City Nature Challenge 2021: Winnipeg Region's Journal

April 23, 2021

6 days, Warren 14PA05, and strategies for finding insects and other arthropods

Warren 14PA05 is located in the RM of Woodlands and the RM of Rockwood. The town of Warren is near its center. Several parallel drains cross the square joining Sturgeon Creek to the southeast. Agriculture dominates the land use in this square.

At the time of posting, 401 observations had been uploaded by 13 observers led by @friesen5000 . 215 species have been observed including 146 insect species. Two insects that make their homes in plants are the most frequently observed - the leaf miner genus Aulagromyza and the gall maker Diplolepis spinosa . The survey for the Breeding Bird Atlas of Manitoba confirmed 12 bird species nesting here, with another 50 species probable or possible. Here's the full list.

The spring weather that we get during the survey period will have a big impact on insect activity. Insects have a limited ability to warm themselves above the temperature of their surroundings so basking in the sun is a popular spring activity for many. Look for basking insects in sunny spots where there is little wind movement near the ground. Ideally there should also be cover nearby where the insect can retreat if disturbed. On the plus side, when temperatures are lower, the insects are slower giving you more time to photograph them.

Larger active insects like bumblebees are able to maintain stable body temperatures through activity. Activity requires energy so feeding is at the top of the list for many spring insects. Look for insects feeding where sap is seeping on birch or poplar or in the pollen rich catkins of willows and aspens. Dung or scat as well as just plain mud can also attract the interest of spring insects.

It is possible to draw out insects in your own outdoor environment by making sure that the place where you want to photograph them has reasons for them to be there. Pick a sunny sheltered place. Add places nearby where insects might shelter overnight - a layer of dead leaves or a pile of sticks - or both. Add a shallow dish with a layer of pebbles and sand dampened thoroughly with water. There are a variety of baits that can be used to attract different insects - here's one list. If you have success with any of these, let us know in the comments!

Another useful approach is one used very successfully in our focus square by the top observer. Find a plant and then examine it closely for insect activity particularly galls and leaf mines. Many gall makers and leaf miners specialize in a single genus or even a single species of plants so including an image where the plant can be seen as well as the gall or leaf mine is useful. It is also worthwhile to create another observation for the plant itself - your careful attention then wins you observations of two organisms instead of just one. Observation Fields are useful for these situations. You can use the Host Plant ID field to indicate the plant that the organism chose to live in. You can also link the two observations in an Observation group by adding the same value in this field on both observations. The group Galls of North America is a treasure trove of information on galls and the group Leafminers of North America provides the same information for leaf miners.

Happy observing!

Posted on April 23, 2021 13:50 by marykrieger marykrieger | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 22, 2021

One week to lift off, Meadows 14PA04, and checking in with our partners

Meadows 14PA04 is located in the RM of Woodlands and the RM of Rosser. Several parallel drains cross the square joining Sturgeon Creek to the east. Grants Lake WMA is found here. Agriculture dominates the land use in this square.

At the time of posting, 7 observations of 7 species had been uploaded by 2 observers. This is the second square that we have come across where no observation of a plant has been recorded....yet. Birds are currently in the lead with 4 observations. The survey for the Breeding Bird Atlas of Manitoba confirmed 27 bird species nesting here, with another 49 species probable or possible. Here's the full list.

The City Nature Challenge is organized at the global level by the Community Science teams at the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. They have refreshed their website with plenty of resources to help both new and experienced observers and identifiers get up to speed on the event. The FAQ page is a great summary of need to know items.

In Canada, the Canadian Nature Federation is leading the way. They also have a great group of resources for your use - and pretty much everything is available in both English and French. Twenty-five projects are affiliated with their umbrella project including some people who did not hear about CNC until after the global deadline and so are 'unofficial' If you or your organization are thinking of organizing a CNC project for a community in Manitoba for next years event, the process starts in October this year. They stretch the process out so the time commitment is not excessive even though the timeline is long. I am happy to share my experience with anyone that is interested.

