Nature Lovers, Observe Local Wildlife and Help Science

The City Nature Challenge is now open, and community scientists are invited to join the critter-cool project.

Mark Sarden/EyeEm/Eric Lowenbach/GDMatt66

Rushing in the door to tell your roommate you just spied a red-tailed hawk?

It can be a thrilling moment as you reenact the swoops the bird dramatically made over the path, the one where you just took your morning walk.

Acting out the antics of two squirrels chasing each other around and around (and around and around) an oak's trunk, all to delight your children?

It's difficult to fully emulate the acrobatics of a fast-moving squirrel, but you surely put your all into clowning like the bushy-tailed critters.

Our friends and family often hear about what animals, plants, and fantastical fungi we've spied on our adventures around Southern California, but there is an annual event that serves as a meaningful megaphone, a research-helping happening that wants to know the animals and plants you've spied over a few spring days.

No bouts of squirrel-cute clowning or arms-held-wide hawk swoops are required to join the City Nature Challenge, which was founded by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and California Academy of Sciences in 2016.

Rather, community scientists — that's all nature lovers who are eager to help science understand our local flora and fauna — only need observe nearby plants and animals over a few spring days, and share their findings via the iNaturalist app.

The 2022 City Nature Challenge is on from April 29 through May 2, and the "Identifying what was found" period lasts from May 3 to 8.

Results will be shared on May 9, and, if recenty years are guides, you can expect thousands of observations from around Southern California, as well as a few rarer discoveries.

What began as a friendly city-to-city showdown has gone worldwide, a "four-day global bioblitz" that is all about inspiring "...people around the world to find and document wildlife in their cities."

In Los Angeles, there is plenty to find and document during the bioblitz, from the House Finches chirping outside your kitchen to the Western Fence Lizard sunning on your neighbor's wall.

Leafy things are part of the challenge, too, so keep an eye out for flowers, fungi, trees, vines, and such.

Your participation helps science, and it is a snap to get started.

The steps? "Find Wildlife," then "Take a Picture," then "Share!" are the good-to-go recommendations from the challenge's organizers.

The Natural History Museum has a number of tips to help guide your observations. "What can you see through your windows?" is one such prompt, while looking down to see what insects are scurring around the ground is another.

Want more helpful questions and suggestions? Find them here.

You don't need to participate all four days, but getting to know the iNaturalist app, if you haven't used it before, is a solid idea; this Natural History Museum page can help with that.

Happy observing, lovers of the hawks, squirrels, and all of the wildlife that gives our region so much of its gorgeous, fascinating, and eternally inspiring character.

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