City Nature Challenge 2023: Garden Route's Journal

Journal archives for March 2023

March 08, 2023

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions!

City Nature Challenge 2023 important dates:
Make and share observations: April 28 - May 1
Upload all your observations: April 28 - May 7
Help with Identifications: May 2-7
Anticipate results: May 8

When can I make observations that will count for the City Nature Challenge?

All observations must be made starting at midnight on April 28 (12:00 am,00h00) (South African standard time) and up until midnight on May 1 at 23h59 (ZA time). Any observation made before or after will not count.

Note that this is for observations made - you have a week to upload and identify your observations afterwards. So it is OK to not upload during the 4 days of the challenge and upload them the week afterwards. Or you can do it immediately if you prefer.
Similarly, it is the dates observed that count - identifications may be done any time until May 8 to count for the City Nature Challenge - you do not have to identify your observations to submit them (you are welcome to identify them though). It is often most efficient to upload your observations first and then identify them at leisure later.

Can I upload photos during the CNC that I took before the CNC?

No, only observations made from April 28 - May 1 will count for the City Nature Challenge.

It is a snapshot of biodiversity for the weekend for your city - and all participating cities - that counts.

Do I need to join the project and or add my observations to the project for them to be included?

No. All observations that are made within the boundary of the city between April 28 - May 1 will automatically get pulled into the project for that city. No further action other than making and uploading the observation is needed. You can participate in several cities - iNat will take care of all the details.
You are encouraged though to join your city project (and more if you anticipate participating in several cities):

That way you’ll get notifications about News posts that are made.
Also, the project will then automatically display on your observations under the projects list - both advertising the project and allowing you a quick link to look at progress.
It will also allow you to participate in the ID parties, and to respond to organizers’ requests for planning the events and coordinating identifications.
If you want to take part in several cities, then join them all: the full list of our cities can be found here: City Nature Challenge Southern Africa 2023 · iNaturalist

How can I make sure my observations are in my city's CNC project?

The easiest way is to go to your city’s project and click the “Observers” tab.
Look for your name there in the list of observers!

If you have joined your city’s project, you can see which observations are included by looking on the right Projects sidebar on the web version, or the projects section on the app.

Do I need to join the umbrella projects?

No! But you are welcome to. The umbrella projects will also show on your observations. And you will also be notified of national news and issues. The two umbrella projects are:

southern Africa umbrella: City Nature Challenge Southern Africa 2023 · iNaturalist
global umbrella: City Nature Challenge 2023 · iNaturalist
In fact: join them now!

What kinds of observations should I make during the CNC?

Any observations of WILD plants, animals, fungi, seaweed, bacteria, lichen, or living organisms you find in and around your city!
This includes dead organisms, or evidence such as shells, tracks, scats, feathers, nests, and slime trails.

But domestic Cats, domestic Dogs and People (esp. selfies) are NOT included. You can include people or hands or fingers to show the scale of living organisms (if it is safe to do so), but it must be about the organism (although sometimes with fishermen, one never knows if the observation is more about the fish or the man).

Remember, photographs must clearly show the organism: please focus, crop and compose your observations carefully if you can.

What if I observe something I know isn't wild? Will it still count for the City Nature Challenge?

Yes, as long as you’re not making a lot of these observations, most cities will include observations of non-wild organisms during the CNC. However, these must be marked as captive-cultivated.

If you notice any observation of a captive/cultivated plant or animal, please mark it as cultivated if you are certain.
Captive/cultivated includes pets, animals in a zoo/aquarium, plants in your garden, potted plants, planted plants at a botanical garden, etc. Often these may be part of an interaction: e.g. bees may be visiting their flowers, or caterpillars eating their leaves, so please include them. Note that birds held at SANCOB, and other rescue organizations also count as "captive" until released.
Domestic dogs, domestic cats and domestic humans will not count, so please don't bother uploading them. Go out and find something wild. Or record the "wildlife" living in your house - ants, spiders, moths, cockroaches, and other visitors.

