Growing up on the coast of Massachusetts, I really enjoyed the natural world. I spent a lot of my childhood mucking in tide pools, chasing butterflies, and gardening with native woodland wildflowers. It was a childhood that did a lot to prepare me for my adult life as a biologist and conservationist. I've lived in Illinois over half of my life now, and it is here that these interests have blossomed into my career and resulted in a lot of interaction with the local conservation community. Although my biological family still lives in Massachusetts and I return frequently, I've never had any contact with the environmental community in the Northeast. That may be changing.
Last August, Leon and I spent a few days with my dad. It was the first time in a while that I'd been back home in the summer. The first time since I'd developed my recent obsession with tiger beetles. While visiting a preserve in my old home town, I happened upon a Massachusetts endemic subspecies of the red-bellied tiger beetle, Cicindela rufiventris hentzii. I got some nice photos, blogged about it, and posted the photos to BugGuide.net.
Yesterday I got an unexpected email from an invertebrate zoologizt from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. The email read, in part:
I was perusing BugGuide, and was a bit surprized to find your photo of Cicindela rufiventris hentzii from Agassiz Rock. I was even more surprised when I checked the Massachusetts Natural Heritage Program database and realized that this is a new locality record for this critter, which is listed as a Threatened species in Massachusetts.Wow. And I wasn't even trying to find it. Some further email exchange revealed that there is one extant location in the extreme south of Essex County, an old (1891) record from Gloucester, and my recent find. That's it for Essex County. The habitat that I found it is, however, is one that is very familiar to me from my childhood. I can think of at least half a dozen other locations that could be home to the critter. I'm pretty sure that I know where the Gloucester specimen came from. I'm pretty sure that it's an intact site, so the population may persist. How cool would it be to relocate it after 118 years?
I'm going to be home next June, which is within the flight time for this beetle. The invertebrate zoologist has expressed an interest in having me show him the site where I found it, and scoping out some nearby possibilities. My lack of interaction with the Massachusetts conservation community appears to be ending.