City Nature Challenge 2021: eThekwini's Journal

March 01, 2021

FAQ - Observations

Q: Do planted/captive organisms (excluding pets) count?
• The focus of the challenge is on wild and natural organisms, including aliens. Any observations made in gardens (= planted or captive) must be marked accordingly. These do count: separate tallies are kept of wild, planted and total observations.

Q: Do the insects in my garden count to the totals?
• Most definitely. As do the plants and other animals that they are feeding on or associated with. So do animals and fungi in your house: the ants, moths and other visitors also count. Please record them all. If you know that your garden or street trees are planted, please mark them as such.

Q: What kind of photos make a good observation?
• It is important though to take several pictures of different features from different angles, with some close-ups of features, such as heads, legs, wings, and bodies of animals, and flowers, bracts, leaves and stems of plants, and views of the gills or undersides of fungi. This will help considerably with making an accurate identification.

Q: I would like to photograph small things. How do I get good photographs?
• It helps to zoom in. Enlarge the image on your screen before taking the photograph. If you desire, you can use a magnifying glass in front of your smartphone lens. One can also buy magnifying accessories at many smartphone stores, that clip onto your phone and can make minute ants look huge. if you can get hold of one and focus on our really small life, it would be really cool!

Q: I hope to do a 20Nm day trip to sea (weather permitting). Will the data be included within the City?
• Strictly we are using a 2Nm buffer to the city: so about 25km out to sea. If you plan a more serious pelagic trip, tell us and we will request an adjustment to our boundaries to include. any Pelagic trips targeting marine birds, fish and mammals during the City Nature Challenge.

Q: By when must observations made during the 4 days be uploaded?
• After the four days (30 April – 03 May 2021) there are a few days grace (until 9 May) to upload. However, we do need to identify the organisms, so upload as soon as is possible please.

Q: Can several people take pictures of the same plant? Will it be useful if they did, or rather a waste of time?
• It will add to the total observations, but not the total number of species observed. It is better if they don’t. Rather send the team or bioblitzers to find other plants. Of course, it will happen that several observers may photograph the same species on your excursion. If they are more than a few hundred metres away then the distribution information is useful. If they are less, then it is still useful information. But please discourage an entire class photographing the same bush. Inevitably it will happen that a really special plant/ goggo/ bird/ etc. is found. And everyone wants to record it to add to their life list. These things happen, and should not be discouraged. Not only will everyone want to photograph it, but some will want to come back and photograph it again. That is also OK, as it contributes to the phenology data - growth, flowering, fruiting, even flowering times during the day (or night): they data are always useful.

Q: If I photograph a plant and then see another of the same species nearby, should I photograph it? How far away should these be to qualify as different observations? (1m, or 5m, or 20m,..?)
• If you are going to photograph each species every 1m, then after 5 hours you will have crawled 50m and be exhausted. A rule of thumb is to think population-wise: try and get every population. So for some trees it will be 5km away. For some rare post-fire herbs, every 50m should be adequate. If it is rare, record every clump. if it is common, select a few places along your route.

Q: If I photograph a plant non-indigenous to our area (i.e. planted), how should this be labelled? A thumbs-down to "Organism is wild"?
• Yes, this is the correct thing to do. On the app, just click not wild. Note that if it is a special plant and you want confirmation of the ID, it might be wise to hold back marking it as planted until you get confirmation of the ID, because observations marked "not wild" go out of the "Needs ID" queue. For the CNC, this does not matter as one ID is enough for our purposes.
• Don’t confuse "not wild" with "not indigenous": lots of alien and near-alien species are very wild! Not wild is for those plants that you know were planted, and those animals still captive. Escaped plants and weeds are “wild”.

Q: How does the counting work? If I see a chameleon, sunbird, skink, whatever each of the 4 days in my own garden and post an observation thereof each day. How would that count/work? Or for that matter an ibis on the side walk each day!
• That would strictly be cheating. The same chameleon (or even another) in your garden over a few days should count as one observation. But those in your aunt's, or niece's gardens would count as different observations. Similarly, if you saw the Ibis in a different block or park or suburb, then those are definitely different observations and should be posted.
• Within a nature reserve a few hundred meters would suffice: unless you were monitoring "clumps", in which case each clump would be acceptable. Use your discretion - distances to a new observation will be much smaller for a millipede than an eagle.

