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​Spying for nature: Six ‘cities’ describe the City Nature Challenge thrill 

MAY 16, 2022

Cellphone – charged. iNaturalist app – uploaded. Walking shoes – on! Thousands of citizen scientists across South Africa had these thoughts running through their heads, as they headed out to observe and log all Mother Earth had to offer over one weekend late in April.

The City Nature Challenge (CNC) once again brought plant (and animal) lovers together, to connect over our country’s phenomenal biodiversity. In total, 22 South African cities and regions were up against each other and the rest of the world. This year Cape Town placed an admirable second in terms of observations (and species logged), beaten by Bolivia’s administrative capital, La Paz. Both the Overstrand (13th) and the Garden Route (20th) were placed in the top 20.

Above: Images sourced from Nyiko Mutileni’s Instagram and the Limpopo City Nature Challenge project.

We’re also delighted that our Branches across the country are getting more involved with the two annual iNaturalist events. Following the meteoric Great Southern Bioblitz debut of the Overstrand (Kogelberg Branch), they once again had a big impact in the 2022 CNC.  

All our South African observers and iNaturalist identifiers have made an incredible contribution to conservation through their involvement. In fact, over a quarter of the threatened species recorded in the CNC were from South Africa. At the same time, this was quite simply a weekend of pure enjoyment – to know, protect and enjoy our natural world. 

Here is how the weekend panned out for some cities and regions involved:  

Kogelberg Branch

Written by Thea Brink. Photos by Magriet Brink

 

 

At the end of April, nature lovers ventured into our natural landscapes for four days, armed with cameras and cellphones. We managed to take photos of every possible plant and creature. Then when the evenings came, we worked to upload our photos on time to iNaturalist so that every species and every sighting could be counted within the Overstrand’s boundaries. 

Why all the drama? The City Nature Challenge, of course. At almost any time of the day, you would see someone wandering around, camera in hand. From their gardens to the streets, and from the coast and mountains to our rivers and lagoons – nothing was off limit. Even the caves weren’t spared. The photo club, the bird watchers, gardeners, the invasive alien ‘hacking’ group, hiking clubs and youth groups all participated enthusiastically. Some took hundreds of photos, others just a few.  

By the end, Overstrand came second in Southern Africa with almost 20 000 observations and third in terms of species logged (2  300, after the Garden Route’s 2  500). We are also third in terms of participants: 258 versus the Garden Route’s 273. And this is only the second time we are participating in something like this! Well done, Overstranders!
View the project results here.

Now we have work to do for the Great Southern Bioblitz from 28 to 31 October 2022.

 

Free State Branch

Written by Emma Ferreira. Photos Emma Ferreira, Ryno Janse van Vuuren, Vhutshilo Makhanya, Andri Grobbelaar, Laurence Grobbelaar and Teboho Maseko.

 

As a first-time participating city, Bloemfontein hosted several bioblitzing events for the City Nature Challenge 2022. On 29 April a group of people gathered at the entrance of the Free State National Botanical Garden to participate in the bioblitz with the Botanical Society’s Free State Branch committee. The bioblitzers worked their way through the garden on the Motsetse trail en route to the grassland section. A brief rain interruption could only temporarily halt proceedings – with the blitzing continuing in the Bloemfontein Karroid Shrubland section of the garden when it lifted. And it was worth the wait, as bioblitzers were rewarded with a rainbow.

The Naval Hill Bioblitz with Friends of Franklin on Monday 2 May was great fun for our citizen scientists, who got to walk among game and a plethora of birds. Overall, 25 observers made 614 observations of plants, birds, mammals, insects, fungi, amphibians, arachnids, reptiles and other wildlife during the CNC 2022. This was an excellent opportunity to introduce Bloemfontein to citizen science initiatives. The committee members of the Free State Branch are happy to facilitate more citizen science initiatives and have high hopes for future endeavours. View the project results here.

Garden Route Branch

Written by Sandra Falanga. Photos Jenny Potgieter and Sandra Falanga. 

 

The Garden Route was placed 10th in the world for the number of species recorded! And this was thanks to the wonderful involvement of the 276 observers, who from the mountain to the sea found 2 769 species. The Outramps Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) group captured plant and creature magic throughout the weekend. At Doringrivier Nelson Mandela University students joined. And in Knysna, we were thrilled that the Eco-Schools challenge added 244 species. The City Nature Challenge also had exciting conservation outcomes: in the western section of the Garden Route, our bioblitzers found a new population of the Critically Endangered  Diosma aristata.
View the project results here.

Bankenveld Branch

Written by Arista Botha. Photos by Curro King’s School Linbro Park, @karenpagel67 and Joseph White. 

 

Joburg took part in the iNaturalist City Nature Challenge this year for the first time. We had a successful weekend with 69 people participating and 1 212 observations recorded of 485 species. We are especially excited about all the young people who got involved, as we consider getting our youth excited about nature as a long-term investment. Two school groups took part in the City Nature Challenge: Parktown Girls High and Curro King’s School Linbro Park. At Parktown Girls High, students and teachers surveyed the school grounds on Friday 29 April. On Saturday 30 April, 5 learners and 4 teachers did a bioblitz at the Crocodile River Reserve, thereby contributing to the Tshwane City Nature Challenge as well. At the King’s School, teachers and learners walked around the school property during the last hour of school on Friday 29 April.

A group of students from the University of the Witwatersrand visited the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve on Saturday 30 April. During their bioblitz, they found Euphorbia natalensis. This beautiful and interesting plant is common in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal but has never been documented on iNaturalist in Gauteng before. Another potentially interesting find of the weekend is that of Cineraria austrotransvalensis at Kloofendal Nature Reserve, a near threatened species with only four observations on iNaturalist.

Everyone really enjoyed the City Nature Challenge and we are looking forward to the Great Southern Bioblitz later this year, where we hope to build on the momentum we started and involve more school and university groups. View the project results here.

Southern Overberg Branch

Written by Heather D’Alton. Photos by Charleen Brunke and Heather D’Alton. 

 

The Southern Overberg is in an extremely fortunate position: our region is home to wonderful bioblitzers and iNat users of note. So we were thrilled that these old hands joined our first City Nature Challenge adventure – including the likes of Geoff Nichols and Helen Pickering. CREW’s Sharndre Coutriers also brought her expertise to our fun weekend in our natural landscapes, sharing her knowledge with the many new citizen scientists who showed up during the course of the weekend. And by the end of the challenge, we had 43 observers who logged 4 098 observations and 777 species. Perhaps most telling was the fun we had, visiting areas that we might not always have access to. In fact, we organised six events from Friday to Monday: a trip to Rietfontein and a 10km walk on the Agulhas National Park, a visit to the Geelkop Nature Reserve outside Elim, a guided walk on the Napier Commonages managed by the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust, a walk on the Napier Mountain Conservancy, and a bioblitz on the De Mond Farm, right next to the CapeNature reserve of the same name.  

Our sincere thanks to the organisers in the Southern Overberg, in particular Charleen Brunke and Ian Fortuin for pulling it all together, as well as the  participants AND the hard-working identifiers. While this may have been our first City Nature Challenge, it will most certainly not be our last. View the project results here.

2 Comments

  1. Brilliant blog on a brilliant bioblitz! So proud to be part of CNC2022!

  2. Great blog BotSoc

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