Social media tags were discussed at the yesterdays meeting of Canadian city organizers and here's the response for your reference...

One of the questions that came up was if there was a hashtag we’d want others to use for iNaturalist. It would be great if you could use #iNaturalistCanada

In addition, as Dave mentioned, please tag CWF when possible:
Twitter: @CWF_FCF
Facebook: @CanadianWildlifeFederation
Facebook FR: @Federationcanadiennedelafaune
Instagram: @cwf_fcf
LinkedIn: Canadian Wildlife Federation

The global event hashtags are #citynaturechallenge and #citynaturechallenge2021

Our project has also found helpful the resources provided to the public by a variety of organizations including Manitoba Division of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Conservation and Research at the Assiniboine Zoo, the Manitoba Conservation Data Centre , Nature Manitoba, the CPAWS Manitoba (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society), the Manitoba Museum and the University of Manitoba Department of Biological Science. Feel free to tag them too if you like them.

Stephen Fricker @stephen169 in Australia has invited us to join them in a Five on Friday - a challenge to do 5 observations during your lunch break on the first day of the event! A little hands around the world flavor to the first event day!

Enjoy today ... for tomorrow it snows! maybe

Posted on April 22, 2021 14:23 by marykrieger marykrieger | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 21, 2021

8 days, St. François Xavier and Lichens

St. François Xavier North 14PA03 is located in the RM of St. François Xavier, the RM of Woodlands and the RM of Rosser. The Red River flows through the southwest quarter of the square. Several parallel drains cross the square joining Sturgeon Creek to the east. Agriculture dominates the land use in this square.

At the time of posting, 13 observations of 9 species had been uploaded by 2 observers led by @colinmurray . This is the first square that we have come across where no observation of a plant has been recorded....yet. Insects and amphibians each have 3 observations. The survey for the Breeding Bird Atlas of Manitoba confirmed 20 bird species nesting here, with another 66 species probable or possible. Here's the full list.

Lichens can be found growing on the surfaces that seem inhospitable to other organisms - places like cement sidewalks and tree trunks. They are often quite small to start with and those who study them often rely on very tiny features to identify them. Observations of these organisms are better if they have both a general shot of the organism showing the habitat it is living in as well as very close-up details of the different structures that make up the whole.

Jennifer Doering at the University of Manitoba suggests:


Charles Burchill's site is a good resource for Manitoba lichens. A lot of the species he lists are boreal or northern, but a few species to note that would be common with the Aspen Parkland and Winnipeg area are:
Caloplaca spp. - orange crustose lichen that grows commonly on large boulders
Candelaria spp. - yellow crustose lichen that grows commonly on conifer tree bark
Candelariella spp. - yellow crustose lichen that grows on tree bark, can find on oak and ash trees
Cladonia spp.. - fruticose, pixie cup lichens commonly found on the bottoms of trees, logs, and moist soils in forest understory
Lecanora spp. - grey crustose lichens with rimmed black or brown sexual structures commonly found on rocks
Lecidea spp. - grey crustose lichens with brown or black "warts" sexual structures commonly found on rocks
Parmelia sulcata - grey foliose lichen with dark brown to black underside commonly found on conifers
Physcia aipolia - grey foliose lichen, smaller than Parmelia, common on most tree bark
Peltigera spp. - large, lobed lichens that can be green, grey or black growing in moist mossy areas within forests (usually coniferous)
Xanthoria parietina - orange to yellow-orange crustose lichen that grows commonly trees, along with Physcia spp.
Flavopunctelia flaventior - pale greenish lobed lichen very common on aspen and oak trees, especially in Assiniboine forest.

Troy McMullin, lichenologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature suggests

The first step is learning to tell a lichen from a moss or fungi. The easiest way is that they are pastel colours and are hard and fragile when dry and soft and malleable when wet.

