An eastern ribbon snake (Thamnophis saurita ssp. saurita) was reported using the iNaturalist app during the City Nature Challenge in Virginia Beach, Va., on May 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Ty Smith/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
by Will Parson
May 13, 2021
To enjoy nature, you might feel compelled to travel outside the confines of the city where you live. But look at the map of recent wildlife sightings on the community science platform iNaturalist and you’ll see dense clusters at the heart of some of the Chesapeake watershed’s major metropolitan areas. The annual City Nature Challenge, where anyone can report their urban wildlife observations, reveals that nature is truly all around us.
We’ve gathered just a sample of the 2021 City Nature Challenge’s impressive sightings from across the Chesapeake watershed—everything from plants and insects to mammals, birds and reptiles. Scroll through and see what wildlife your city has to offer!
Chesapeake cities rise to the challenge
The 2021 City Nature Challenge ran from April 30 to May 3, with participants able to report their findings through iNaturalist until May 9. The social platform makes it easy for anyone with a smartphone camera to participate, with the online community helping to identify unknown critters.
Several areas across the region were represented in this year’s competition. In Virginia: Charlottesville, greater Richmond and Hampton Roads each reported hundreds of species and participants. In Maryland: the Baltimore area, encompassing several neighboring counties, reported nearly 2,000 species. The Washington metro region, however, noted almost 3,000 species and over 1,000 people participating—enough to be ranked third among 419 cities taking part globally.
Nearly a third of Washington’s species count came from the Anacostia River watershed, where the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) led several events to garner even more participation than last year, an effort that feeds into its ongoing iNaturalist project that records biodiversity along the Anacostia River. In addition to land-based observations for the challenge, the nonprofit was able to obtain a permit to catch and release fish and other aquatic animals living in the watershed.
“Participants had a lot of fun netting fish and crayfish,” said Jorge Bogantes Montero, a stewardship program specialist with AWS, in an email. “They were like kids again!”
Though it’s too late to participate in this year’s challenge, iNaturalist is a year-round platform for learning new species and contributing to a global community science effort. And to help you explore you can use our website to find an organization in your area.
A northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans) is seen in Anne Arundel County, Md., on May 2. (Photo courtesy of emilio_c/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
An osprey (Pandion haliaetus) carries nesting material in Edgemere, Md., on May 2. (Photo courtesy of laurabankey/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
A pinxter flower (Rhododendron periclymenoides) blooms in North Laurel, Md., on May 3. (Photo courtesy of jrowley/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
An eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is seen in Joppa, Md., on April 30, 2021. (Photo courtesy of susanrich01/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
Washington, D.C., Metro Area
Jorge Bogantes Montero of the Anacostia Watershed Society records a common watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) during the City Nature Challenge in Hyattsville, Md., on May 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Jorge Bogantes Montero/Anacostia Watershed Society)
A periodical cicada larva (Magicicada) is seen in Fairfax County, Va., on May 1, 2021. Periodical cicadas were the second-most identified insect in the Anacostia watershed. (Photo courtesy of Luca Catanzaro/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
An American beaver (Castor canadensis) swims along the Potomac River in Belle Haven, Va., on May 1, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Ashley M. Bradford/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
Southern flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans) visit a feeding platform in Wheaton, Va., on May 1, 2021. (Photo courtesy of msur/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
A hummingbird clearwing (Hemaris thysbe) visits daisy fleabane blooming in Charlottesville, Va., on May 1, 2021. (Photo courtesy of clara-c/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
A juvenile painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) was recorded in Louisa, Va., on May 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy of northgardenherper/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
A type of greenshield lichen (Flavoparmelia) was recorded in Shenandoah National Park on May 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy of behringerd/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
An American toad (Anaxyrus americanus) is recorded in Albemarle County, Va., on May 3, 2021. (Photo courtesy of huestonwill/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
A cobra clubtail (Gomphurus vastus), a type of dragonfly, emerges as an adult from its shed skin near Michaux, Va., on May 1, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Joe Girgente/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
Juniper-apple rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae) grows on an eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) in Chesapeake, Va., on May 1, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Louise Woodrich/iNaturalist CC BY)
A rosy maple moth (Dryocampa rubicunda) visits a home in Chesterfield, Va., on May 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy of springy13/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
A prothonotary warbler (Protonotaria citrea) visits Powhatan County, Va., on May 1, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Joe Girgente/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
A North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) is seen in Virginia Beach, Va., on April 30, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Liza Eckardt/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
A broad-headed skink (Plestiodon laticeps) is seen in Virginia Beach, Va., on April 30, 2021. (Photo courtesy of mermaid_hales/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
A green tree frog (Hyla cinerea) is seen in Virginia Beach, Va., on May 3, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Liza Eckardt/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
An eight-spotted forester moth (Alypia octomaculata) is seen in Chesapeake, Va., on May 1, 2021. (Photo courtesy of ldragsac/iNaturalist CC BY-NC)
About Will Parson - Will produces digital stories for the Chesapeake Bay Program. He studied ecology and evolution at University of California, San Diego. He reported on water and the environment as a graduate student at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication, and worked at newspapers in New England before landing in Maryland.