What if I don't know what the organism is that I took a picture of?

No problem! You don’t have to know the name of what you recorded. Part of the fun of the CNC is learning about species that you don’t know. So if you have been meaning to find out what that bird, plant or goggo (grogro in Xhosa) is, the CNC is the time to go and observe it.

Please make sure that you take a good enough photo(s) so that it can be identified (closeup, in focus, cropped, clearly visible) - see tips for taking good photos (How to Take Better Photos for iNaturalist on Vimeo).
You may find it easier outdoors to just make observations and leave the identifications for the ID week after the event. That is perfectly acceptable.

How do my observations get identified?

There are a couple of ways you can get your observations Identified on iNaturalist, but the City Nature Challenge is not the time to learn them.
So if you want to find out, practice beforehand. There will not be time during the event. You will be either making observations over the weekend or helping with IDs afterwards.
But basically, iNat offers:

A Computer Vision/Artificial Intelligence (AI) ID tool, that matches your picture with its library. Be aware that the AI ID has not yet been trained on rare and poorly recorded species, but is great for identifying the more common species. It does require a connection and time, so best to switch it off for the CNC, unless you desperately want an immediate ID. Before accepting a name make sure that it is not a species from the USA or Europe - because the AI is trained or far more of their species than ours in southern Africa.
On the web version you can use the Identotron (click the compare button next to any ID) to see species seen nearby. But you will need a rough ID to narrow the search.
there is a special curation tool for identifications. If you wish to help with IDs during the identification week, you will need to use this. Please join one of our online courses, or have a look at this 2-minute video: How to use iNaturalists's Identify Page on Vimeo. You will need to practice before the City Nature Challenge if you seriously want to help during ID week. But it is a great way to learn the local species in any group that you are interested in - be it snakes, spiders, orchids, or sedges.
Any observation can be seen by the entire iNaturalist community, and there are lots of people willing to help with making an identification. These include novices, experienced amateurs, and experts in specific groups. The iNat community may agree with your ID, they may refine your ID, or they may correct it if wrong. Remember all identifiers are volunteering their time to help identify observations - there are no paid identifiers. Please feel free to ask questions (as a comment) and find out more about the organisms.
Note that identifications are only possible for adequate photographs: they need to be in focus, zoomed in (and cropped) and clearly show the organism. For many species, special parts need to be included in the photos. If you are interested in a particular group, you will quickly find out what those are. Tips for taking identifiable observations can be seen here (How to Take Better Photos for iNaturalist on Vimeo).

Do I have to make observations using the app? What if I want to use a real camera?

The iNaturalist app is convenient to make observations. It records the date and place and uploads the different photos and observations seamlessly. Unless you have an expensive camera, it is the way to go.
But it is fine to use a real camera, and if you are serious you will probably get one soon if you don’t have one. You can upload your observations using the Upload tool on iNaturalist. If your camera does not have GPS, then you will need to manually do your mapwork on the Upload Tool - we would recommend though that you record a track on your phone, and sync the tracts into your photos, which will save you lots of time during uploading.

Geotracking (2 mins): How to Geotag your Photos for iNaturalist on Vimeo
Using the Upload Tool (3 mins): How to Use iNaturalist’s Photo and Sound Uploader on Vimeo

Can I use an audio recording as an observation?

Yes, you’re welcome to use sound as evidence of an organism for your observations – this is a great way to make observations of animals like birds, frogs, and crickets! You can record sound directly in an observation using the iNaturalist app.

Can I upload observations without media like photos or sounds?

We get it - sometimes a cool bird or butterfly flies by without stopping and you just can’t get a picture. Yes, you can make observations in iNaturalist without a photo, and some cities will allow observations without photos for the City Nature Challenge. However, please do this sparingly, and only if you know for sure what the species was since no one can help ID or confirm an observation without a photo. If it is rare or unusual, it would be better to try harder and get a picture or sound. Some cities do not allow it: check the conditions when you join your city.

