Second annual BioBlitz provides a peek into the island’s diversity

Last spring a large group of islanders spent 24 hours at the Neill Point Natural Area photographing bugs, live-trapping animals, listening for bird songs and scouring the shoreline at low tide to see what sea creatures were unveiled.

Dozens have already signed up to do it again at the second annual BioBlitz, a volunteer-run biological survey slated to take place this weekend at the Fern Cove-Shinglemill Preserve.

“It really opens your eyes to how much life is here,” said Bianca Perla, a local ecologist who heads the Vashon Nature Center, which organizes the event.

“It’s a really amazing experience, even for people used to being in nature,” she said.

BioBlitzes are not unique to Vashon. Similar biological surveys have been held since the 1990s all over the world, from the coast of New Zealand to New York’s Central Park.

On Vashon, the Shinglemill Creek and Fern Cove area was chosen for this year’s survey because, like the south end’s Neill Point, the preserve has a varied landscape that includes a creek and forest and shoreline areas. Plus, Perla said, last year’s volunteers were excited about the prospect of exploring a place that’s popular among Vashon hikers and beachgoers.

“Most people jumped at doing Shinglemill. It was just really popular with the participants last year,” she said.

Like last year, there will be opportunities for both wildlife experts and those looking to learn a little to get involved. Perla said about 40 naturalists — those skilled in identifying plants, birds, insects or animals — have already signed up to take part in this weekend’s event. Naturalists will be teamed up with others volunteers who may not have a science background but can spot species, take photos or help keep records.

“It’s a neat community building event as well,” she said.

Volunteers will again lure small mammals to live traps, attract flying insects to a light at night and take inventory of the beach during low tide — a -3.6-foot tide at about 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Perla said those who really wanted to “get their hands dirty” should consider stopping by at low tide.

“You can get a lot of people on the beach there,” she said.

Last year’s crew counted more than 350 species of plants and animals at Neill Point. The findings, Perla said, will help start a database of Vashon’s biological makeup, something that hasn’t existed before now. Some of the most exciting finds last year included a vagrant shrew, a seal and sea lion near the beach, a predaceous diving beetle eating salamander larvae and Henderson’s sedge, a plant that surprised the botanists.

Perla said she was excited to see what f species this year’s event will uncover, not only to help create a database, but to help islanders get a feel for the wide variety of plants and creatures that live on Vashon.

“It opens a whole new world on Vashon, I think,” she said. “It helps us just feel more connected to the larger-than-human community that we share the island with.”


The BioBlitz will be held at the Fern Cove-Shinglemill Preserve from 3 p.m. Saturday to 3 p.m. Sunday, with the event headquarters by the carriage house at Fern Cove. Drop-ins are welcome, but those wishing to join a team and volunteer for longer periods of time should contact Parking at Fern Cove is limited

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