A naturalist reveals some of the wonders of the natural world found right around the Washington, DC Metropolitan area using his own photography and his life-long experiences. I invite you to also check out my other award winning social media platforms: Facebook Group "Capital Naturalist" or YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv8LHf1hHCEU3UHdpb-8Mng) or follow me on Twitter: @CapNaturalist.
This year's City Nature Challenge was another great global citizen science event. 445 cities particpated world wide representing 47 countries, with 64,095 people partcipating making 1,568,469 observations of 50,167 different species! While this year like the last two years was not seen as a world wide competition, La Paz would have won the competition, with 137,374 observations made by 4,305 people to find 4,388 species. But our region did extermeely well! The DC region, which included Arlington and the rest of the Metropoiltain region well into Maryland and even with one county in West Virginia, was impressive! You can skip the "Global Project" part as that was a multi-city project with any of the rankings.
Had this been a competition, the DC region would have placed 5th in the number of observations with 38,148 observations. We would have placed in 7th in number of species with 2,576 species. Not bad when comparing yourself with some tropical cities like Rio where they have such tremendous biodiversity. But where we really stood out was in the total number of participants. DC came in 2nd with 2,110 people partciapting making observations! That's just fantastic, as not only are the results data mined by researchers world wide as part of citizen science, but also shows the interest that this area has in the natural world.
Locally the most common observation were Mayapples with 346 observations, followed by American Robins with 250 observations, then Garlic Mustard (an invasive) with 249 observations in our area. Rounding this up was Poison Ivy again with 249 observations and Christmas Ferns with 241 local observations. Something that stood out to me was the number of Wild Turkeys seen in the DC area with 24 observations. They are getting more common each year. Another thing that stood out was the good number that were Research Grade in our area, meaning they were peer confirmed with two or more identifiers agreeing with the observations. 20,800 or 54.38% of these observations were Research Grade. This year we concentrated on getting more people to not only make observations, but also getting them identified. We had 1,014 Identifiers this time around, with TCAL12345 (don't know his real name) but a master naturalist, being the top local Identifier. Congrats to this person who identified 4,370 observations. In fact, we had the most Identifiers world wide! I take special pride in this, as I along with Deborah Barber, were part of the team of setting up ID nights with taxon resource specialalists to help identify the observations. Thank you to all you taxon resource specialists and others who helped bring this distinction to our area! Most of the observations were of plants with 1,426 observed, or 48.75% of the things seen out the 2,974 species observed.
Personally, I was very happy with what I did this year. I placed second in the number of observations and species for DC (31 worldwide for observations, but 7th in number of species world-wide, a happy accomplishment). I devoted what time I could this time around, but had some commitments during the 4 day period. I had my wedding anniversary for example, which I of course couldn't miss, or my wife would kill me! I also had an invite to attend the Washington Biologists' Field Club shad bake at their headquarters on Plummers Island, which many say is the most studied island in the country. I've been under consideration to join this storied 120 year old field biologist club that only has 65 active members, and so I was not going to turn down the invite which had been stalled due to COVID. This however led to my two favorite observations for this City Nature Challenge, both for very different reasons.
The first was of an Eastern Copperhead, the only venemous snake we have within the Beltway. He was basking right next to the impromptu outhouse that was set-up on the island. It was quite a surprise to everyone when it was found it, especially for the botanists that make up most of the Club. This was a neonate, a very young copperhead, complete with its yellowish pea-green tail. This is a caudal lure. The young snake wiggles the tail tip which may appear to be alive and attract another predator such a skink (lizard) to try and catch it, and thus become food for the snake. The color fades fairly quickly after a few sheds and so this was a very young snake. It was very patient and as usual very non-threatening. Always neat to find one.
The other one of my favorite finds was a very rare plant, the Coville's Phacelia. I foundit within yards of their cabin head quarters. This was not only great due ti its imited distribution and raraity, but also beacuse the original scientist who discovered it, F.C. Coville, was a Washington Biologists' Field Club member, who made the discovery right there on the same island. This was a very special treat for me. More about htis rare plant here:
Locally in Arlington, which falls into the DC count circle, there were 140 observers, who made 4,252 observations of 924 species, with 324 identifiers. A good showing. I'll look into what they observed to see if there are any locally rare species to investigate, or to see if there are new invasives that we should also investigate. You can see the Arlington results here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=1719&project_id=city-nature-challenge-2022-washington-dc-metro-area&verifiable=any
This infographic gives the best summary of what went on. Thanks to Ana Ka'ahnui for putting together this information in the final infographic. All in all, a good City Nature Challenge! Congrats to all! I will have some work to do see what information I can glean locally, but until then, thanks to everyone who made this happen! You did a great job and should be proud of these efforts! You can click on any of the images to make them bigger. Until next year, thanks again for making this year such a success!