Can I use Seek to make observations?

Seek by iNaturalist is a great way to engage children and families in nature exploration because it does not automatically collect personally identifiable information about users. To use Seek to make observations for the City Nature Challenge, you must first log in to Seek using your iNaturalist account.
It is probably better to work as a parent-kid team, with the parent managing the process. Cub groups often participate under their Akela, or a few parents, or set up a patrol team.

Where can I see how my city is doing?

Use one of the two umbrella projects. These are real-time and are up to-date to the second. Note though that some cities are 10 hours ahead of us, and some 14 hours behind. So although live, the participants from some cities are certainly still asleep. So the CNC will start and end at different times for different cities depending on their time zone.

southern Africa umbrella: City Nature Challenge Southern Africa 2023 · iNaturalist
global umbrella: City Nature Challenge 2023 · iNaturalist

My city is not taking part in the City Nature Challenge! Can I still participate?

Everyone is welcome to participate, wherever you live! Join our global project. This also applies if your route extends out of your city into neighbouring non-participating areas.

Join here: City Nature Challenge 2023: Global Project · iNaturalist
Note: For this project, you HAVE TO first “join” the project. The join button is at the top right corner of the project page. Anyone can join: this project will only tally your observations that fall outside of participating cities.
Someone added an ID to my observation - should I agree with it? What if I don't agree with it?
An identification confirms that you can confidently identify it yourself compared to any possible lookalikes. Please do not simply “Agree” with an ID that someone else has made unless you are certain about the ID.
If you disagree with the identification, then please add your identification. It is helpful if you disagree to explain why you disagree. Similarly, if someone disagrees with your identification, and you think that you are correct, then please ask them why they disagree and explain why you think you are right. Please be friendly: all our identifiers are volunteers, and many are still learning, but we can all learn together.

Do observations have to be "Research Grade" to count for the CNC?

No: all observations will count for the CNC, even those that are not Research Grade, and even those that don’t get identified at all (hopefully we won’t have any of those, so please take good, clear photos!).
“Research Grade” observations need identification and confirmation. They also need to meet other criteria, like needing an adequate date, place, media, being wild, and having a 2/3 majority in the event of an ID dispute.

I took so many photos during the CNC that there's no way I can get them all uploaded before the end of the day on May 1 - what should I do?

Relax! Luckily, we have a week - up until May 8 at 9 am your local time to upload them and get them identified. They will still get added to your city’s project, if they were made in the April 28 - May 1 window.

Can I help identify what other people found during the CNC?
Yes! In the same way that anyone can be an observer, anyone can help identify observations.
One way is to go to your city’s project, click “Observations” and you’ll see an “Identify” button just below it on the menu bar. Clicking this will take you to the iNaturalist Identify page and show you all your city’s observations that still need to be identified.
But keep an eye on your cities journal. Most cities will coordinate the identification among volunteers and provide links that you merely need to click to help with IDs.
If you are a specialist, you can add your taxon in the species box to see only observations in your group. Bear in mind, that many may still need to be identified with that group.

It’s really helpful to go through the unknown observations and assign them to groups such as insects, birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, frogs, insects, snails, spiders, scorpions or “fungi”.
Please note that an Id to "plants" is a waste of time: please try and get them to family level or leave them for the plant fundis. However, if it is a tree, then please add them to the trees project, to get them to the tree specialists. The tree project is Trees of southern Africa (ID) · iNaturalist
If you want to help with IDs, please have a look at this short video tutorial How to use iNaturalists’s Identify Page on Vimeo.
Remember: only make identifications with which you are reasonably certain. There is nothing wrong with only making an ID to genus, family or group level.
Specialists: if you wish to help with IDs of all southern African observations in your group, please follow the journal postings in the umbrella project. And add your group to the taxon box in the identification too. The curation tool is superb, and a brief online tutorial can be seen here: How to use iNaturalists’s Identify Page on Vimeo

Why is the species number different in my city project from the umbrella project?

iNaturalist counts species in different ways. There are a half dozen different ways of tallying species, and different parts of iNaturalist use different ones.

