New Jersey Audubon’s First Statewide BioBlitz
Nature is Waiting Outside Your Door: Go Explore, Collect Data and Participate in our first Statewide BioBlitz!
April 22nd to 28th
Participate in a community science extravaganza no matter where you are in the state of New Jersey. Photograph plants and animals in your neighborhood using the free iNaturalist app (info below). Interact with New Jersey Audubon staff through daily challenges, friendly competition and learning opportunities.
New Jersey Audubon’s Earth Week BioBlitz is designed to encourage people to get outdoors where and when you can during the week.
iNaturalist is a crowd-sourced online application, so if you don’t know what the plant or animal is, no worries, someone else will! Just take a photo, upload it to the site and join hundreds of people learning together about all the amazing plants and animals there are in New Jersey.
Your Daily Challenges
County Challenge: Which county will submit the most mammal observations? Which county will observe the most mammal species? From an underground burrow to the ocean to the sky, mammals can be found anywhere you look in New Jersey. Warm-blooded, covered in fur or hair, and females that nurse their young, mammals are adapted to live in many environments. What furry friends are you seeing? A groundhog as it pokes its head out of a burrow? A dolphin or whale coming up for oxygen and spouting water high into the air? Bats flitting high above your head as they eat bugs in the night sky? Hopefully you’re quick enough to catch a photo of these creatures that can be fast and often secretive.
Individual Challenge: Who will observe the silliest squirrel? One of the most widespread native mammals in New Jersey is also one of the most acrobatic. The Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) will go to great lengths to get food and put on a great show while doing so! If you feed birds, you’ve probably witnessed squirrels hanging upside down from your bird feeder with their feet in odd positions and their body twisted like a gymnast. Gray squirrels are also very smart as they have cracked the code on many squirrel-proof bird feeders, sometimes even learning how to unscrew the lid and dumping out the seed to share with friends! They are very social creatures and are often seen running up, down, and around trees in a high-speed game of tag with other squirrels. Can you take a photo of a squirrel doing something silly?!
County Challenge: Today, bird is the word. Which county will submit the most bird observations? Which county will observe the most bird species? Keep your eyes on the skies, or telephone wires, or bird feeders—anywhere you might spot a feathered friend. Spring migration is full swing, meaning many species of birds are traveling north to their breeding grounds. Be patient, as birds can be difficult to photograph! Avoid making loud noises or fast movements and allow the birds some time to become comfortable with your presence.
Individual Challenge: Who will observe the bluest bird? Eastern Bluebirds, Blue Jays, and Indigo Buntings (like the one pictured) are all examples of blue birds that can be found in New Jersey. Male Indigo Buntings sport a much bluer plumage during the breeding season. The bright blue color signals to females that they are a good choice for a mate!
County Challenge: Which county will submit the most insect observations? Which county will observe the most insect species? These six-legged animals are small but mighty! Did you know that insects are estimated to represent over 80% of all animal life forms known to planet earth? Insects live in nearly every environment and have been around for millions of years. They represent a key part of the food web; insects are a food source for many species, they decompose animal and plant matter, and many are hardworking pollinators! Some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet can be found low to the ground. You’ll be surprised at what you can find when you peek under a log or take a closer look at the plants growing in your neighborhood. How many different insect species can you catalog?
Daily Challenge: Who will observe the hardest working insect? Ants are known for being able to carry many times their body weight, but just how strong are they? Ants can carry over 1000 times their weight. That would be like a 150lb human lifting 10 school buses at once! Ants need to carry things all the time. It’s how they forage for food, build their homes, and care for their young. Can you find an ant or other insect hard at work?
County Challenge: Which county will observe the highest number of herptiles? Which county will observe the most species of herptiles? Herptiles are reptiles (turtles, snakes, and lizards) and amphibians (frogs, toads, and salamanders). Reptiles have scaly skin, while most amphibians have smooth, thin skin.
Individual Challenge: Who will observe the most turtles basking on a log or a rock? Like all herptiles, turtles are cold blooded and can’t maintain their body temperature like humans can, so they bask in the sun to warm up. Pictured are Painted Turtles, a NJ native, aquatic turtle. Notice the yellow spots on the side of the head, which differentiates them from the non-native Red-eared Slider turtle which has a red spot on the side of the head; these turtles can be found in NJ because people release their pet turtles and they are able to acclimate to our environment.
