WMRHSD Spring 2020 Bioblitz's Journal

May 29, 2020

Garlic Mustard

The Bioblitz ends tonight! After 11 days our most common observation, by far, is the invasive plant Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata.

Here's our Garlic Mustard observations so far.

Garlic Mustard is an edible plant, native to Europe. It's rich in vitamins and has a garlicky flavor, so Europeans brought it to North America as a food source in the 1800s. It was first reported on Long Island in 1868, and since then it has spread across the US and Canada all the way to the Pacific coast.

Why has Garlic Mustard been able to spread so far and wide? There are several reasons. It grows fast, can tolerate a wide variety of conditions, and few native animals will eat it. It reproduces rapidly, and healthy plants can produce hundreds or even thousands of seeds. In addition, Garlic Mustard is allelopathic, which means that it releases compounds that inhibit the growth of other plants and beneficial soil fungi. Garlic Mustard has been shown to decrease the biodiversity of forests by outcompeting other plants.

What's the best way to control Garlic Mustard? Chemical control is one solution, but that can be dangerous and harm beneficial organisms. Pulling it out by hand is another way - make sure to get the roots. It's best to pull Garlic Mustard in the spring, before seeds form.

Here's Elisabeth Jane's picture of Garlic Mustard from Mendham, NJ.

Posted on May 29, 2020 14:03 by brucetaterka brucetaterka | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 28, 2020

Ferns of New Jersey

Did you ever stop to look at a fern? They are one of the most interesting, beautiful and diverse plant groups in the world. Ferns are also one of the oldest plant groups, showing up in the fossil record 360 million years ago, more than 200 million years earlier than the first fossils of flowering plants. There are over 10,000 species of ferns throughout the world.

In ten days of our Bioblitz we have observed 48 ferns in 16 different species. Here are some of the highlights of our research-grade, native fern observations:

Emily Carkhuff's Sensitive Fern

Sean Bodnar's Christmas Fern

Jennifer Linden's Cinammon Fern

Kirsten C's Interrupted Fern

M. Maffei's Hay-scented Fern

Chris Falzarano's Ostrich Fern

apalome_20's Southern Lady Fern

James Gause's Northern Maidenhair Fern

Posted on May 28, 2020 12:33 by brucetaterka brucetaterka | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 27, 2020

Turtle Sightings

So far the Bioblitz has collected 11 turtle observations, with 4 different species confirmed. Here are some of the highlights:

A. Kaplinski's Box Turtle

Josh Stieve's Painted Turtles basking on a log

Anna Gayton's Snapping Turtle

Jordan Jackson's Green Sea Turtle from the Cayman Islands

Posted on May 27, 2020 12:46 by brucetaterka brucetaterka | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 26, 2020


After 8 days the Bioblitz collected 211 bird observations in 77 different species. Here are some of the highlights:

Trogon433's Bobolink

AnnaB3's Mute Swan

Kendall Woods' Wood Stork

R. Corley's Pilieated Woodpecker

Jakematt's American Robin on a nest

n3m0's Red-bellied Woodpecker

Bruce Taterka's American Oystercatcher

Posted on May 26, 2020 12:14 by brucetaterka brucetaterka | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 23, 2020


The first week of the Bioblitz saw 10 research-grade fish observations, including 5 different species. Our top fisherman was freshman Simon Bochenski, who caught 5 fish this week. Here's a sample of the catch.

Simon Bochenski's Large-mouth Bass

Christopher Tringali's Brown Trout

Lexie Naval's Black Crappie

Simon Bochenski's Chain Pickerel

Posted on May 23, 2020 11:02 by brucetaterka brucetaterka | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 22, 2020

Day 4 - Pink Lady's Slipper

Day 4 brought 384 observations including my favorite NJ May woodland flower, the Pink Lady's slipper. Apolline Gaspars found this one blooming along the Patriot's Path in Chester. The Lady Slipper is a rare native orchid in our state, and its population is in decline. If you see one, enjoy its beauty but don't ever pick it or try to dig it up - they are very sensitive and will not survive.

Three more nice sightings from yesterday are shown below - Kendall Wood's Great Blue Heron and Garter Snakes from Owen Madsen and Phillip Inglis. Nice pictures!

Pink Lady's Slipper

Great Blue Heron

Garter Snake by Owen

Garter Snake by Phillip

Posted on May 22, 2020 10:52 by brucetaterka brucetaterka | 1 comments | Leave a comment

May 21, 2020

Day 3: Robin's Nest

Day 3 brought 284 new sightings! The Sighting of the Day is this American robin's nest by M Morrison. Robin eggs can be distinguished by their turquoise blue color.

Posted on May 21, 2020 10:46 by brucetaterka brucetaterka | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 20, 2020

Day 2 - What is a Wasp Gall?

Another beautiful day brought 417 more observations on Tuesday, including pelicans, mussels, snakes and lots of plants. The Sighting of the Day is this wasp gall from Rylee Butler.

A gall is an enclosure created by a plant after an insect (in this case a wasp) lays an egg on the plant. No one knows exactly how the wasp induces the plant to form the gall; some think there's a chemical signal while others think it's mechanical or viral. In Rylee's photo, the green "golf ball" you see is actually a hollow sphere made of oak wood with a wasp egg inside. When the wasp hatches and becomes an adult it will cut a hole in the ball and fly away. There are thousands of types of gall insects that each have their own special host plants.

While you might think wasps are annoying, they're critically important to a functioning ecosystem. There are more species of wasps than almost any other insect and they play a key role in keeping caterpillar and other insect populations in check. Without wasps, we would have way less trees.

Nice find Rylee, and great photo! Good closeup with lots of detail.

Posted on May 20, 2020 11:05 by brucetaterka brucetaterka | 1 comments | Leave a comment

May 19, 2020

The Bioblitz Begins!

The beautiful weather on Monday got 82 observers out to make 380 observations including 222 species! The leaderboard was topped by MHS alumni James2547 and Jennifer1343 from the class of 2018. Here are some of yesterday's Research Grade frog & toad sightings:

James2547's American Toad:

Jennifer1343's Pickerel Frog:

Lexie Naval's Fowler's Toad

Bruce Taterka's Green Frog:

Posted on May 19, 2020 10:22 by brucetaterka brucetaterka | 0 comments | Leave a comment