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Community scienceConservationNANPA

Get Ready for City Nature Challenge

By April 5, 2023No Comments
Cliff Swallows © David Cook

Cliff Swallows © David Cook

By David Cook, NANPA Conservation Committee Chair

As nature photographers, many of us enjoy visiting beautiful locations and photographing charismatic wildlife.  This is one reason that NANPA Regional Events and photo workshops are so popular.  But there are many opportunities to photograph close to home, in our urban areas. The City Nature Challenge from April 28 – May 1 is a great chance to explore and photograph the wonders of nature in your own city and share them with others through iNaturalist.

Scudder's Bush Katydid on a flower. © David Cook

Scudder’s Bush Katydid on a flower. © David Cook

The City Nature Challenge started as a friendly competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco over 15 years ago.  Since then, it’s grown to over 300 cities around the globe.  In last year’s Challenge over 50,000 species were recorded by over 67,000 participants in urban areas around the planet.  In North America,  the greatest number of species recorded in last year’s Challenge was in the Houston/Galveston area with over 3,400 different species observed including threatened and vulnerable species like Lanceleaf Arrowhead (Sagittaria lancifolia.) and Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera ). My hometown, Austin, TX had 19.,480 observations of 2,872 species including 8 observations of our endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler. Threatened species don’t only live in exotic habitats.

City Nature Challenge isn’t the only iNaturalist project that NANPA is involved with. We’re participating in a variety of iNaturalist collection projects, started the Lost Words project, and have supported bioblitzes on Nature Photography Day, June 15. If the whole idea of iNaturalist is new to you, take a look at the video by Dani Davis that explains it all.  Stay tuned for details on more 2023 plans.

Golden-cheeked Warbler © David Cook

Golden-cheeked Warbler © David Cook

How do you participate?  It’s easy. Get outside and observe nature in your urban area from April 28 – May 1 and upload those observations to iNaturalist.  Check out the City Nature Challenge site for a list of participating cities and FAQs. Participating cities have iNaturalist projects that will automatically include all observations in their city during that time period.  You don’t have to do anything to have your observations included other than log them in iNaturalist. You can search in iNaturalist for the City Nature Challenge project for your city to see how your urban area is doing.

Not only is this a great chance to get outside and observe nature, but it gets the competitive juices flowing and also provides valuable data to researchers in the form of your observations.  You don’t have to worry about great light, or compelling composition (although it will probably be hard for NANPA members to not worry about those things), just get out and record what you see.  From plants and insects, to fish, birds and mammals.

Texas Eyed Click Beetle © David Cook

Texas Eyed Click Beetle © David Cook

If you have participated in the City Nature Challenge in the past think about getting some others involved.  Our local nature organization is hosting a City Nature Challenge evening hike to record observations.  It’s a great opportunity to observe the biodiversity close to home and introduce others to some of the wonders of nature in their own backyard.