For the City Projects, leaves (branch tips in the tree of life, or terminal taxa) are counted. So if a genus or family is identified, but no species in it, then it counts as a leaf. Subspecies are ignored (which is a right pain, when so many of our species have subspecies, sometimes many in one city).
For the Umbrella Project, only species-rank identifications are tallied. Subspecies are ignored.
So the Umbrella Project always has fewer "species" for the CNC itself, the City Project leaves will be used in reports, but for overall collaborative results, the umbrella project will be used.

When are the results announced?

The results for your city will be whatever the numbers are in your project on Monday, May 8 at 9 am your local time. It takes almost 24 hours to get the numbers from all the cities since our cities in New Zealand and our cities in Hawaii are 23 hours apart by time zone. So the very last cities to hit 9 am on Monday, May 8 are in Hawaii. Results will be announced within 2-3 hours of that time, around 2 pm Pacific time.

What is the City Nature Challenge data used for?

On iNaturalist, all the data are freely available to anyone interested in downloading them. iNaturalist observations are used in hundreds of scientific publications. Many of them are using data that is shared with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility as part of the iNaturalist Research-Grade Observations dataset.
Your data are also used nationally, provincially, and locally by our conservation agencies. The Red List Teams (CREW), Alien Clearing Teams, Reserve Managers and Conservation planners follow up and synthesize our data:
• new species
• new distribution records - range extensions
• unusual habitats
So the data contribute to Red Listings, Reserve Management Plans, Student Research, and municipal programmes. And also into research programmes on Wetlands, Vegetation Mapping, Migration and a myriad of other projects.
And of course, data are used by you, by hikers, mountaineers, holidaymakers, and citizen scientists for planning holidays, trips, and routes and finding out what is likely to be found, or found flowering, in specific areas.

How can I share about the City Nature Challenge on social media?

Tag any post with #CityNatureChallenge!
Tweet or Instagram: @citnatchallenge.
Your city project will include city-specific CNC social media accounts, as well as activities planned, so read your city’s journal for details.

Copied from: FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions! · iNaturalist

Posted on March 08, 2023 11:02 AM by shauns shauns | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 13, 2023

Tips for Taking Photos During the City Nature Challenge

The photos you take during the City Nature Challenge are there to provide evidence of the organism you saw and to help confirm the identification of that organism. Therefore, taking good photos is key to participating in the CNC!
Here are some tips for taking photos:
• Focus on one species in each observation: While a field full of wildflowers is beautiful, it’s not the best photo for an observation - which of the many species is your species? Make sure that at least one of your photos for the observation (preferably the first) is a close-up, centred in the frame, and fills the frame.
• Take several photos in one observation: photograph different parts or angles of your organism. For example, one photograph of an entire tree taken from far away won’t be very useful for identification. But that same shot combined with other photos that show close-ups of the leaves, the bark, flowers, or fruits, will allow the tree to be identified.
• Discard blurry photographs: Use the option on the app to retake photos if the photo is not good. Try retaking with a flash or wait for the organism to stand still.
• Get close: For small organisms, like ants or aphids, getting a nice close-up shot is vital for identification. A huge picture with a small black dot is useless. It can be difficult to get a good close-up shot with your smartphone but zoom in and get close. If you enjoy photographing small things there are inexpensive clip-on macro lenses that take great, focused pictures of small organisms or close-ups of features of other organisms, like a plant that has tiny flowers or the eyes of a spider.
• An ideal observation has a picture showing the full organism, and close-ups of important features (for spiders this might be the arrangement of the eyes, the hairs and claws on the toes, and the spinnerets, for plants it is the inside of the flower, the back of the flower, a stem showing the leaves, and the plant habit - you will quickly learn what is important in different groups), and the habitat it lives in. If you can get all of these in one sharp, detailed photo, then that is ideal. But the more pictures the better - iNat allows up to 20 pictures per observation (although the android app only allows 4).
• Remember only one species per observation. Don’t post different types of things on the same observation: iNaturalist can only give one name per organism. Keep it different species on a different observation. If uncertain, do separate observations.

Copied from Tips for Taking Photos During the City Nature Challenge · iNaturalist

Posted on March 13, 2023 03:41 PM by shauns shauns | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Do you want to start a project on iNaturalist?

Do you want to start a project on iNaturalist?

Are you sure that you have the time and commitment to do so? Or should you just use filters?

Diarize Wednesday, 22 March (10:30-12:30) for a tutorial that shall explore what is required to set up a project and how to run one.

Register here for more details:,mJB63rmtuUmSlj0XSulAyg,gFWbWD6x20uIHERv2o2UMA,6ajGpqxD9kyheZPoQChTiw,SSyFGkLsdEqixl5eAN9TNw,9swryTz9IUGOH8zs29rKQw?mode=read&tenantId=0b847c5e-73e2-4441-8789-9c092d2dd489&fbclid=IwAR0YsW1zA-EdlKslmrzHjoXfgs2Wo8dNOlcDqRoix3htPX-GippnknqlMjE

Posted on March 13, 2023 04:23 PM by shauns shauns | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 16, 2023

A word of caution: Facebook Login may be going away.

"Facebook is threatening to remove the ability to sign in to iNaturalist with a Facebook account on March 20. We're not sure if that will happen or not, but if you regularly sign in to iNaturalist with your Facebook account, please follow these steps to make sure you can sign in without Facebook (if you never sign in with Facebook you can ignore this):"

Read the full message on the blog post

Posted on March 16, 2023 01:20 PM by shauns shauns | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 18, 2023

Put your best foot (photo) forward.

The artificial intelligence in iNaturalist only looks at the first photo in a series for identification purposes.
When uploading, make sure that your clearest photo showing the organism is first. Thereafter line up the other photos.
This will assist you in getting a more accurate identification.

For plants, choose a photo that shows the overall plant, without too much background information. No matter how pretty it is, a leaf or flower is not always the best.

Uploading with the App.
You may have selected multiple photos of the same organism.
You will see all the photos displayed in the top bar.
Decide on the photo you want first in the series.
Press on it, hold and drag it to the front. This will then be the photo that the system looks at.

Uploading on the Web..
When using the upload function on the web, you can drag in multiple photos to upload simultaneously.
Decide on the photo you want first in the series.
Click and drag/drop the other photos onto the primary photo.
This will then be the photo that the system looks at.

You are welcome to drop us a message if you need any assistance.

Posted on March 18, 2023 01:14 PM by shauns shauns | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 19, 2023

Setting the Accuracy of an observation.

Android App:
Open the observation
Touch pencil, top right, to open Edit mode
Touch on the pin location
The map locality map will open
The Co-ords and Accuracy will reflect in the bar above the map
The circle with crosshairs will display - use thumb and forefinger over that to zoom in or out of the map - the accuracy will change accordingly.
It could be fiddly

On the web version, it is easier.
Open observation
Click on the blue rectangle, top right, to edit.
The Edit page will open.
Above the map, one can Edit and adjust the locality by typing in a value
Or type in co-ords
Or find the spot on the opened map (I find that fiddly too)
Remember to 'Save' changes at the bottom of the obs.

Accuracy also must be realistic and reflect where the plant was seen, allowing for what one remembers......

Try to remember to set the Accuracy when you upload the observation. It will save you from having to go back and do it later.

Remember to enable locality settings on the phone AND location tag permissions in camera mode too. When the pic is taken in iNat itself, the Accuracy will be recorded automatically.

Phone Apps which record localities can be handy as a backup. Screenshots or Notes (type in date/time as not all models add this automatically - or it changes every time the Note is opened) on the phone could be helpful - if the system works for you!

Posted on March 19, 2023 03:56 PM by shauns shauns | 0 comments | Leave a comment