City Nature Challenge 2020: The Maritimes Umbrella Project's News

February 13, 2020

Attention all iNatters – are you aware that this weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count?

Did you listen to the CBC radio this morning and hear about the Great Backyard Bird Count? Are you keen to participate but aren’t an expert birder and feel timid about sharing your observations? If yes, read on!

Let’s use the GBBC as a simple iNat training exercise.
Let’s assume that you have a birdfeeder in your back yard. Now grab a coffee, your camera, and a pad of paper. Have your watch or some other timing device handy.
Set a timer for 15 minutes.
Take photos of any visitors to your feeder. They may not all be birds!
Count the number of individuals for different types of birds. (you don’t need to know the species – you just need to know that they look different – and you may in the end be counting male birds of a species versus female birds).

Upload your photos to iNaturalist
• if you have multiple photos of one species/gender then combine as one observation on iNat.
• In the iNat description box enter text similar to the following – ‘Observed visitors to birdfeeder over a 15 minute period as part of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). [insert number] [insert species name] were observed over this time period’
• Enter your location info and assign a placeName. Pin this location.
• Upload your observations to iNaturalist

Check iNat later in the day and see if your observations have been identified by the community and if they are now all tagged as ResearchGrade.

Perhaps you wish to stop here or maybe you are keen and want to share with the GBBC project - For information on how to get started see
Follow the GBBC directions - use your pinned location and enter your iNat species checklist along with counts.

Repeat later in the same day or at a different location or different day.

(you may need a practice run to get organized – during my first attempt I was sitting too far away from the window to take photos and when I moved closer I scared them away – so get positioned first!
During my first practice run I saw 2 song sparrows, 1 junco, and a squirrel

Have fun and happy iNatting!

For more info on the GBBC click here

Posted on February 13, 2020 14:44 by mkkennedy mkkennedy | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 11, 2020

Data and Statistics – You must know your data in order to understand the statistics!

Here are interesting iNat statistics related to observations of crabs from around Nova Scotia as of 2020-02-11. There were 470 observations; 8 species; 75 identifiers; 177 observers.

The number of observations of the various species were as follows: European green crab 223; Atlantic rock crab 137; Jonah crab 59; Atlantic blue crab 9; Lady crab 3; Atlantic lyre crab 3; Portly spider crab 1; Snow crab 1.

Perhaps keep in mind when viewing stats that the high counts of one species or observations from one specific area may be related to data quests and not necessarily reflect true species distribution.

iNaturalist is an excellent way to share observations of invasive species and we would like to encourage everyone who is out exploring our coastal areas and/or in or on the water to share their observations. But remember to also share observations of the common species not just the exotic/unusual/rare!

To view the collection of crabs observed around Nova Scotia currently posted in iNaturalist click here

Posted on February 11, 2020 18:53 by mkkennedy mkkennedy | 1 comments | Leave a comment

February 08, 2020

RATS: Not in my neighbourhood!

Sometime in the past we have had a rat visit our backyard. He and the local squirrel and flocks of starlings seemed to take their turn at our bird feeder. In subsequent visits to the feeder they seem to have established a pecking order and the rat and the squirrel didn’t seem to be bothering the chickadees, sparrows, blue jays, flickers, woodpeckers, cardinals, and nuthatches. Over the years I have posted photos of all visitors except the skinny nosed, long tailed rodent to iNaturalist. I don’t want to admit that we have/had a rat in the neighbourhood.

I suggested to a neighbour that I would try obscuring the location in iNaturalist, but I wasn’t sure what lat/long the software might assign, and I jokingly said that maybe the rat would show up as being observed at her house. She was less than pleased...

So - the other day I realized that I would have to read the iNat manual – under HELP there are 2 good articles describing what happens when you set the geoprivacy flag to OBSCURE or PRIVATE. The default is OPEN. see and

Various iNat forums have over the years discussed the subject of posting photos of dead rats – a quick summary is as follows: upload the photo; select the attribute dead/alive; if dead and you know the cause provide details (death by cat|snap trap|poison|etc). One comment in the forum suggests the following: ‘For multiple sighting of dead animals that are all the same species, consider adding a note about how many were caught over a certain time period. You might also–particularly if you are obscuring the location–tell something about the type of environment where the rats were caught.’ (

Today I did a quick check on iNaturalist to see if anyone has been posting observations of rats in iNaturalist. Only 8 have been posted to date in all of HRM! 8 observers posted 1 observation each.

You can view an old photo of mine of a cute little critter hiding in the woodpile under the bird feeder. Back in 2018 I wasn’t aware that one could obscure the exact location. At that time we had a compost pile in our backyard and a couple of bird feeders – it might have been suspicious if I didn’t post a single observation of a rat.

