Following local restrictions/ safely iNatting during COVID 19

I’ve personally have not done it because the weather’s been crummy the last couple days but I do know people who have gone out to enjoy their birding or other wildlife hobbies despite you shouldn’t be going out for “non-essential” things or actions. But hey, if golf courses stay open… :man_shrugging:


It varies by location, but while the news reports that you can only go out for essential things, often going outdoors for exercising is considered essential, as long as you maintain social distancing.


Birding and nature walks have not been specifically mentioned, but here in New York City the parks remain open (although scheduled activities and contact sports are cancelled) for exercise and mental health.

I am happy to report that I took a walk in a local park this morning and people were keeping their distance except those who were obviously well acquainted.


Yep! Biking and hiking (with a Social Distancing 6 foot buffer) were specifically mentioned as essential activities in many orders in Texas.

But even without stepping outside, I have been able to submit observations, and I’m not even in a rural area.
I’ve found a carpet beetle indoors.
I found a leaf/plant hopper indoors.
I get at least one crane fly inviting itself in whenever I open a door.
There’s the occasional spider or millipede that makes it’s way in.
From a window or through an open door I can record the freaking suicidal cottontails and fox squirrels that go into the street, or the nearby birds and wasps.
I can search my phone for old pics I haven’t uploaded yet.

And of course, there’s always identifying.


Whilst I am desperate to go out to my local parks and into the nature I still think its best for me to self isolate and stay in as much as possible. That means hoping the critters will come to me rather than the other way round. Here in my local neighbourhood in Atlanta it seems the place is much quieter than usual.


I believe here in Washington State, the order is leave the house for only essential trips. I went out yesterday and walked the Padilla Bay Shore Trail because it was my birthday after all. There were a few people out walking, some jogging. I had my two dogs on leash making it challenging to iNat but not impossible. I passed by a family with a couple young children. They asked if they could pet my dogs. Under normal circumstances, this would be fine. Sadly, I told them that this probably is not the best time. I’m looking forward to more normal times.


Here in the bay area a lot of parks got slammed by visitors, thus becoming possible vectors. So unfortunately a lot of park districts are closing parking lots and monitoring the situation. The East Bay Regional Park District, which I think is the largest urban park district in the US, put up this list of closures the other day:

I’ve actually enjoyed walking around my neighborhood and photographing weeds and urban birds. I’ve lived in the same place for 10 years and am finally getting to know this place, which is kind of cool, although obviously I wish it was happening under less dire circumstances.


Obviously we must use some judgement based on our own circumstances.

Just before I went for my walk in a park I told my Dad that if the park was crowded I wouldn’t stay. Sad, but that’s how it must be, for now.


There are often downsides to being in a small, rural community, but right now it has its advantages. One being the abundance of Forest Service and BLM lands surrounding it that are infrequently visited, wherein it is difficult to be anything but socially distant.


Here in Massachusetts, we’re encouraged to go outside for exercise, as long as we don’t carpool and we stay 6 feet away from anyone we’re hiking with or meet on the trail. I’ve been taking advantage of this escape clause (who am I fooling? I was doing this before the pandemic) to get outside whenever the weather is good and go investigate somewhere I’ve never been. That said, some parks and conservation areas here have closed to the public, but many areas remain open. I’m lucky I live in a small town with abundant conservation areas nearby. Frankly, I think walking in natural areas on sunny days is one of the things keeping me sane these days.


In case of interest, the Coronavirus map of the US bears a striking resemblance to the map of light pollution -

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Makes sense. In both, it’s areas with a higher population density.


There are great iNaturalist places to go that aren’t parks and won’t have people:

  • Cemeteries, especially old ones.
  • Golf courses not open for business
  • Powerline rights-of-way if you can find suitable parking
  • Edges of athletic fields or school grounds that aren’t in use
  • Interstate rest areas if you stay away from people
  • With boots or wet sneakers, in creeks (not too urban); park at road overpass.
    It’s kind of interesting to think like a plant or a critter and see how they see the landscape.

It really seems to depend on the location and situation. Here walks are fine but I’ve mostly been poking around our field.

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Not allowed out, but I could upload mountains of old photos. With vague locations, since I rely on the satellite view map to remind where That was.
Have just rescued a chilly gecko - could have iNatted that.


It depends on your memory and how old the photos are, but I have been going through photos back to 2018 (maybe a couple of 2017) and it’s surprising how well I remember where I took some of the older ones–not just which park, but a specific area within the park. And since we’re supposed to limit going out, it’s fun to re-create some past walks through photos.

Yes, the chilly gecko would have been great.


If I stay indoors much longer I just might start to think like a plant!

Now taking my small digital point & shoot (I don’t have a smart phone) with me when grocery shopping, in case I see anything interesting. Allowing myself at least one walk in a low-density park or open space per week, for exercise and mental health.


I was able to go back to 2014. I kept all my bird photos in folders with the place and date as well as a list I kept each year about what place I visited on a particular date and what birds I saw. There were a few that I had to bypass where the date and/or place just hadn’t been recorded. But uploading those I did have records for kept me busy during the long winter. I even went through photos I took of flowers looking for insects and dug photos out of my computer’s trash in case I missed an insect in one of them.

I let my yard go fairly natural and have some rotting tree limbs on the grounds (for insect habitat). I rolled one of them over last week and found some interesting fungi. Now that’s a little warmer, I’m finding more arthropods. Rolling over logs is my new favorite activity.


This hilarious but helpful info graphic from ebird during my state’s unfortunately-timed breeding bird atlas:

And this link to more useful info about safe birding right now:


or if you’re more into mammals: