Falmouth prepares for wildlife 'Bio Blitz'

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FALMOUTH — Ever wonder what’s lurking in Falmouth’s River Point Conservation Area?

The Falmouth Conservation Commission and the Biodiversity Research Institute of Gorham are hoping to find out when they conduct one of the state’s largest “Bio Blitzes” June 29-30.

According to Bob Shafto, ombudsman of Falmouth’s Open Space Committee, there are many species living in the 41-acre River Point Conservation Area, and the Bio Blitz will allow the Conservation Commission to establish how to better manage the property and the species that live there.

“This is our first time out, but it’s a great way for us to document, on our conservation properties, what’s living there, which in turn informs us about how we manage those properties and maintain them in ways that maintain the diversity, particularly if there are rare species there,” Shafto said.

The existence of threatened and endangered species hasn’t been confirmed on the property, but there have been several reported sightings of New England cotton-tailed rabbits, wood turtles and blue warblers.

“(River Point Conservation Area is) unique and we want to document that uniqueness and diversity,” Shafto said.

To complete the Bio Blitz, the Conservation Commission and the Biodiversity Research Institute will need help from what Shafto calls “nature-savvy, amateur naturalists.”

Approximately 30 volunteers will have the opportunity to join the professionals of the Biodiversity Research Institute in identifying species within the conservation area.

Groups of volunteers, led by professional biologists, will explore the preserve’s various habitats in search of different varieties of mammals, birds, fish, arthropods, mollusks, fungi, ferns, mosses, and more.

The Bio Blitz also offers a chance for the public to get involved.

Every hour on the hour, two to three presentations will take place allowing the public to learn more about the property.

Friday night the public will have the chance to identify the many night sounds of the River Point Conservation Area and participate in a moth collection.

Saturday offers a bird and mammal walk, bird banding demonstrations and a flora walk.

Shafto said that this is a great way for people to learn how much species diversity there is in town.

“A lot of times we think you have to go to a coral reef or tropical rain forest to see diversity,” he said. “But you don’t.”

Amber Cronin can be reached at acronin@theforecaster.net or 781-3661 ext. 115. Follow her on Twitter: @croninamber.

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The Falmouth Bio Blitz will run for nearly 24 hours, starting after dark on June 29 with the collection of bats, insects and other night signing amphibians. Groups will head out again the morning of June 30. The blitz will wrap up with a presentation and summary of what was found at the end of the day on June 30.

According to open space ombudsman Bob Shafto, this Bio Blitz will be one of the largest in the state. Similar surveys have been completed in places like Acadia National Park, but usually only for one or two species at a time.

“In our case, we’re looking for pretty much everything,” he said.

If all goes well with this survey, Shafto said, the Conservation Commission may look at running a similar event on other properties to get a better idea of what creatures haunt the woods of Falmouth.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Shafto at 878-8933 or openspace@maine.rr.com.

— Amber Cronin