2020 is the Year of the Rat – perhaps the CNC is an appropriate time to recognize that this critter does live in our urban areas. If you aren’t comfortable with providing the exact address, then simply set the geoprivacy flag to ‘obscure’.

FYI: Apparently good shots of paws are diagnostic!

For more information on rats go to and explore - as of today, iNat shows that there are 2 species of rats in Canada: the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus, and the Black rat (Rattus rattus,

Posted on February 08, 2020 18:41 by mkkennedy mkkennedy | 0 comments | Leave a comment

CATS: Is Fluffy wild?

We have an indoor cat who in his 12 years has only spent <20 minutes outdoors. His photo, and photos of other indoor pets should not be posted to iNaturalist. These animals are truly ‘captive’ and iNaturalist is where we are supposed to post photos of ‘wild’ plants/animals.

Our previous cats, however, were outdoor cats and although not officially ‘wild’ they certainly had an affect on the local rodent population. They were excellent predators and over the years there was an assortment of dead critters on our doorstep each morning.

One could argue that the presence of these felines is important to anyone who might wish to study the entire community – on the other hand we do not wish to encourage every cat owner to post a monthly photo of Fluffy. Perhaps one photo once a year of household cat(s) is sufficient.

Perhaps the City Nature Challenge can be treated as an annual census of felines – During our 2020 CNC lets propose/recommend the following: one photo per household with extra info added in the description box - number of cats per household, age, gender, etc. Please do not post separate photos of each cat!

Do not go around the neighbourhood taking photos of your neighbours’ cats. Instead consider knocking on their door and introduce them to iNaturalist and encourage them to participate in the CNC!

As in any set of recommendations there are always exceptions – if during the CNC you happen to catch your cat hunting then consider including a separate photo of Fluffy in predatory mode along with a photo of the prey (preferably alive). If the prey is indeed dead remember to include this attribute. Do not share photos of your cat chasing a leaf…

Of course, it is not necessary to catch the culprit responsible for a rodent kill – observations of dead animals are acceptable in iNaturalist – remember that it is not necessary to include closeups in order to identify the species!

NOTE: Many cities may have a large population of feral cats – these are truly wild and therefore it is appropriate to post their photos on iNaturalist.

Posted on February 08, 2020 18:32 by mkkennedy mkkennedy | 0 comments | Leave a comment

DOGS: Is your dog the reason you are active and get outdoors?

Owning a dog comes with a full set of responsibilities and it does affect ones lifestyle. On the positive side owning a dog is an excellent excuse to get outdoors and get exercise. Many of us venture out on the same routine walk day after day. Perhaps the City Nature Challenge is an excellent opportunity to get out and explore a new location – just remember to take along your camera and/or mobile device and take a few photos of the plants and animals that you observe!

While walking keep your eyes open. Does your dog have a favourite tree? Do you know what kind it is? Consider uploading a photo to iNaturalist – each and every observation counts!

NOTE: We aren’t recommending that you post photos of your dog (no matter how cute or handsome) – but feel free to upload multiple photos of Spot’s favourite tree. Perhaps one photo could include your pet, for scale purposes of course!

Here is the link to the list of HRM off-leash areas Please considering adding comments below describing the locations of your favourite off-leash areas and or favourite walking routes.

The City Nature Challenge is a competition and in order to be respectable we need participation from the entire community – for the 4-day period between April 24-27th please combine observing nature as part of your daily routine!

Posted on February 08, 2020 18:22 by mkkennedy mkkennedy | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 28, 2020

CNC stats and Leaderboards

The goals of the CNC in the Maritimes are simple – we wish to provide an opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to explore nature. A few may stay indoors, a few may explore their immediate neighbourhoods, and others may set out on adventures and cover many 10s/100s of kilometers during the 4 day event.

The CNC is not a typical bioblitz – it is a means to introduce citizen science to our communities and to promote the use of iNaturalist as a tool to share observations of wild plants and animals.

The third letter in CNC is ‘challenge’ and a few Maritimers plan to take this seriously – the friendly banter has started already between a few ‘iNatters’ that participated last year. Its recognize that fact that it is unlikely that our Canadian entries will be near the top of the global leaderboard but it will be interesting to follow changes in the Maritime and Canadian leader boards as the CNC progresses.

Last year HRM almost caught Chicago in the race to the top of the northern climate leaderboard. To view the 2019 stats click here.

The global CNC project page will include a leaderboard where we can see how well individual areas are faring during the 4 day event. We recommend following this page and if you see that we are falling behind in our stats then encourage your friends, neighbours, colleagues, strangers in the street to get out and participate! The stats tracked are the number of participants, the number of observations, and the number of species. Here is the link to the 2019 leaderboard (HRM had 7,646 observations so it doesn’t appear on the first page – you have to click view more!)