Interested in diving deeper? "Getting to Know Saskatchewan Lichens, a booklet for the beginner-- Lichens of the Prairie, Aspen Parkland and Boreal forest by Bernard De Vries published by Nature Saskatchewan is a good beginner field guide for our area.

More reading....

Posted on April 21, 2021 13:19 by marykrieger marykrieger | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 20, 2021

9 days to the event, Springstein 14PA01 & Lido Plage 14PA02

Springstein 14PA01 is located in the RM of Macdonald and the RM of Cartier. The La Salle River flows from the northwest to southeast through the southwest corner of the square. The square is divided by mile road grids and drainage ditches. Agriculture dominates the land use in this square. At the time of posting, 1 observation of Wild Asparagus had been uploaded. The survey for the Breeding Bird Atlas of Manitoba confirmed 22 bird species nesting here, with another 42 species probable or possible. Here's the full list.



Lido Plage 14PA02 is located in the RM of Cartier and the RM of St. François Xavier. The Red River flows through the northeast quarter of the square. Beaudry Park is found here. Agriculture dominates the land use in this square.

At the time of posting, 323 observations of 174 species had been uploaded by 38 observers led by @seraphinpoudrier . Plants dominate the observations with the most frequently observed organism a tree -- Basswood. The survey for the Breeding Bird Atlas of Manitoba confirmed 18 bird species nesting here, with another 57 species probable or possible. Here's the full list.

Posted on April 20, 2021 18:24 by marykrieger marykrieger | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 18, 2021

11 days, Ferndale 14PA00 and Ticks

Ferndale 14PA00 is located in the RM of Macdonald. The La Salle River flows from the northwest to southeast through the northern part of the square. The square is divided by mile road grids and drainage ditches. Agriculture dominates the land use in this square.

At the time of posting, 5 observations of 4 species had been uploaded by 3 observers. The survey for the Breeding Bird Atlas of Manitoba confirmed 5 bird species nesting here, with another 44 species probable or possible. Here's the full list.

Manitoba has two tick species that we should all be able to identify accurately: American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis) which we know here as the wood tick and Eastern Black-legged Tick (Ixodes scapularis) which we sometimes call the deer tick. The wood tick is more commonly seen and its bites can be very annoying. The much smaller deer tick is a known vector of several tick borne diseases including Lyme disease.

Wood ticks...

Black-Legged ticks...

There is now a national project to report ticks - eTick. It also has a mobile app for use when you are out and about. At the time of posting, most of the observations are from the eastern part of Canada - a situation reflecting more the location of eTick users rather than the locations of ticks. Manitoba has recently joined the the project as a partner.

Mary Kennedy (@mkkennedy ) has set up a project called Ticks in the Maritimes Her journal posts there give details for adding tick observations to both iNaturalist and to eTick. She encourages us all to support the eTick project - by entering data to the eTick project as well as with data entered in iNaturalist. eTick has created a helpful video demonstrating exactly how to take a photograph of a tick with a smart phone. There is interest in images of ticks from anywhere in Canada taken at any point.

Links

Posted on April 18, 2021 14:15 by marykrieger marykrieger | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 17, 2021

12 days, Sanford 14PA10 and Poison Ivy

Sanford 14PA10 is located in the RM of Macdonald. The La Salle River flows from the west to east through the square by the town of Sanford. The square is divided by mile road grids and drainage ditches. Agriculture dominates the land use in this square.

At the time of posting, 23 observations had been uploaded by 6 observers, led by @rjr-mb . 18 species are represented including 5 plants and 5 birds. The survey for the Breeding Bird Atlas of Manitoba confirmed 32 bird species nesting here, with another 37 species probable or possible. Here's the full list.

There are a few species that I feel everyone in Manitoba should be able to identify confidently if they are going outside their own door. For these species, your identification expertise will not only give you higher identification numbers but also make your experience outdoors more pleasant.

Today we are going to brush up on our Poison Ivy identification skills. The species found in Manitoba is Western Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii). Some of your reference books may use the name Rhus radicans var rydbergii instead but it is the same plant.

