Join the i-Naturalist Challenge; 26 – 29 April

by Nicola Newbery

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A Chinese cobra photographed and logged by Nicoal Newbery during the 2018 i-Naturalist Challenge

A first-timer, I was slow to join in last year’s i-Naturalist Challenge to photograph Hong Kong’s biodiversity.   Their web page asked if I liked taking photos on my phone, which I don’t as the quality is not as good as that on my camera, and I had to download an App which, having grown up in the age of the typewriter, rather put me off.   However, after repeated requests by Facebook friends who know I have been documenting the flora and fauna in the Hoi Ha river valley for several years, and discovering I could upload photos from my camera directly onto my own i-naturalist competition page, I eventually took the plunge and found myself totally immersed in a wonderful Treasure Hunt.

For hours on end, over a 3-day/night period, I combed the Hoi Ha river valley which is so rich in biodiversity in a variety of habitats, including scrubland, woodland, marsh, streams and of course the Marine Park, that it was hard to know where to start.  My adventures included nearly stepping on a very large Chinese Cobra as I scoured scrubland (I went back the next day to the same spot to get a better photo – I’d been so surprised the day before that I’d only managed to catch the end of its tail as it slid away) and getting stuck in a marsh as I sunk further and further into the mud in my efforts to photograph an unusual orchid I hadn’t seen there before.  More importantly, I learned how to use i-Naturalist and how to downsize and upload photographs of Research Grade for use by scientists.  Citizen Science in action!

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i-Naturalist sent me emails every 24 hours, updating me on the number of observations, observers and species around the world and in Hong Kong.  To my surprise my name cropped up – at 11:30 pm, with just 30 minutes to go before the end of the competition, there I was in 5th place for the number observations made in Hong Kong.  I only needed 3 more to move up into 3rd place.

Well, that sounded easy enough.  I dashed out into the pitch darkness, torch in hand, and found frogs, slugs, snails and an extraordinary hairy caterpillar.  However, in those 30 minutes, others were frantically uploading their photos and my name slowly made its way down to 8th position, with 305  observations of 156 species.  Hats off to the winning competitor, Mr Chan, who managed to find 274 species over the 4 days – that is quite an achievement, well done to him!

This was the first time that Hong Kong had entered the competition.  How did we do?  The first 3 places for number of species found went to cities in the USA.  Hong Kong came 4th in the world and was first in Asia.  We can be proud of that!  I believe we will be able to move up into 3rd place this  year if scuba divers and snorkellers participate.

Perhaps you could help by encouraging more amateur naturalists to join in this year? The competition is a lot of fun and suitable for families and school groups if you would like to involve your children.  Don’t be put off if you don’t know the names of what you see around you – a team of reviewers in Hong Kong will ID your observation for you in English, Chinese and Latin.

170 cities worldwide will be participating in the 2019 City Nature Challenge, taking pictures of WILD  plants and animals between Friday 26 April – Monday 29 April.   Check out: http://citynaturechallenge.org/ to open your very own competition page.


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