County Challenge: Which county submit the most flowering plant observations? Which county will observe the most species of flowering plants? Flowering plants have been on the earth for over 200 million years. They have evolved incredible diversity of form and structure. Our state flower is the Common Blue Violet (which can actually look more purple than blue). It is native to Eastern North America. Native flowers are important to plant if you have a garden because they support native insects and other animals. Fritillary butterfly caterpillars feed on the leaves of violets.
Individual Challenge: Who will observe the Dandelion growing in the most unusual or difficult spot? Almost everyone can recognize the common Dandelion which grows in lawns everywhere. Originally brought over by the first colonists, the Dandelion is actually a “composite” of flowers on one stem. Can you find a Dandelion growing in an unusual or difficult spot?
County Challenge: Which county will submit the most tree observations? Which county will observe the most tree species? Trees are incredibly valuable to us and the Earth. They provide animals like squirrels, birds and insects with a place to live. We use their wood to make paper, build houses, and enjoy campfires. Trees sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, mitigating global climate change. They release oxygen, which we need to breathe. Let’s celebrate trees today!
Individual Challenge: Who will observe the tree with the curviest trunk? Different environmental factors can cause a tree to grow curvy. It might be experiencing phototropism, which means it is bending to grow closer to the sun. Or maybe it is growing in a windy location and is bending away from the wind. Or possibly, it has been affected by a storm or natural disaster. Can you find a curvy tree in your neighborhood? What do you think caused it to grow so curvy? Please submit LIVING tree observations, and make sure you include enough of the tree that so that it can be identified!
County Challenge: Which county will observe the largest amount of these specific invasive plants? There are so many plants which were introduced to New Jersey, whether intentionally or accidentally. Some of these plants are thriving in our beautiful state. They have many different adaptations which allow them to grow at a very fast rate, much faster than our native plants. Unfortunately, this allows invasives to outcompete our beneficial native species. Try looking for Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), multiflora rose (Rose multiflora), garlic mustard (Alliaria periolata), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) or tree of heaven (Alanthus altissima). These are just a few invasive species that can be found throughout NJ. New Jersey Audubon is working hard to stop their expansion.
Individual Challenge” While you are searching, bring your tape measure! Who will observe the tallest garlic mustard plant? You are going to pull the garlic mustard out of the ground (Don’t worry. It’s invasive.) and measure the plant from root to blossom. Include the tape measure in your photo. If you are not sure if it is garlic mustard, pick the spade-shaped leaf. Crush it and smell it. Does it smell like garlic to you? That’s garlic mustard! Each one of those little white flowers has the ability to grow into a seed pod that can hold as many as 30 seeds. Imagine if there are 20 flowers on that one plant. 20 flowers x 30 seeds = 600 seeds from a single plant! How many garlic mustard plants can you find? I wonder if you can pull out 600 garlic mustard plants today.
How To Get Started
Where to Participate
Participate from your apartment window or balcony, step outside into your yard or neighborhood, walk to a local park (if open) or visit a New Jersey Audubon center or sanctuary (check ahead to make sure trails are open).
Participants’ health and safety is New Jersey Audubon’s highest priority. All participants are required to follow all federal, state and local COVID-19 orders and guidelines and practice social distancing.
How to Participate
Download iNaturalist on your smartphone and create an account. If you do not have a smartphone, you can submit observations on the iNaturalist.org.website
Once you are signed up join our project “New Jersey Audubon’s Earth Week Bioblitz”. Check the project page throughout the week for daily challenges and updates!
TIP: How To Use iNaturalist
Garden For Wildlife
While you are looking at the variety of plants and animals in your space, consider making that space more inviting for wildlife by providing food, water, cover and places to raise young while utilizing sustainable wildlife-friendly gardening practices.
Connecting people with nature is what New Jersey Audubon does best, through activities like this Earth Week Bioblitz. Events like the BioBlitz support New Jersey Audubon’s vital conservation work, helping us safeguard wildlife and steward the nature of today for the people of tomorrow.
Your support makes it possible… THANK YOU!