Scoggan's "Flora of Manitoba" informs us that the plant was first collected in Manitoba by Bourgeau in 1857. Eugene Bourgeau was the member of the Palliser Expedition assigned to collect plant specimens for the herbarium at the royal gardens at Kew . Irene M. Spry describes in her book "The Palliser Expedition" their first experience with the plant near Rainy River...

Here they encountered poison ivy for the first time, a plant that, they were surprised to find, produces a most intense itching sensation attended with considerable swelling and rash. These effects lasted for many days; some of the voyageurs suffered severely from them.

While the effect on skin is an excellent fieldmark, I don't want any of you or your companions to suffer so lets make sure to notice it before we get too close.

Scoggan describes the plant's preferred habitat as "woods, thickets, sandhills and clearings in the southern two-fifths of the province". In my experience, it is most frequently found in or at the edges of treed areas where the trees are further apart and there is little or no shrub layer to block the sun completely. The plant needs sun but can tolerate a bit of shade. It cannot grow in very wet conditions. It also does not like very acid soil conditions - so not likely to be found in a peat bog. If the soil is sandy then it is even more likely that you will encounter the plant. The plants preference for drier sunny edges and clearings means that it will be frequently found right at the trail edge.

Finding a single plant is very unusual. Poison ivy generally grows in patches or colonies. Each plant is separated a little from its neighbour, just enough so that the individual plant's leaf canopy gets its own patch of sunlight. It has woody stems but never gets very tall, more ankle height than knees on grown-ups. Wearing something on your legs and feet is generally recommended in areas where the plant is abundant.

"Leaves of three, let it be" is a good start to learning this plant in the summer. Leaves of three leaflets grow from a single stem. Each leaflet has an irregular toothed margin. Usually the number of 'teeth' on one side of the leaflet is not the same as on the other side - and counting those teeth shouldn't strain your brain. Lots and lots of small teeth indicate that you are not looking at a poison ivy plant. In the fall, winter and early spring, the most obvious field mark are the tight clusters of yellowish ridged berries.

There are a few other plants that get confused with this one - the ones that people have asked me most about over the years are Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) and the two Parthenocissus - Thicket Creeper and Virginia Creeper. Wild Sarsaparilla does not have a woody stem, its leaves are in groups of 5 finely toothed leaflets, and it has round clusters of dark blue berries with no ridges. The two creepers are woody but they are vines. The creepers also have 5 or more leaflets with many teeth and clusters of very dark colored berries.

Happy Saturday and stay out of the poison ivy!

Posted on April 17, 2021 15:56 by marykrieger marykrieger | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 16, 2021

13 days, Saint Adolphe 14PA340 and what about those fish

La Salle 14PA20 is located in the RM of Macdonald. The La Salle River flows from the west to east through the square by the town of La Salle. The square is divided by mile road grids and drainage ditches. Agriculture dominates the land use in this square.

At the time of posting, 25 observations had been uploaded by 9 observers, led by @ellyne . 20 species are represented including 10 plants and 5 birds. The survey for the Breeding Bird Atlas of Manitoba confirmed 26 bird species nesting here, with another 44 species probable or possible. Here's the full list.

The self-directed nature of iNat observations produces some interesting results. When I first started looking at the data back in 2016, I was surprised to see how few observations there were of trees in areas which I knew to be forested. I realized then that every observer has their own unique approach to deciding which organisms to observe. And just as importantly, I realized that every approach is valid.

The strength of allowing people to decide exactly what and when they want to add observations means everyone has the ability to contribute something unique. The more people observing, the more viewpoints are represented and the more interesting the whole data set becomes.

