In mid-September, Ben Vernasco, Leah Novak, and I participated in the National Park Service’s Blue Ridge Parkway BioBlitz near Rocky Knob in southwestern Virginia. The goal of the BioBlitz is to inventory as many species as possible in a 24 hour period, including plants, invertebrates, and wildlife. The Park Service uses these surveys of biodiversity to serve their mission of preserving natural resources – they need to know what is there in order to implement the best management strategies. This was the first BioBlitz done in the area in 15 years!

Our plan was to hike down the Rock Castle Gorge along a creek and count birds along the way. Some confusion with trail signs took us down an “alternative” route, but we made it eventually, it just took a few hours longer than planned!

During the hike we identified 31 species of birds, including some migratory warblers that were on their way to their tropical wintering grounds. Some of our favorites included a red-headed woodpecker, ovenbird, yellow-throated vireo, and a stunning male blackburian warbler. We had a great time and were happy to contribute to wildlife preservation efforts in our area.

–Laura Schoenle
PhD Candidate & Interfaces of Global Change Fellow