In any competition there will be a group of ‘normal’ participants and there will be a group of ‘super players’ (aka geeks/nerds/fanatics). You may hear a bit of banter amongst these iNat addicts as the date of the CNC approaches. You don’t have to join any group to join this group of competitors – you can silently simply get outdoors and start iNatting. Sneak up the leaderboard!

Remember that although observations do need to be recorded between April 24-27th there is a short grace period after the event to upload photos. And remember – just because it is dark doesn’t mean that you can’t find wildlife – look in your basement for spiders or listen outdoors for frogs.

There are leaderboards to climb. Records to set. People to beat.

Good luck to all!

List of umbrella projects with leaderboards to follow:
Northern Climates

And of course remember to follow your own personal stats and contributions to local CNC projects.

Posted on January 28, 2020 02:03 by mkkennedy mkkennedy | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 25, 2020

Looking for new ideas related to iNaturalist? Part 3: Explore places

As mentioned many times, the objectives of our regional CNC projects are to encourage our entire community, old and young alike, to get outdoors, to explore, and to observe nature. Too often we think that we have to leave the Maritimes in order to go on an adventure. We hope that as part of the CNC you will learn that you don’t need to venture far from home.

Do you know exactly what lives just outside your door? Are you prepared to go outside and explore? What plants/weeds are growing in your yard? What lives under the rocks, behind the bushes, in the trees? What is growing next to the street and/or in cracks in the sidewalk?

Do you have a favourite park or green space in your neighbourhood? Plan to go on a solo adventure or get a group together and see if you can find as many species as possible. Challenge your relatives, friends, neighbours, coworkers, fellow dog walkers, anyone with a pulse …

Do you want to find new areas to explore? If you live in the urban Halifax area when was the last time that you explored local parks, gardens, and trails such as Point Pleasant Park, the Dingle (Sir Sandford Fleming Park), Fort Needham, the Public Gardens, or the Frog Pond? Have you ventured over to Dartmouth and visited Birch Cove Park or gone to Admiral Cove Park in Bedford? For more ideas of HRM places to visit click here.

Are you aware of the many trails in your area? Have you walked/hiked/biked/paddled any of the sections of The Great Trail? Check out the following iNat Great Trail umbrella project made for the 2020 CNC.

It isn’t necessary to have a car to get to many locations – perhaps you have access to a bicycle or perhaps you can hop on a bus.

During the CNC we hope that you will have many opportunities to observe nature in many different locations. It is not necessary for everyone to upload photos of every plant/animal that you see to iNaturalist. By signing up to iNat and sharing at least one observation you will help increase the #participants count. If you drag others along to keep you company encourage them to signup as well!

If you are out biking or hiking, consider looking around and observing nature at the start and end of your trip as well as during breaks. If you are keen take a few photos. Remember, photos don’t need to be uploaded to iNat immediately – wait and upload to iNat when back in a free wifi zone.

By sharing observations from many different locations, researchers will have access to a large pool of data required to study local, regional, national, and global geographic variations.

By exploring any location, you personally can gain an appreciation for the biodiversity all around us.

Although the CNC is restricted to a 4-day period following Earth Day we hope that you will enjoy using iNaturalist and will incorporate sharing observations of nature into your regular day to day routine. By exploring locations over periods of time you can/will observe seasonal and climatic changes. By sharing these observations with iNat, researchers (and the public) will have access to the data that they need to manage resources and study climate change.

Encourage others to come explore our Maritime provinces – We are lucky, we simply have to open our door, step outside, and an adventure can begin.

Posted on January 25, 2020 20:21 by mkkennedy mkkennedy | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Looking for new ideas related to iNaturalist? Part 2: Explore online

Generally, when we talk about the Maritimes City Nature Challenge, we state that our objectives are simple – we wish to encourage people of all ages to get outdoors; to explore; to observe nature; to share observations; and to have fun. We have skipped over another important component of iNaturalist – the one where you can stay indoors and explore content already posted to iNat.

At this time of year many avid gardeners are indoors pouring over seed catalogues and making plans for spring. iNatters can also take advantage of inclement weather or long dark evenings and browse iNat content.

April and the City Nature Challenge will be here before we know it. Take advantage of free time now and use the iNat Explore feature to view observations from areas of interest. Perhaps come up with a list of places that you might wish to visit during the CNC. Perhaps there is a list of species that you want to find or gaps in species distribution that you wish to fill. Perhaps there are iNat projects that interest you that you didn't know existed - perhaps share a few of these in the comments section below!

