Journal archives for June 2021

June 27, 2021

June 27 OOTD: Redroot Pigweed!

Today’s Observation of the Day is the first member of Plantae highlighted as OOTD, the Redroot Pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus). This observer captured the first member of this species to be found at Merck Forest and Bennington County! A. retroflexus is a species of flowering plant in the amaranth family and can be eaten as a vegetable when cooked. However, it has developed a reputation as a weed, and it is possibly toxic to cattle and pigs in large amounts over several days. (Source)

This individual was located on the farm at Merck and was probably a “weed”. This participant didn’t have to travel far from the Visitor’s Center to find something special. You never know when you will find a new species right under your feet!

Join us July 24th and July 25th to find some interesting observations of your own!

Links
Merck Forest Website Event Page
Merck Forest Registration Page
iNaturalist Project Page

Posted on June 27, 2021 18:19 by maxmiley maxmiley | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 28, 2021

June 28 OOTD: Fork-tailed Bush Katydid!

Today’s OOTD is the the Fork-tailed Bush Katydid (Scudderia furcata). This observation is another first-identified species for Merck Forest and Bennington County. S. furcata is a species in the katydid family, Tettigoniidae, whose members are primarily nocturnal, feed on herbaceous and woody plant matter, and exhibit mimicry and camouflage with shapes and colors similar to leaves. If you don’t look closely, you might miss some interesting insects like this friend!

We hope to see you July 24th and 25th for the 3rd Annual Merck Forest BioBlitz!

Posted on June 28, 2021 17:57 by maxmiley maxmiley | 0 comments | Leave a comment

What is iNaturalist?: A short answer for Merck Forest's purposes!

We hope you’re getting excited for the 3rd Annual Merck Forest BioBlitz!

Check out this Facebook post or this iNaturalist guide if you’re still wondering what a BioBlitz is. At Merck Forest, we use iNaturalist to document BioBlitz data in addition to year-round monitoring of life on the property. Today we are going to explain a bit about what iNaturalist is and how it works.

According to iNaturalist.org, “iNaturalist provides a place to record and organize nature findings, meet other nature enthusiasts, and learn about the natural world.” iNaturalist is a key player in the recent citizen science movement which encourages anybody to gather scientific data about the world around them. iNaturalist, and other platforms like it such as eBird, have allowed scientists, private and public landowners, and natural resource managers to access new data they would have never had the time or workforce to obtain.

The main mode of gathering data in iNaturalist, and during Merck Forest’s BioBlitz, is through “observations.” An observation records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and location. For the purpose of Merck’s BioBlitz effort, this is a picture of an organism that provides enough detail to identify it. Making an observation for most users is as easy as taking a picture, uploading it to iNaturalist, giving it some sort of identification (don’t worry, iNaturalist helps you with this!), and submitting!

Check out this iNaturalist page for answers to all your questions about what iNaturalist and observations are, and check out today’s Observation of the Day for a great example of an observation! Note the quality of the picture, the time, date, and location, and an identification made by the observer.

We hope this has resolved some uncertainties and built some confidence in you on-the-fence-ers, and we encourage you to get out and try iNaturalist before coming to Merck Forest's 3rd Annual BioBlitz on July 24th and 25th!

Links
Merck Forest Website Event Page
Merck Forest Registration Page
iNaturalist Project Page
Facebook Event Page

Posted on June 28, 2021 17:52 by maxmiley maxmiley | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 29, 2021

June 29 OOTD: Northern Parula!

Today’s OOTD is the first (and only!) iNaturalist identification of this member of Aves on the Merck Forest property, and our first bird as OOTD! The Northern Parula (Setophaga americana) is a small, blueish gray warbler with yellow highlights that hops around in the upper canopy plucking insects. The genus Setophaga is derived from Ancient Greek words meaning “moth” and “eating” which is well-suited for this organism. It, and other members of the genus Setophaga, has speciated through adaptive radiation, where the closely related species have developed different feeding techniques and often feed on insects in different parts of the canopy. (Source)


Many birds, especially quick, small warblers like the Northern Parula, are difficult to capture with a smart phone, which is probably why iNaturalist isn’t the most popular way to document birds. However, for wildlife photographers amateur or professional, BioBlitzes are a perfect intersect between hobby, profession, and science. If you enjoy the hunt of capturing photos of these elusive animals, make Merck Forest’s BioBlitz 2021 an excuse to do that while contributing to citizen science!

For individuals concerned with licensing, do not be worried! While logged into iNaturalist, follow this link and update your profile to the licensing settings that fit your needs.

The more popular portal for logging bird observations is eBird. Although Merck Forest’s Conservation Team isn’t taking BioBlitz data from eBird (yet!), we will provide information and modest support to help participants use eBird during BioBlitz 2021. Keep an eye on the Facebook Event discussion board and the iNaturalist Project Journal page between now and BioBlitz 2021 (July 24th and 25th) for those materials!

You can check out all the iNaturalist bird photography observations on Merck Forest’s property here.

We hope to see you July 24th and 25th for Merck Forest’s BioBlitz 2021!

