If you’re in the Greater Adelaide area and looking to participate in the City Nature Challenge, there’s no need to travel far and wide. Your own neighborhood can provide ample observation opportunities. Even your own backyard.
At first glance your yard may only seem to contain a few common Bird species, maybe a Lizard or two, but look closer and you’ll find it teeming with tiny invertebrates. Here are a few tips for locating and recording these little critters.
Start with the Plants. They bring in the herbivorous Invertebrates to chew the leaves, suck the sap, drink the nectar, and eat the fruit and seeds. Look at each leaf and branch closely. Most Plants will be host to multiple species. You may even find predatory invertebrates waiting for their prey.
Invertebrates tend to be rather elusive. Evolved to avoid predation, they also avoid being seen by us as well. To find them you'll need to move slowly and look closely. Many Insects are at least partially camouflaged and are easily missed unless looking with intent. A quick method of finding Invertebrates in Plants is to place a sheet below a tree or shrub, shake the branches and record what falls out.
Smaller invertebrates may be residents of your yard, but other species may just be passing through. If the weather is fine, find a spot to sit and watch a birdbath or any trees, particularly those that are flowering. You may spot a few Bird species you never knew visited your yard.
The temperature can have a large effect on what you might find. Try searching during the warmest part of the day when Insects are likely to be the most active.
Consider searching after dark. Any outdoor lighting is likely to attract numerous Moth and Beetle species. Set up a white sheet near a bright outdoor light and see what comes to visit.
What can you hear in your yard? iNaturalist observations can also be audio recordings. Do you have Birds you can hear but not see. How about frogs. All would make valuable contributions to the City Nature Challenge.
Observations for the City Nature Challenge ideally should be Wild species as opposed to Cultivated. You may be surprised to discover how many Plant species you can find in your yard that grew by themselves. Probably several species of common weeds, but Mosses too. And don’t forget the Fungi.
As every kid knows, the best way to find invertebrates is to look under things. Logs, rocks, pots. Turn a few and be ready with the camera or a specimen container.
If you have a pond, have you considered what might be living in it. Sweep a fine mesh net through the water or collect some pond water in a jar and see what aquatic Invertebrates you can find.
Many Invertebrates can be found in leaf litter and soil. Consider collecting leaf litter and sifting through it on a white sheet to see what falls out. Soil can be dug from the ground to a spade depth and dropped into a bucket of water, where the Invertebrates will float to the surface and can be collected.
Specimens can be photographed in situ, but this doesn't always allow for photos sufficiently clear or from the necessary angles for identification purposes. Consider having available a container to temporarily detain any Invertebrates found. These specimens can then be photographed on a white sheet or similar in more controlled lighting. For the more active specimens, place the container in the fridge for a while to slow them down. They will recover quickly as they warm up and can then be released after suitable photos have been taken.
If you wish to avoid having your property location visible on iNaturalist, set all of your observations to "Obscured" when uploading them. You will still be able to see the exact location, but it won't be publicly visible.
Which species and how many you find will depend on many factors, but the longer you look the more you’ll find. Here’s a list of species found in a single suburban yard in Greater Adelaide. How many can you find during the City Nature Challenge?