaces, allowing the fungi to further infest the plants. Healthy plants can keep this fungi infestation in check as long as they are not weakened by environmental conditions or required to support too many snails. According to this research, the recent marsh die-off occurred because severe drought stressed the natural defense systems of cordgrass and snails began to kill off the stressed plants. As the plants on which they fed died, the displaced snails began to move toward healthy cordgrass, forming dense fronts. These fronts began to kill off even healthy cordgrass and, in doing so, expanded into a concentrated wave of grazing snails that cascaded through the marsh leaving bare mudflats in its wake.”

Although the situation seems suspicious that the marsh grasses may be dying back because of periwinkles, it is best to get more data to see whether this is what is happening. I will work on that.

On a lighter note, I saw a bluebird family at our feeder. The two adults and four offspring were at the feeder at the same time.

Eastern bluebird family.

I have been working on cutting the invasive vines behind our property over the last several days. Today, I went out with good intentions and noticed a movement behind me. A small fawn jumped up and leaped into the higher vegetation. There was no way I could continue my effort until I am comfortable that I will not impact this little Bambi.

2 Comments on “NANPA Bioblitz

  1. I learned something new from your post regarding the periwinkles. I look forward to reading more on what you find out. Best wishes on your bioblitz entries.

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  2. Good to hear from you. I have the GTM coordinator checking to see if anyone is doing the research locally. Yesterday, I found another section of the marsh where the grasses are dying.

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