Say you’re a passionate iNatter, you want to live in an urban area, and you don’t want to own a car. What are the best places in the world for this life style? What cities have beautiful green spaces (parks, trails, beaches, forests or any other kind of wilderness) with great species diversity that are near the urban core and are easily accessible on foot, with a bike or via public transportation?
I don’t think there’re many cities that don’t fall under your description, here in Moscow there’s a national park both in city (and it actually goes further in, but as different regular parks) and out of its borders. You can check the project here. Plus there’re other big parks too.
Almost no cities in the United States have even half-decent public transport or safe places for bikes, scooters, or even pedestrian transit. New York City, Philadelphia and a few others are exceptions. The American car and gas industries are doing all they can to keep things this way.
I don’t live in a particularly large city, but not too far from Chicago which has a huge park district and several birding areas that people from all over the state go to.
But even without that, looking for nature in an urban environment is just a matter of imagination. When doing the Chrsitmas Bird Counts this year, one of the ones I did, my assigned area was right in the middle of the city with limited parks to work with, but in spite of that I still found a lot of birds. Best one of the day was an Orange-crowned Warbler next to a grocery store in a spot where people dumped their garbage. I’ve found lots of species of bees, birds, and others in unlikely places just by keeping my eyes open and looking for them.
There was even a good book on the subject: How to be an Urban Birder by David Lindo.
I don’t own a car or bike. The two urban areas I spend time in both have a broad range of habitats… and after two years of recording I can still find a new species for my list pretty much every day I go out in either. So I agree, as @marina_gorbunova says - I think almost anywhere would fulfil your description.
Some are of course better than others though.
The main limitation I’ve found in Reykjavik is cold weather rather than habitat / species diversity or transport links (despite it being relatively poor on all those counts). When it’s too cold and too dark a large portion of the year then that’s a bit of a deal-breaker. But… in any case, good to have time off from recording for some periods.
I love it here in Sacramento. The American River Parkway runs through a significant part of the metro area and has a world class bike path with open space along a 32 mile stretch. Numerous access points at some fantastic parks. Many are eBird hotspots with at least three having over 200 species recorded.
Here in Portugal most cities have a city park. Some are large (I believe my city has the largest city park in Europe, but I’m not sure if this is still true) and more “wild”, others are more like a garden (with more human control and influence) and smaller.
Besides this, most cities are surrounded by natural or semi natural areas, and most coastal cities have a generous beach line full of wildlife
I live in Santiago, Chile, a city surrounded by hills and mountains, but the diversity is not so big, yet almost is pretty endemic.
Im not a big traveler, but I think Rio de Janeiro matches with your description, a warm city, with beaches, sandy beaches, and some areas with coral reefs, some small hills, and some patchs of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica). As pedestrian you can have a lot of fun, with no car or even bike (but having a bike is a must!).
Portland, Oregon would be a good choice–many natural areas within and completely surrounding the city and it ranks high for bicycling.
But weather-wise, a more tropical location with year-round observing opportunities and more biodiversity would be better.
Singapore is absolutely one of the best choices. Excellent public transportation, and great habitat variety all within short walking distance from that transportation
On my recent trip to see family in Germany, my niece and I explored the old graveyard in town. We focused on mosses and lichens, which were plentiful on the weathered gravestones and old trees planted there over a century ago, and experimented with hand lenses to take close-ups with her smartphone. I highly recommend this as an activity with kids who are into ‘spooky’ things but also easily fascinated by exploring previously unseen small things.
Cerro del Fortin in Oaxaca de Juarez has nice walking trails and nature
Bois de Bolougne in Paris
Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur in Buenos Aires
I was in CEDEMEX this december last year and really wanted to visit Oaxaca :( but I had no time to go snif snif
Si te gustarias comer, Oaxaca es re increible
I’ve got to put in a plug for the beautiful parks of Washington DC, as well as all the Smithsonian native plantings that attract pollinators. DC area iNatters just had a Zoom get-together where we shared ideas about “bonus species”–wild species that are closely associated with common, often cultivated species. Examples: scale insects and sooty mold on Chinese holly, forsythia stem gall, rose rosette disease virus, boxwood mite, lots of galls and leafminers. Finding these tiny pieces of nature, outside of humanity’s direct control, gave so many of us hope during the days when we COVID kept us in our yards and neighborhoods.
Denver and Colorado Springs both have what you’re looking for.
I lived in many larger cities around the world and I have to agree that you can make fascinating observations almost anywhere as long as you are willing to get inspired by what is around you. At first Cairo for example seemed (iNat-wise) quite boring to me with all the desert dirt and well groomed lawns, but after a while I got the hang of it and found a lot I had not expected.
Bogota now still is a bit disappointing despite many parks, but I still have some ideas to spice it up. Lets see.
I am btw not an extremely high fan of the local parks for iNat-observing but adore random waysides and fallow lands. Its amazing what you can find there, sometimes even rare species… those places are often much more interesting than parks :-)
I came here to say this. Singapore has massive biodiversity for such a tiny country and a really strong Naturalist community. The public transport is amazing. It’s also absurdly well placed for nature tourism too.
NYC fits your description pretty well. NYC especially has amazing public transportation – most people don’t own a car here, and in recent years the ferry services have greatly expanded, are as cheap as a bus, and ferries can take you to almost anywhere you might want to go.
San Francisco has Golden Gate Park, which is an amazing place. Absolutely filled with all kinds of birds and fungi. And unlike most of the US they have a public transit system of some kind, though not necessarily a very lovely one.
And some areas of Sacramento have a lot of wild life as well, though I don’t think the public transit is that great. However, there is a bike path that runs through the city, and a lot of people commute to work on it.
That said, you find some cool species in the most un-lovely places. I’ve seen wild ferns growing on walls of damp alleyways and peregrines nesting on the building above some garbage dumpsters. Rare lichens growing on asphalt at a road edge, and endangered frogs hanging out in a garbage-filled cattle grate. Nature is where you look for it!