To view iNat content from the six Maritime CNC areas we have set up an umbrella project – this project isn’t restricted to the CNC April time period. All observations ever shared from the 6 Maritime areas can be viewed here.

If while you are exploring iNat you stumble across a few observations of species that you recognize take a moment or two and provide a name – iNat works because the community assists with identification.

Posted on January 25, 2020 18:49 by mkkennedy mkkennedy | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 24, 2020

Looking for new ideas related to iNaturalist? Part I: Explore indoors

It is 6am, the sun isn’t up yet, and it is very dark outside. I am spending a few days at our cottage and early mornings here are very peaceful - the fire is glowing nicely, and I have few lights on as I upload observations to iNaturalist. But I know that I am not alone – I can hear the resident mouse as he is rustling around in the bin of kindling in the corner by the wood stove…

Yesterday I found a weird (i.e. new to me) ‘bug’ in the bathtub. I knew that it wasn’t a spider nor was it a tick. To help figure out what it might be of course I took a photo…and posted this to iNaturalist.

After a couple of cups of coffee my mind started to spin, and this lead me down a new rabbit hole which has led to this blog.

I fired off the following question to an iNat City Nature Challenge group: ‘If a beetle/spider/insect is found indoors should it be flagged as 'captive?' (We have lots of bugs inside as we bring in wood for the fireplace…)

I received the following reply: ‘species are still considered wild unless we intentionally bring them indoors.’

I was also sent a link to a very relevant iNat project: Never Home Alone: The Wild Life of Homes.
Info on this site incudes a great video where they explore someone’s house looking for spiders, etc. I quite enjoyed it – it did help knowing that the video was created in the States and our Canadian homes are less likely to have quite so many spiders… To view the movie click here.

Last evening, I went off to explore our basement…bad timing as the cottage had just been vacuumed earlier in the day but I did find a couple of spiders!

If from time to time you find critters indoors and you upload your observations to iNaturalist then consider joining the ‘Never home alone’ project. This iNat project does require that observations are Research Grade so you will have to put in a bit of effort to get your observation identified.

Below are a few recommendations if you post ‘indoor’ content.
1. Add an observation field: ‘Habitat’ and then populate this field with ‘dwelling’. (It will indicate that they were not observed outdoors in a natural setting.)
2. Add a tag: ‘indoors’ (This will facilitate filtering out this collection of critters – useful for identifiers)
3. Add observation to the Never home alone project (you must join this project first and then your observation must be Research Grade)
4. Encourage spider/insect/bug experts to monitor iNat and assist with the identification process.
5. Encourage others to explore indoors!

Here is a link to a few of my iNat indoor observations – if you recognize any please help identify!
href=""> .

Posted on January 24, 2020 16:40 by mkkennedy mkkennedy | 1 comments | Leave a comment

January 18, 2020

Diversity in the Maritimes

When exploring the iNaturalist Canada site you probably noticed that one can toggle between Français|English on the top menu bar. Are you aware that you can select other languages from a lengthy list on the bottom of the web page? Are you aware that you can set your preferred language under your account settings?

As of January 2020, iNaturalist has been translated into the following languages:
Shqip (Albanian)
العربية (Arabic)
euskara (Basque)
Breton (Breton)
български (Bulgarian)
Català (Catalan)
简体中文 (Chinese Simplified)
繁體中文 (Chinese Traditional)
český (Czech)
Dansk (Danish)
Nederlands (Dutch)
Esperanto (Esperanto)
Eesti (Estonian)
Suomi (Finnish)
français (French)
Français (Canada) (French, Canada)
Galician (Galician)
Deutsch (German)
Ελληνικά (Greek)
עברית (Hebrew)
Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
Italiano (Italian)
日本語 (Japanese)
한국어 (Korean)
Lietuvių (Lithuanian)
Lëtzebuergesch (Luxembourgish)
македонски (Macedonian)
Norsk Bokmål (Norwegian Bokmal)
Occitan (Occitan)
Polski (Polish)
Portuguese (Portuguese)
Português (Brasil) (Portuguese, Brazilian)
Русский (Russian)
Slovenský (Slovak)
Español (Spanish)
Español (Argentina) (Spanish, Argentina)
Español (México) (Spanish, Mexico)
Svenska (Swedish)
Türkçe (Turkish)

Help us highlight diversity in the Maritimes. Choose your language and start exploring!

NOTE iNat is not currently accessible in Miꞌkmaq nor Gaelic. If you are able to help translate into either of these languages, please contact us at

Posted on January 18, 2020 16:36 by mkkennedy mkkennedy | 0 comments | Leave a comment