Living near Lockport, I am keenly aware of the enthusiasm of Manitobans to fish in almost every type of weather at every time of year. When I looked at the numbers of observation of fish there seemed to be a mismatch - of the nearly 40,000 observations in the Red River Valley region, only 79 are fish. What an opportunity I thought for CNC observers to make a difference. (All you real fisher people are now realizing how much I know about fishing)

I checked into the Fishing Guide and soon saw a big problem with my great idea - in the southern division the fishing season is closed from April 5th, 2021 to and including May 14, 2021. The reason is of course that it is spawning season. So no fishing, but not necessarily no observing. Several species of fish in Manitoba move from the large lakes and rivers into the upstream tributaries to spawn. This can make them easier to photograph from the bank. Any fish remains left by a passing mink or otter are also valid to qualify as observations. Despite the challenges, I hope that between us all we will be able to observe at least one fish during the survey period.

Happy snow melt!

Posted on April 16, 2021 13:30 by marykrieger marykrieger | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 15, 2021

2 weeks (14 days), Saint Adolphe 14PA30 and the new CNC video is up

Saint Adolphe 14PA30 is shared between the RMs of Macdonald and Ritchot. The Red River flows from the south to north through the square including the town of St Adolphe. The river lot system prevails adjacent to the river. Elsewhere the square is divided by mile road grids and drainage ditches. Agriculture dominates the land use in this square. La Barriere Park is found in the northern section.

At the time of posting, 267 observations had been uploaded by 42 observers, led by @seraphinpoudrier . 167 species are represented including 86 plants, 29 birds and 26 insects. The most frequently observed organism is the Bur oak with 8 observations. The survey for the Breeding Bird Atlas of Manitoba confirmed 20 bird species nesting here, with another 58 species probable or possible. Here's the full list. The City of Winnipeg, Naturalist Services report records 87 plant species confirmed in La Barriere - many of these are only defined at genus level. With the Red Riiver and the La Salle both flowing through this square there is ample room to add more records of species of many different organisms.

I know from all our observations so far that we have a solid core of observers here. The City Nature Challenge is an opportunity for us to introduce iNat to others that also enjoy observing and identifying organisms. The new City Nature Challenge video is up now. It's posted on YouTube and on Vimeo,. Feel free to share it far and wide!

Posted on April 15, 2021 13:32 by marykrieger marykrieger | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 14, 2021

15 days, Ile des Chenes 14PA40 and some thoughts on prepping observations

Ile des Chenes 14PA40 is shared between the RMs of Tache and Ritchot. The town of Ile des Chenes is located in its north.The square is divided by mile road grids and drainage ditches with two major drains combining near the center then flowing west towards the Red. Agriculture dominates the land use in this square.

At the time of posting, 17 observations had been uploaded by 7 observers, led by @meghann_81 . Twelve species are represented including 5 plants and 4 birds. The survey for the Breeding Bird Atlas of Manitoba confirmed 6 bird species nesting here, with another 40 species probable or possible. Here's the full list. Lots of scope for discovery here.

Today I thought I would share with you some details of my particular process. Feel free to ask questions or add useful alternatives in the comments.

These days I rarely use my phone to collect observation images - having almost completely switched over to using digital cameras. My workhorse is an Olympus TG6 - which I originally bought because it was waterproof and could take pictures underwater. I have not yet summoned the courage to plunge the the thing into the drink - but it is comforting to know that if we tip while out on the water, it won't turn into a brick. It has a 'microscope' mode for super closeups of moss and lichen. It has a wrist strap so I don't drop it very often. I chose the red body - this is good for me as it is harder to mislay but has the unfortunate consequence of causing pink reflections on some closeup subjects.

This camera also has the ability to collect a GPS log - this feature I use whenever our little band is on the move. I start the log as we leave base and leave it running continuously until we return. I generally also take a few 'sync' images - pictures of known locations during our outings. These prove useful later when when using the software to tag the images with the locations. Logging and taking lots of images means that I often need at least one battery change during the day - so the two spares are very useful. If I am observing at my bases, I don't bother with the GPS log. I have pinned location circles in the upload wizard for my habitual observation localities and use those instead. I figure that 'somewhere in my yard' is probably sufficient location accuracy for people to work with.

