Anika Fink walked slowly through an overgrown garden at Leigh Farm Park, searching for beetles, spiders and other types of crawlers to add to her specimen jar.
Anika, 7, was one of about a dozen people searching the property in an arthropod hike Saturday afternoon, one of the scavenger hunts through nature sponsored by the Piedmont Wildlife Center.
Throughout the day, participants looked for birds, butterflies, ladybugs, plants – everything growing, crawling, swimming or flying on the property.
The wildlife center has sponsored the BioBlitz for the past few years in an effort to identify as many species as possible, said Sara Steffen, conservation coordinator.
“We want to see if things are changing, to see any changes in the environment,” Steffen said.
An early-morning bird hike recorded 39 species.
On Saturday, the day after Earth Day, people throughout the region took the chance to connect to the natural world, to discover that some of the plants they’ve been tossing in the yard waste are edible, and learn that used and broken items long considered trash can be recycled.
Raleigh City Farm was celebrating its fourth “bearthday” Saturday with morning tours of the urban farm on North Blount Street, activities for children and vendors’ displays.
Piedmont Picnic Project had an array of edible weeds. Turns out some of the greenery trampled underfoot can be eaten. Justin Senkbeil of CompostNow, a company that collects food scraps from homes and businesses and returns compost, looked out on the green and red blanket of farm plants and extolled the value of good dirt.
“You don’t have this without soil,” Senkbeil said.
For neighbors, the celebration made for a convenient visit to the farm half of farm-to-fork.
“I think it’s a great thing to use some open space in downtown Raleigh,” said Justin Boner, who watched his young children make paper crowns.
For those thinking of music rather than plants, Harry’s Guitar Shop in Raleigh collected guitar strings for recycling and exchanged them for new ones, a program offered through the company D’Addario.
Owner Harry Tueting said this is his first year offering string recycling. He liked the idea of eliminating waste.
It may not make a big change in the world, he said, but “it’s the right thing to do.”
Back in Durham, the BioBlitz had drawn about 150 people by mid-afternoon.
The hikes and programs are family attractions, said Steffen, “for toddlers to seniors and everybody in between.”
It was a time for experienced arthropod hunters to show their skills.
Anika, who lives in Cary, fearlessly trapped a bee in her specimen jar and was loath to part with it.
“Do we get our bugs back?” she asked.
The hikes made for some surprises. Alma Lee, 5, her 7-year-old brother Henry, and their mother, Katie Rehkopf of Chapel Hill, saw a marbled salamander, the official state salamander, regurgitate a tadpole.
“It was something to behold,” Rehkopf said.
And a salamander sighting to record for the database.