Photos from the City Nature Challenge

I live on the very edge of the Houston-Galveston territory for the City Nature Challenge.  This bioblitz event, run by iNaturalist, is a worldwide, 4-day challenge held every year, to get people outside, looking for all the species they can find.  Some of the areas that participate include Bangalore, India; Quito, Ecuador; and Melbourne, Australia!

This was my fourth year to participate — I started back in 2020 when everything was locked down, and it really helped me keep my sanity.  Every day I would go out and walk my usual loop, and I also sat on a crate in the pasture for an hour a day, and watched the butterflies and bees. That year I documented 40 species, mostly birds and insects.  It got me hooked on bioblitzes, and I now do at least two a year.  During those challenges, I walk all over our farm, kayak in the pond, go out at night with a flashlight, pull bark off of fallen trees — anything that I think might turn up another species to photograph! And the benefit of doing an iNaturalist challenge is that other people help with identifications, so every year I learn the names of lots of plants and insects that I didn’t know before.

Houston usually wins North America in the category of the number of species, and I wanted to do my part to help us keep our standing!  So I went out about 4 hours a day to photograph, especially looking for those species that not everybody might see, so I could add to the Houston species count.

I also wanted to get 100 species myself (I did get over 100, but some of those have not been identified down to species level), and to take some detailed pictures of plant species I don’t know yet, so I could learn their names.  Here are some of my favorite pictures from this past weekend. And if you click on the pictures you can see larger images.

Nothing too exciting, but I loved the contrast. This is a Funereal Duskywing on a cosmos.

I liked the pose of this Red-bellied Woodpecker.

This was a new butterfly for our farm list — a Checkered White on a Texas Dandelion. I love those sky blue eyes.

This young Tufted Titmouse was following its parent and begging. It stayed in the same place for a long time, giving me the opportunity to get lots of good pics.

Looking around.

The perfect pose.

These little Gray Hairstreaks were everywhere…

…but fortunately I took a good look at this one and realized it was a Reakirt’s Blue.

Reakirt’s Blue dorsal side, showing the brownish-blue tint.

Observations are still being recorded to the project, but I did get four observations that no one else did!

This Stillwater Clubtail was a new dragonfly to our farm list.

And the next day I saw another one! Stillwater Clubtail on a Southern Dewberry.

We see crane flies often — they are like giant floppy mosquitoes.  But they are so thin and frail, and they have this habit of landing on a ground plant and sort of bouncing in place, so they usually show up in photographs as only a blur on a plant.  But these two flew right past me and landed on the upper tips of a pond plant.  The light was perfect and I was able to get several shots.  None of them were focused perfectly, but they were good enough for an ID.

Phantom Crane Flies

The last night I hung an old sheet on the clothesline, and set up some black lights to see what would show up.  I have attended such mothing events at other bioblitzes and conferences, and they are always a lovely way to spend an evening. My husband sat with me and we chatted as we watched all kinds of tiny creatures land in the light.  First, a picture to give you a general idea of the moth sheet, and then the two that turned out to be the only observations in our area, for this weekend.

A moth, a caddisfly, and something really really tiny.

A tiny creature that rejoices in the name of Red-eyed Button Slug Moth

Short-lined Chocolate

I had a great time, and I look forward to the next bioblitz!