As of February 13, 2020, 71 participants in our Biodiversity Squamish project have recorded 7753 observations of 1754 species in the Howe Sound watershed. No one knows how many species there are yet to be observed and recorded. Undoubtedly, there are thousands of insect species yet to find, and there have been only about 700 documented for our area.
The graph below shows species counts at the end of 2019. Our project incorporates historical records, mostly from the Royal BC Museum and UBC’s Beaty Biodiversity Museum. When we have an observation recorded in iNaturalist to match a historical record, we count the species as “confirmed/observed” (the blue bars). When the species has been reported in the historical records but we have not observed it, we count the species as (you guessed it) “reported/unobserved” (the orange bars). A species we have observed, but which does not have a historical record, is considered “new” (the grey bars). It’s no surprize that we have records of more plant species than any other, but it is surprising that there are more than 400 recorded plant species that we have not yet observed. We have observed more new insect species than were previously recorded: this is what can happen when people start to look closely and have a way to record and share what they see!
Our observations of birds tell a very different story. The Upper Howe Sound birding checklist and Squamish Estuary birding checklist, both developed by our Squamish birders, include 283 species, as of the last revision in 2014. Through Biodiversity Squamish, we have recorded observations of all those species, as well as 19 new species. We expect to continue to record new species but in low numbers. Our project contributors have observed five BC blue-listed (special concern) species: Olive-sided Flycatcher, Caspian Tern, American Golden Plover, Wandering Tattler, and Ancient Murrelet. We have also observed one BC red-listed (endangered) species, the Common Murre. There are just three historical records from the Royal BC Museum that we haven’t observed: Screech Owl, Ruffed Grouse, and the blue-listed Marbled Murrelet. We have a lead on an observation of a Screech Owl and a Ruffed Grouse could be possible, but seeing a Marbled Murrelet seems less likely.
Update: As of February 16, 2020, we now have an observation of a Western Screech Owl, and that reduces to two the number of historical records from the Royal BC Museum that we have not backed up with an observation and photo.
Photo above: This male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak visited a feeder in Garibaldi Highlands in June, 2017. It is recorded in Biodiversity Squamish, along with an earlier observation of the same species at the same location from April, 2011. This species is not included in the birding checklists for our area, and is considered accidental (“only one on record for season noted, out of range, or unusual season of occurrence”).