City Nature Challenge 2023

Four days of non-stop naturalist observations; a deepening of appreciation for the life around us

Table of Contents

The Observation period for City Nature Challenge 2023 came to a conclusion at midnight last night, and at least for our region it seems to have been a resounding success. 

For my part I submitted 366 observations of potentially 291 different species in the four days of observation. I have a few more audio recordings of birds that may push me closer to 375 observations, but that’s about it. I may end up with more species eventually, based on how this next week goes. 

This week, May 2-8, will be the Identification period, where everyone makes sure they’ve posted everything to iNaturalist, and then we all go in and help to confirm the identification of their observations to hopefully get them to Research Grade, an iNat shorthand for “we are pretty sure this is an accurate observation of this particular species, so if you want to use this data for your own research purposes, you can probably include this observation (but should probably still check outliers, etc etc etc).” I have quite a few moths and other insects that I can only identify to Genus, so my species count may end up a little different than it is now after things have all been confirmed.

What I’m feeling now, as I rest and enjoy a much more typical day of observing nature, goes well beyond data.

After Master Naturalist training last year and the trips to Texas and Costa Rica so far this year, this CNC was shaping up to be the new high water mark as far as my naturalist skills go, and it certainly lived up to that. I can already feel the change in my Eye, a further deepening of seeing the web of how everything is connected and how there is so much life and so much thriving.

I am realizing so much more fully how native plants are the foundation for all of it. 

Hand in hand with that, I am realizing how much more I need to work with the plants, and how much more I need to just try to plant stuff here, transplant stuff, just try try try. Each growing season is an opportunity to grow the relationships with these plant friends as well.

As the relationships and understanding deepen, as I meet the insect friends who like to live on and eat and have babies in and on these plants, as I meet the birds that like to come and glean those insects and eventually fruit from the plant, as I learn which parts of the property support different plants and their animal friends, my role in all of it can only become clearer.

But I have to keep getting my hands dirty. A few transplants have gone poorly recently and that took the wind out of my sails a little bit, but I just have to keep growing.

Male Blackburnian Warbler gleaning food on Sunday morning Male Blackburnian Warbler gleaning food on Sunday morning. It was my best ever look at one.
Tulip tree beauty moth resting on a white sheet. The most is intricately patterned in black and brown wavy lines on an overall tan/white body A Tulip Tree Beauty resting on the moth sheet. These were probably my most beautiful moth seen over the four days, and this was my first time seeing them. I found a new place for the moth sheet that was much more productive than previous attempts.
Three wild hogs rooting in the forest in the distance My first ever encounter with feral hogs -- thankfully they wanted nothing to do with me.
A male Eastern Bluebird sits in a pine tree. The bird is bright royal blue on its head and wings, with a strong burnt orange chest and white belly. Our resident male Eastern Bluebird checking me out from his perch in the pine tree. Definitely seeing a lot more of him than the female these days, which makes me hope that she's sitting on some eggs.