Q: Hidden localities! How will we record species listed as threatened on the Red List or susceptible to being poached e.g. cycads. If iNat obscures these, then they won’t show up and count to the city, and that will put us at a considerable disadvantage? What should we do?
• iNaturalist automatically obscures species that are sensitive. There is no need to obscure any species manually as a rule.

• Obscured species will be included in the City, province and country totals, but they won’t show up in the City’s Nature Reserve Projects to help protect them.

Q: How do I add descriptions to support my observation?
I would maybe add something on how to add a “note” - many people may want to make a comment and it should be explained how to do it.

Posted on March 01, 2021 14:31 by suvarna suvarna | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 25, 2021

City Nature Challenge iNaturalist courses - eThekwini

Virtual training sessions will be hosted by the CREW team every Friday morning during March and April. Leave your name in the comments below with the date that best suits you. The link for MS Teams or Zoom will be shared. Evening training sessions may be arranged as required for 18:30 - 19:30. Leave a comment should you be interested.

In-person training for a group of 10 people max can be arranged. Please post your requests in comments below for further engagement.

Prerequisites to join a course:

  1. Good internet connection.
  2. iNaturalist APP preloaded onto your mobile device.
  3. iNaturalist profile created .Make contact prior to the session should you have challenges creating a profile.
  4. an image to upload

Weekly sessions will be as follows:
1-hour Smartphone session (9:00 - 10:00) will cover the following topics:
• Making an observation
• Doing lots of pictures
• Zooming in
• Observe and leave IDs for after
• Adding projects
• Saving
• Working offline with auto-upload off and ID suggestions off
• Battery and saving power + auxillary packs
• Extras: macro lenses, sounds,
• Uploading at night
• Questions

1-hour Computer session (10:30-11:30) will cover the following topics:
• Taking photos
• Doing mapwork (tricks: tracks on smartphone or GPS, inserting exif)
• Cropping and checking
• Uploading observations
• Adding projects and data
• Checking.
• Checking data and uploads
• Helping with IDs
• Homework: planning for the CNC

Posted on February 25, 2021 01:26 by suvarna suvarna | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 24, 2021

Frequently Asked Questions about Participating in City Nature Challenge

Q: Do I have to register to participate, or is joining iNaturalist enough?
• All you have to do is join iNaturalist and make observations during the four days of the City Nature Challenge (30 April – 03 May 2021) within the eThekwini Municipality limits see map on project page and upload them on or before the 9th of May 2021. While contributing to the City Nature Challenge, observations will also automatically be contributing to the various nature reserves, DMOSS sites and other places of biodiversity significance. The iNaturalist website will handle that all automatically. All you have to do is photograph and upload with the iNaturalist app or website

Q: What happens if the weather turns ugly and we cannot get out on those days?
• There are four days (30 April – 03 May 2021). We will just have to try harder on the best days.

Q: Why is the Challenge in autumn, instead of spring when things are happening?
• Invented by citizen science staff at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and California Academy of Sciences, the City Nature Challenge is an international effort for people to find and document plants and wildlife in cities across the globe. The Challenge is set according to the northern hemisphere’s spring. Australia has initiated a Southern Bioblitz and we will participate in both events.

Q: I don’t feel safe to be in public spaces during the pandemic or am unable to leave my home. How can I participate in the Challenge?
• Explore your home, basement, garage, garden get to know nature in your neighbourhood. Record your garden plants, weeds, pot plants (just mark them as 'planted') bees, flies, butterflies, birds, ants, pests (aphids, millipedes, snails and caterpillars), chameleons and lizards, insects, worms during the day. Whip out the flashlight for night observations. You may want to obscure the observation’s location to prevent your home location becoming public if you are concerned about privacy. On the other hand some people create projects and advertise their gardens. It is entirely up to you.
• Road verges and roadside trees also count, just remember to mark those planted accordingly.

