Have you ever been interested in learning more about the wildlife that lives in your neighborhood? Do you ever find yourself searching for fun things to do with your family on the weekend? Wildlife viewing in your backyard or neighborhood may be the solution!
Nearly any backyard, porch or neighborhood will have plants and animals that you can find and, if you want to learn more about them, mobile applications and other sources of information abound to help you identify and learn about what you have seen.
For birds, the mobile application Merlin is great for beginners. Merlin asks you a few questions about the time of year, your location and the coloration of the bird you’ve seen and then provides you with some possible birds that it could be. You can also keep a checklist of all birds you’ve seen and identified in Merlin. Merlin’s list of possible birds that users have seen is based on data that thousands of people have submitted either through Merlin or online to the eBird website. eBird is the place to go if you want more information on bird sightings and distributions and want excellent photos and bird audio recordings.
For other animals and for plants, iNaturalist is a great tool for uploading photographs and getting species identifications, which can be corroborated by experts. Photographs can be uploaded through a mobile application or online and the application will provide identification suggestions of visually similar species. You can also search for species if you know what you have photographed. iNaturalist has very user-friendly videos to orient you to using the mobile application and website.
If you want to contribute to ongoing data collection efforts and inform research being done by scientists, there are many community science opportunities. One such annual opportunity for residents of Bernalillo, Sandoval and Valencia counties is the City Nature Challenge (CNC) ABQ. For 2022, City Nature Challenges will be held worldwide from April 29-May 2 and observations of all animals and plants you make in iNaturalist through the ABQ CNC will count toward the local total. The event planners hold in-person and virtual events leading up to and following the four-day challenge, including iNaturalist workshops and identification sessions for observations gathered during the event.
There are several opportunities to contribute information specific to birds, including through Project FeederWatch, run through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the Christmas Bird Count, run by Audubon. If you want to get into identifying photographs taken by camera traps (i.e., cameras triggered by the movement of an animal in front of the camera), then you may be interested in checking out eMammal. There’s even a program to submit bumble bee sightings!