UNION COUNTY, NJ - What kinds of crawling, hopping, walking, flying, swimming and slithering creatures can you meet in Union County’s Kawameeh Park, Black Brook Park and Galloping Hill Golf Course? You can find out by coming to the 12th annual Union County Bio-Blitz, taking place this year on Friday June 10 and Saturday June 11.

At Bio-Blitz, scores of volunteer scientists comb through forests, fields, and waterways to survey flora and fauna. Nature fans of all ages are invited to come and observe the work, and enjoy free hands-on activities during the 24-hour, ‘round-the-clock event.

“As one of Union County’s most popular events, Bio-Blitz has become an annual rite of spring for hundreds of residents and visitors,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen. “It enables them to experience a close encounter with our natural environment, while scientists create a record of species diversity in our public parks.”

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Bio-Blitz 2016 begins at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, June 10, when teams of experts fan out to catalog species in all three parks.

The main staging area for public activities, “Bio-Blitz Central,” also opens beginning at 5:00. Bio-Blitz Central is located off Kawameeh Drive in Kawameeh Park. The survey teams also stage their outdoor labs there, and visitors are welcome to come and mingle with the scientists and ask questions about their work.

“Bio-Blitz is a unique, fun opportunity to enjoy the rich legacy of conservationists from our past, and to learn from a new generation of naturalists and scientists,” said Freeholder Vice Chairman Sergio Granados, the Freeholder Board’s liaison to the Parks Department.

At Bio-Blitz Central, visitors can enjoy hands-on activities and displays, including traditional favorites like exhibits of live fish, snakes and turtles, the hands-on tree table, a live hawk and owl demonstration by Giselle Smisko, and the Junior Scientist tent for youngsters.

Visitors can also sign up for scheduled activities and tours. The scheduled activities and guided walks kick off with a wild edible walk at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, followed by a hands-on nature photography workshop by local nature photographer Jackie Dickert. Participants should bring their cameras or smart phones.

Also on Friday, the Frog Slog with Trailside Nature & Science Center naturalists will have participants searching for frogs, toads, tadpoles and more in a nearby wetland.

After dark the fun continues with an “owl prowl,” led by Emile DeVito, a late-night star watch with Marc Rogoff, a presentation by naturalist Blaine Rothauser under the Bio-Blitz Central tent titled “Moths: the Silent Majority,” and an insect-trapping session.

On Saturday, the public can join members of the Bird Team for an early morning bird walk at 7:00 a.m., or help the Mammal Team search for mammals while checking live traps and track stations to see who was roaming the woods at night.

Stream Play, led by the Aquatic Insect Team and Trailside, will take visitors on a stream-sampling expedition. An electro-fishing demonstration by the Fish Team and the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, a hunt for spore-bearing plants, and a nearby “Mini-Blitz” are among many other activities Saturday activities scheduled from early morning until Bio-Blitz comes to an end at 5:00 p.m.

Highlights this year include a return visit by the Northern New Jersey Cachers, who will provide a geocaching demonstration. In a first for Bio-Blitz, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services will present a new program about Canada goose management for the homeowner.

Convenient, free street parking is available on Kawameeh Drive and in the adjacent Kawameeh Middle School parking lot. Overflow parking will also be available at the Union Township municipal parking lot, where free shuttles will take participants to and from Bio-Blitz Central.

Bio-Blitz 2016 prizes include colorful native plants donated by Toadshade Wildflower Farm and an exclusive guided tour of nearby South Mountain Reservation by noted ecologist Dr. Emile DeVito of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Rahway River Watershed Association (date to be arranged with the prizewinner).

Free giveaways are also available from other exhibitors, and visitors to the Junior Scientist tent can get a free bird identification chart and other prizes when they play “Bio-Blitz Bingo.”

All Bio-Blitz activities are free and open on a walk-in basis. Visitors are asked to sign up for scheduled activities when they arrive at Bio-Blitz Central, and to be aware of recommended age groups for some of the activities. 

The Union County parks system is one of the first county-based park systems to be created in the entire country. Its roots date back to the 1920’s, when local conservationists successfully urged the preservation of open space in the rapidly developing suburbs.

Since then, the original group of five parks has grown to include 36 parks that host hundreds of species of plants and animals, along with numerous facilities for team sports and fitness including boating, hiking, biking, ice skating swimming, picnicking, cross-country skiing, fishing, horseback riding and archery.

Bio-Blitz is sponsored by the Freeholder Board with the generous assistance of volunteer scientists and support staff, and numerous local businesses and organizations including Shoprite of Clark, Sledgehammer Coffee Works of Cranford, Whole Foods of Union, Jenkinsons Aquarium of Point Pleasant, the Staten Island Zoo, the Rahway River Watershed Association, Wild Birds Unlimited of Scotch Plains, BR Environmental,  the Gregorio Family of Elizabeth, XAdmins graphic arts, and Toadshade Wildflower Farm.

Other partners include Kawameeh Middle School Environmental Club, Elizabeth River/Arthur Kill Watershed Association, Groundwork Elizabeth Green Team, New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team, New Jersey Mycological Association, NJDEP Watershed Ambassador Program, NJDEP Office of Communications and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For complete information about Bio-Blitz 2016 including a schedule of programs and activities visit ucnj.org/bio-blitz.

Professional scientists and other knowledgeable experts who are interested in joining a survey team can contact Betty Ann Kelly, Union County Department of Parks and Recreation, at bkelly@ucnj.org.

For all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email info@ucnj.org or use the online Contact Form.

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