31 March 2021
Author: Vanessa Elwell-Gavins (President, Wildlife Queensland Fraser Coast Branch)
Wildlife Queensland Fraser Coast used the COVID pandemic to set up a new activity for members and other wildlife enthusiasts in our community. The Backyard BioBlitz started monthly in our own homes and gardens or immediate surrounds on 1 May 2020 as something that we could do in social isolation, or within the confines of our households.
When our Nature Walks Program resumed in August 2020, the Backyard BioBlitz escaped the confines of our gardens and has taken us wherever we wish between Gympie and Agnes Water (the home range of our membership) once every quarter.
The principles have been simple:
- Our Backyard BioBlitz coordinator designates a weekend and we publicise it.
- We take photographs (and/or recordings) of whatever native animals, birds, plants, fungi, fish, frogs or other critters take our fancy, over whatever time we have available on the designated weekend.
- We lodge our ‘observations’ (which can include multiple photos) onto the iNaturalist website via the internet or mobile phone app. iNaturalist is linked to the Atlas of Living Australia.
- The participant or other iNaturalist users try to identify the subject of their observations. iNaturalist will also make suggestions.
- At the end of each BioBlitz weekend, the coordinator prepares a report summarising this BioBlitz’s observations.
Mastering Backyard BioBlitz Challenges
The biggest challenges have been technical: learning how to use our cameras and mobile phones effectively to take good pictures of critters that flit, flap, scuttle and scurry.
Focusing on a spider, and knowing when to use macro or telephoto settings can be challenging. Phone cameras can take excellent photos, but they are not well suited for situations requiring more than minimal magnification. Some critters are unperturbed by humans coming close, while others never settle for long enough to take a photo, or will hide behind a leaf as soon as you try and focus on them.
It is much easier taking good photos in winter, when critters are likely to be reasonably lethargic, compared with summer when everything whizzes around very rapidly.
Using the iNaturalist website and app is easy once you know how, but may be confusing for first-time users.
Backyard BioBlitz Workshop
In deference to these technical challenges, Wildlife Queensland Fraser Coast Branch’s Backyard BioBlitz coordinating team is running a FREE interactive Backyard BioBlitz Workshop on 30 April 2021 to help folk work through these issues.
Backyard BioBlitz Benefits
Backyard BioBlitz is not a ‘scientific’ or comprehensive record of all native species in our region, and we are a lobby/education group, not field naturalists. However, it’s great for learning. It also gives a snapshot which, by sharing and comparing data, could be used to record changes over time, seasonal or otherwise, and in different locations.
Even a tiny balcony will be home to spiders, geckos, skinks, flies, butterflies and other insects and the odd green tree frog. Owners of bare suburban blocks in new developments can watch as multiple critters colonise their new gardens. I am lucky enough to have some remnant rainforest trees on my 3/4 acre block which backs onto coastal reserve and a beach with sandflats exposed at low tide, so I can see diverse species on my ‘home patch’. Some rural participants have large bush blocks with various bushland ecosystems and habitats, and a diverse range of critters, including threatened species, that inhabit them.
This data is priceless for assessing ecosystem function and when lobbying our local Council about the benefits of retaining natural areas, planting native species in urban parklands or along streets, or simply encouraging people to plant a wildlife-friendly garden.