Links
Merck Forest Website Event Page
Merck Forest Registration Page
iNaturalist Project Page
Facebook Event Page

Posted on June 29, 2021 13:42 by maxmiley maxmiley | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 25, 2021

First Observation of the Day: The Gray Hairstreak!

Today we are unveiling the first Merck Forest BioBlitz 2021 Observation of the Day (OOTD)! Every day until July 24th we’ll be highlighting a rare, impressive, or otherwise interesting iNaturalist observation that was collected during last year's Merck Forest BioBlitz 2020. These observations will give you some insight into what species you could find during our upcoming BioBlitz, so keep an eye on this project's journal, or follow along on the Merck Forest and Farmland Center's Facebook page.

Today’s OOTD is the first and only Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) observed at Merck Forest, and this observation is the first identification of this species in Bennington County! The Gray Hairstreak is a small butterfly in the second largest family of butterflies, Lycaenidae. The caterpillar and adult stages of S. melinus do not have a particular preference for habitat, so they can be found across almost the entire North American continent (Source). Shout-out to Tim Duclos, the Conservation Manager at Merck Forest, for capturing this observation!

If collecting and identifying insects is especially of interest to you, there will be bug nets and insect collection boxes available for check-out at BioBlitz 2021. We hope to see you there!

Links
Merck Forest Website Event Page
Merck Forest Registration Page
iNaturalist Project Page

Posted on June 25, 2021 17:30 by maxmiley maxmiley | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 26, 2021

June 26 OOTD: Hare's Foot Inkcap!

Today's Observation of the Day is another first for Merck Forest and Bennington County: the Hare's Foot Inkcap (Coprinopsis lagopus)! This observation is a perfect example of the value of taking pictures from different angles in iNaturalist to help identify the species. For mushrooms, pictures of the cap (top), gills or other spore-bearing structures under the cap, and stem will make your observation much more likely to get identified.


The Hare's Foot Inkcap is named for its (slight) resemblance to a hare's foot on the forest floor, and its tendency to dissolve into a blank ink after only a few hours, also called deliquescence. This BioBlitz participant got lucky to see it before it disappeared!

Check out this link to see all the observations of Fungi at Merck Forest BioBlitz 2020.

Have a fungi-filled Saturday and check back tomorrow for another OOTD!

Links
Merck Forest Website Event Page
Merck Forest Registration Page
iNaturalist Project Page

Posted on June 26, 2021 15:34 by maxmiley maxmiley | 1 comment | Leave a comment

June 30, 2021

Sign up for Merck Forest's 3rd Annual BioBlitz!

Happy Wednesday Merck community! We are 24 days away from Merck Forest’s 3rd Annual BioBlitz and the excitement is building! Today’s post is going to cover exactly how you sign up and prepare for the BioBlitz.

If you’re still wondering what a BioBlitz is, check out this Facebook post or this iNaturalist explanation.

The three most important steps in preparing for the BioBlitz are:

  1. Register for the BioBlitz on the Merck Forest website here
  2. Print out and bring a Merck Forest liability waiver to the event (the link will initiate a download)
  3. Create or login to an iNaturalist account and then join the Merck Forest BioBlitz 2021 Project here by clicking “Join”

If you’re still unsure about what iNaturalist is or how to use it, check out this Facebook post or this iNaturalist journal post.

We highly recommend you try out iNaturalist before coming, but there will be expert guidance on how to use iNaturalist at Merck Forest during the BioBlitz!

Other things to consider when preparing for the BioBlitz:

  • Bring enough food and water to get you through the day; snacks and drinks can also be purchased at the Visitor’s Center
  • Check the weather and wear appropriate clothing
  • Bring field guides if you have them! There will be various field guides available for check out, and keep an eye out for a post about online resources you can use on a smart device

See you in 24 days!

Links
Merck Forest Website Event Page
Merck Forest Registration Page
iNaturalist Project Page
Facebook Event Page

Posted on June 30, 2021 15:28 by maxmiley maxmiley | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 30th OOTD: Milky Backswimmer!

Today’s OOTD is a little aquatic insect in the genus Notonecta called a Milky Backswimmer. This odd-looking creature is a fierce predator to prey as large as tadpoles or small fish! Though this observation is not to the species level, it is the first of its genus to be identified on the Merck Forest property and in Bennington County!

Members of this genus are known to be able to inflict a painful “bite” on humans with their sharp mouthparts, or proboscis. Hopefully this observer didn’t suffer that fate!

Though Milky Backswimmers are aquatic, they can fly! This helps them get a fresh supply of oxygen from the air, and it helps them disperse from one microhabitat to another.
(Sources1 2)

Join us on July 24th and July 24th at Merck Forest to explore and find some unidentified organisms during BioBlitz 2021!

Links

Merck Forest Website Event Page
Merck Forest Registration Page
iNaturalist Project Page
Facebook Event Page

Photograph: © Zac Cota (CC BY-NC)

Posted on June 30, 2021 15:36 by maxmiley maxmiley | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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