Q: How can I track progress during the Challenge to see how many observations and species and participants there are?
• Visit this project, or bookmark this link: - it will continuously update as the Challenge progresses.
• Check out the global competition here: - this is continuously updated, so you can monitor progress. Remember that we are near GMT, so almost half the world is ahead of us (starting with New Zealand 10 hours ahead) and half behind (ending with Hawaii 14 hours behind).

Q: How do I find out where a species has been recorded in the city?
• On the iNaturalist web page, choose "Explore", and add in the organism name (you can use common names) and the place (eThekwini) and you can look at the map, observations, species (if you have chosen a genus or family), and the observers and identifiers in the area.

Q: How do I find a checklist for a nature reserve or other place?
• On the iNaturalist web page, choose More, select places, and enter the name of the place you are interested in. On the page, choose the checklist option below the filters on the left. You can narrow down the checklist to any group, family or genus that you are interested in. For example:
Butterflies of New Germany:

Posted on February 24, 2021 19:04 by suvarna suvarna | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 23, 2021

What is required to participate in the Challenge?

How does it work?

  1. Simply take your smartphone and load the iNaturalist app from
  2. Sign up to iNaturalist.
    And you are ready. Do this now! Although the competition is in April, please practice in the meantime, so that you will be slick when the time comes.

Ensure that your GPS unit or mobile/ camera locality is on and then find something - a plant or animal, or some sign of it like scats, spoor, quills or remains.
Take a photograph or two. to show the different features from different angles, with some close-ups of features, such as heads, legs, wings, and bodies of animals, and flowers, bracts, leaves and stems of plants, and views of the gills or undersides of fungi. This will help considerably with making an accurate identification.
The iNaturalist App will streamline the process. And send. To save time and data, you can leave the downloading for when you are connected via WIFI.

Some rules (sorry there are always rules):
● No people please - definitely no selfies. Your domestic dogs and cats do not count either. Ideally wild animals please, but if in doubt, bag it.
● Use your zoom to take a closeup photo: to qualify we will have to identify your observation (we do that the week afterwards) and small images are impossible: please zoom in as much as possible.
● Please only post one observation for a species at a place at a time - several photographs are needed for many plants and insects, so keep them on one observation. If you are going to several sites during the day it is OK to photograph the same species of animals or plants again each time.
● Only observations made within the city limits between midnight and midnight between the 30 April and 03 May will count.

And that is it.
Stakeout your favourite natural or city areas. Check out
Decide on which sites you will visit. Make your own teams.
You are ready for the City Nature Challenge 2021.
Time to do a little practicing so that you know the ropes for the event....

Posted on February 23, 2021 00:34 by suvarna suvarna | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 22, 2021

eThekwini 's Biodiversity

Would you like to participate in the City Nature Challenge though not familiar with the natural areas you can explore in eThekwini?
Our aim is for the Challenge to introduce you to the City's natural areas as well as improving the resources and data sets for both visitors and conservation managers.

The city contains several nature reserves, each with their own project.
These include Amanzimtoti Nature Reserve, Burman Bush Nature Reserve, Durban Botanic Gardens, Empisini Nature Reserve, Happy Valley Nature Reserve, Ilanda Wilds Nature Reserve, Ilovo River Picnic Site, Inanda Reserve, Iphithi Nature Reserve, Kraanzkloof Nature Reserve, Kwadabeka Conservancy, Mariannwood Nature Reserve, New Germany Nature Reserve Fauna and Flora, Palmiet Nature Reserve, Paradise Valley Nature Reserve, Pigeon Valley Nature Reserve, Roosfontein Nature Reserve, Seaton Park Nature Reserve, Shongweni Nature Reserve, Silverglen Nature Reserve, Durban, Springside Nature Reserve, Virginia Bush Nature Reserve.
We will be adding operational times, species lists and management plans where possible.

Of course, not all of our biodiversity occurs in nature reserves.
There are urban open spaces, parks, rivers, and of course our own gardens. Why not document the birds, insects and other wildlife in your garden?

We have included most of Durban's natural spaces here:

Posted on February 22, 2021 22:56 by suvarna suvarna | 0 comments | Leave a comment