I set the camera time on initial setup and then forget it ever after. Some of my digitals auto-switch between daylight savings and regular - others do not. Most of my observations are of plants so unlikely that time is an important data point - the heavy lifting is all done by date. YMMV. I have a few trail cams as well and these vary in their approach - some require that the date and time be reset when the batteries are re-inserted - a pain if one forgets.

Trail cams can be an interesting way to augment your observations - we never guessed that a red fox was wandering through our yard regularly until we put out the trail cam. I did not opt for any wi-fi or cell capability, content just to place the camera, then see what I get when I retrieve it. It takes a bit of experimentation to find the right sensitivity for the kind of organism you would like to record. Too little sensitivity and no photos - too much and many photos of nothing that you wanted. :) Place your trail cam so that it does not face into the sun at any time of the day. You will get less false positives if you choose a relatively sheltered location without nearby grasses or tree branches in the triggering cone. My best results have come from finding places where there is a natural reason for animals to pass by the trail cam and preferably reasonably fresh sign that they are.

All the images get transferred to the computer. I keep them in date folders. This has the interesting side-effect of iNat acting as a searchable index of my images. Next I tag the images that need it with the locations from the GPS log. Here's a tutorial from iNat and a forum discussion on the many solutions. I then use my photo-editing software to adjust exposure if the images is badly over or under exposed - and to ruthlessly crop images to isolate my chosen organism.

Once all the images are ready, I use the web page to upload them - using the drag feature to combine multiple images into single observations where appropriate. I find that I need to keep the number of images added at one time to under 50 as otherwise the whole thing bogs down in lag. I then add the identifications and check for any missing locations or dates that may have slipped though. Once the images have been uploaded, I can add the extra details like tagging dead things as dead.

After the dust is settled, I work through the observations that I did not recognize, using both my stack of field guides, the internet in general and other iNat observations to see if I can come up with more specific ids. Sometimes I just find that I need to make a note to return and get another observation with more details. This I do not regard as a setback. :)

Still working through my backlog...

Posted on April 14, 2021 12:45 by marykrieger marykrieger | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 13, 2021

16 days, Landmark 14PA50, and Nature Conservancy Canada - Manitoba Division lends a hand

Landmark 14PA50 is in the RM of Tache. The town of Landmark is located just east of its centre. The Seine River and the river lots running perpendicular to it cross the northern portion of the square. The remainder of the square is divided by mile road grids and drainage ditches. Agriculture dominates the land use in this square.

At the time of posting, 5 observations had been uploaded by 4 observers. Lots of room to fill in the blanks here.

The Nature Conservancy Canada-Manitoba Division is helping to raise awareness of the upcoming City Nature Challenge event by promoting it on their website here.. They also let me know about an upcoming webinar hosted by their Alberta region discussing the benefits of iNaturalist data on April 26th at 6:30 pm (free, pre-registration required). The presenter is Matt Wallace (@wowokayyes), very active in the Calgary City Nature Challenge as well as actively encouraging other Canadian cities to join in on the fun.

The main City Nature Challenge website is refreshed with resources for this year. If you or someone you know would benefit from checking out videos or reading through activity plans related to the event, this is the place to go. They are actively looking for feedback on their resources to improve the experience particularly for people new to iNaturalist and educators interested in using iNaturalist in their learning toolkit.

Here in Manitoba, iNaturalist continues to make gains - as of the time of posting, 90,152 observations of 4,474 species have been posted by 3,020 observers. 8,547 of these are observations made since January 1 of this year. Last year in the same period, 1,498 observations were made. We are well on our way to breaking that 100,000 milestone sometime this summer.

Looking at all of Canada, there are 4,508,886 observations of 28,149 species by 102,462 observers at the time of posting and globally, 61,512,695 observations of 327,755 species by 1,529,298 observers. Don't forget to update your photo licensing before April 15th. Read all about it in the blog.

Enjoy the snow!

Posted on April 13, 2021 12:49 by marykrieger marykrieger | 0 comments | Leave a comment