Finding Rare Species during a BioBlitz

Photo of an alligator or caiman head above the water looking at the camera.. Something was observing me back. © Judd Patterson
Something was observing me back. © Judd Patterson

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

A BioBlitz is a great opportunity to get out into nature and observe all the species of plants and animals (and fungi) that inhabit an area, whether that’s a local park or meadow or someplace you have traveled. During a BioBlitz, participants observe, photograph, and upload their observations to iNaturalist. During NANPA’s recent Nature Photography Day BioBlitz, more than 9,000 observations were logged, covering more than 3,000 species, 97 of which were threatened. The date contributed by participants becomes available to scientists and researchers—a true citizen-science project. We’ve profiled several participants (here, here, and here) already. Today, we turn our attention to Judd Patterson, who works for the National Park Service and pursues nature photography in his spare time. He logged observations of several rare and/or threatened species.

Why did you participate in the BioBlitz?

I’ve been using iNaturalist for nearly seven years now, and I really enjoy using it when I need help learning about the plants, insects, and other small critters that I encounter. Over time my usage has dropped off a little, but a BioBlitz is a great excuse to cover local parks all over again! I thought it would be fun to contribute my local sightings and see the map of NANPA sightings grow.

What was your goal in participating?

My goal was to get outside as much as possible during the BioBlitz. By June the days are extremely hot in South Florida. All of the migratory species (and photographers) that winter here are gone, but exciting opportunities abound if you are willing to battle through some humidity and mosquito bites. I visited as many habitats as I could fit into my schedule including barrier islands, hardwood hammocks, city parks, pine flatwoods, freshwater marshes, and cypress swamps.

Photo of a cardinal airplant on a tree limb. © Judd Patterson
Cardinal airplant. © Judd Patterson

What did you get out of it?

Besides the obvious benefit of fresh air during a challenging pandemic year, I really enjoyed seeing the sightings pour in from across the country. Like a continent-wide treasure hunt, it was tough to predict what would pop up next…a coyote in Arizona, a wildflower from Virginia, or a bumblebee in Montana. I definitely learned about several new species that I hope to see someday!

What was the most interesting or unexpected observation you made?

There are some enigmatic bird species that are always tough to track down. The mangrove cuckoo is one of those, so hearing and then seeing that bird really made my morning. But sometimes it can be equally exciting to get an identification on something that I’ve never heard of before, like the small, pink shell that turned out to be a rose-petal tellin

Did you focus on finding rare and threatened species?

For this BioBlitz I didn’t go out with rare species in mind, but I did stumble upon quite a few. Partially that is because Florida’s wildlife and wild places are full of range-restricted species that are increasingly under threat from development, invasive species, and a changing climate. When you go to a special, protected location like Big Cypress National Preserve there are unique species nearly everywhere you look. In my typical photography I do make a point to zero-in on vulnerable species, like the Florida grasshopper sparrow, regal fritillary, or ghost orchid.

Bio

Judd Patterson was born in Kansas and began to seriously develop his interest in nature photography on the tall-grass prairie. He attended Kansas State University and completed a Bachelor’s in Biology and a Master’s in Geography. Judd currently works for the National Park Service, but on his own time he continues to pursue nature photography to promote conservation and for the sheer joy of being outside. Judd’s photography has been used for a variety of regional and national causes including The Nature Conservancy publications, numerous magazines (Kansas Wildlife & Parks, Audubon, Ranger Rick, etc.), visitor center displays, and various book contributions. Judd remains highly motivated to capture images of threatened species and habitats in order to play a role in ensuring their future.

Learn more about Patterson:

Website: juddpatterson.com
Facebook: Judd Patterson Photography
Instagram: @juddpattersonphoto