Acton-Boxborough BioBlitz identified 514 species of plants and animals

July 22, 2023

For the first half of June, many residents of Acton and Boxborough spent time outdoors observing and documenting plants and animals in their neighborhoods, conservation areas, and other public areas. This activity is called a “BioBlitz,” and it is made easier with a smartphone application called iNaturalist.

Despite the rainy weather and bad air quality, community naturalists identified snapping turtles, bobolinks, running crab spiders, water snakes, mushrooms, and many songbirds, using sight and sound. Some of the species observed were common, such as the multiflora rose and the American Robin, but some were less abundant, such as the predaceous plant Jack in the Pulpit, and the ruby throated hummingbird. Insects observed included dragonflies, damselflies, bees and beetles. One observer noticed a great blue heron feeding in the wetlands along the Assabet River Bike Trail between Acton and Maynard. Even sounds of birds and coyotes were recorded.

A BioBlitz encourages participants to celebrate and document biodiversity, or the richness of life, in a short window of time within a limited area. Protection of habitat leads to more biodiversity, helps ecosystems withstand invasive species better, and keeps carbon and water in the ground which combats climate change and protects our drinking water resources.

The iNaturalist tool is a smart phone and online application that allows users to snap pictures and identify images using visual recognition technology. iNaturalist encourages people to learn more about the species observed, and is rich with information, much of which is contributed by communities of professional and community scientists. This crowdsourcing effort has helped to document the presence and range of species across the world.

close up photograph of yellow and black butterfly on a leaf
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, on June 14 in Great Hill Conservation Land. Photo credit: Leah Whitehouse

Thirty people made 1030 observations of 514 species in Acton and Boxborough during the roughly two-week window. Four people, described as “super-observers,” contributed about 70 percent of the observations. In addition to the 30 observers, there were 182 identifiers, who validated or confirmed our observations. More details about the Nature of Acton and Boxborough project is available at

There are more than 3000 acres of conservation land in Acton and Boxborough. The BioBlitz organizers encouraged participants to explore these areas. However, most observations were made in easily accessible neighborhoods.

The 2023 BioBlitz followed observations made in spring of 2021 as part of the annual International City Nature Challenge. During the April/May 2021 City Nature Challenge, local participants observed 466 species in four days, comparing favorably to the June BioBlitz results.

The Acton-Boxborough 2023 BioBlitz was a collaboration of the Acton Conservation Trust, Boxborough Conservation Trust, Energize Acton, the Sustainability Office of the Town of Acton and people from Green Acton, Acton PIP Stem, Acton Men’s Outdoor Club, the Discovery Museum, and Congregation Beth Elohim participated.


Help support the cost of bringing accurate, relevant news to the Acton community.


Sign up to receive a weekly email newsletter providing links to our new articles.


Look here to access all articles in your areas of interest.