Has COVID-19 changed your observation rate?

I’ve been going out almost every day for a long walk with my camera, watching the wildlife in my neighborhood. Most of it is plants and I’ve been following several from first sighting of a young plant to flowers and fruits. Needless to say, all this checking back on plants has driven up my observation count. But I’m also seeing a new species on many of my walks, even now after 3 months. There are a few lightly-visited little greenbelts and wild areas within a mile of my home, plus plenty of roadsides, so I can observe without much worry.

Here are my coronavirus observations, which contain many “new to me” milkweeds: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2020-03-08&place_id=any&subview=table&user_id=jbecky&verifiable=any

How about you? Are you studying a new taxon, learning more about your neighborhood biodiversity, or getting tired of observing the critters invading your home and garden? Have you found a place to “observe” that comes with appropriate social distance? Or are you too busy working at your essential job to have time (yea, if you’re keeping things going, and boo, if you’re not getting out into nature)?

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jbecky,
It’s one of those things where it’s a sad situation but a great benefit for wildlife! I have seen less trash!

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We are both retired and in our 70s. We live in Manhattan, NYC, NY, US and like most Manhattanites we don’t have a car. We can’t use public transport during the pandemic (not safe), so we go around on foot, or rarely jump in a taxi.

We have had no doctor’s appointments for many weeks (usually a common thing in your 70s) and there is very little other than food shopping, pharmacy shopping, and regular chores to do. So we do a one- or two-hour nature walk every day, which for my husband is an exercise walk.

It is late spring. We are lucky that there are three or more nice places to walk within a couple of miles of us (three parks, and the Esplanade) and so, when the weather is good, I am making more observations than usual. I never get tired of our local nature because it is always changing, and I am always noticing new things and learning new things.

A lot of what I find that is new is tiny, and/or easily overlooked for other reasons, but I am learning to look very carefully indeed, and so I see all kinds of things that I would never have noticed a few years ago.

So even though we are almost always only in my neighborhood in Manhattan, and thus mostly in very urban areas, the richness of nature is astounding.

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I used a lot of the time I was furloughed to enter in old observations, but my rate of new observations is low. I am a nature walk leader and without a group to lead I’ve been depressed and withdrawn. I’ve been sneaking in a few observations at work (now that I’m not furloughed) trying to keep up with plants as they bloom and pollinators as they appear. I can’t wait for the time that I’ll be able to gather with others again, the whole situation is destructive to my soul.

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It definitely helped me, first weeks were tough, I watched birds from balcony, no new species, but new recorded one and many interesting species for the region, rules became looser with time and I could go for a walk as often as I want, now our region is free from restrictions of moving, so finally my husband and I can openly visit places we found that lack observations completely on iNat. Also it means our vacation plans are still on, so I saw no real negative effect on me from this situation.

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My OBs have soared! Quarantine requirements (as general situation with the epidemics) in Lithuania were mild, so I used much of my time to be outdoors, reserving evening and night time for work. Working from home allows me very free schedule except for the on-line meetings and the cases when things were to be done ASAP. I visited a number of places around the city where I live, at a distance which allowed good half day of walkabout. Excellent finds! Several were so important that they were used for an on-going conservation project. I will be sorry when next week I am back to the usual working routine. The only negative effect was that my abroad travel plans were ruined (hopefully not all of them and hopefully the situation improves towards autumn).

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@jef, I bet your followers miss you, too. But there are great social opportunities on iNaturalist. Do you know of some of your regulars who also use iNat? You could be checking their observations and helping them with IDs. Or look for new observations in your base of operations and ID those (add comments and often people will reply). People will love the help and you may meet new folks you can see in person eventually. Good luck!

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Yes! My observations have skyrocketed! Just before the lockdown I was lucky enough to go on a hike with a local group to learn about lichens…well, now I’m hooked! So I have spent the last two months roaming the woods and lake area where I’m so lucky to live. It is isolated so I never see another soul (which is great for my hermit’s soul). Not only am I learning about the myriad, weird and wonderful lichens that are everywhere (my Mum bought me an ID book!) but also the mosses. Now that the trees, flowers, birds and bugs are all springing forth I am having a hard time to get my gardening (and housework!) done. I love iNaturalist and the wonderful, supportive community.

My mother is a self-taught naturalist and is always amazed at the ease of making reports. She used to have to use a topo map and ruler to find coordinates when she was preparing specimens for the Museum of Natural History.
Thanks for your post! I love the whole concept of Citizen Science!

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I’m retired and in my location (Mississippi, US) even at the height of shelter-in-place there was an exception for outdoor exercise, which was considered essential with suitable distancing. Some parks are closed but National Forest, National Wildlife Refuge, and many Land Trust trails have remained open. I even rented a cabin for several days of isolated nature observation, so things have not slowed at all for me. All my Audubon surveys and field trips were canceled and I miss the company, but I go to all the same places and socialize virtually with fellow iNaturalists. We also have a very active state naturalist group on Facebook, so people are very much in touch.

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Welcome to the forum!

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Feb 01 - May 24

2020 | 461 observations | 243 species | 70 identifiers | Link
2019 | 511 observations | 217 species | 76 identifiers | Link
2018 | 439 observations | 216 species | 85 identifiers | Link
2017 | 681 observations | 277 species | 140 identifiers | Link

I spent the majority of March indoors instead of out exploring like I had originally planned (as well as during a pair of national holidays at the start of this month) and I think that’s reflected in my slightly lower number of observations this year.

On the other hand, it’s surprising to see that I managed to record a greater number of species than the previous two years. Perhaps related to where I visited or maybe trying to make up for lost time by spending more time out on the days that I did venture outside?

Guess I also need to make more iNaturalist friends as the number of identifiers helping me is decreasing each year. Though I imagine the type of person who wants to go through a bunch of spider and insect observations from South Korea is probably already following me or checking the country.

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Well, I might have obsessed a little over the amphibian population in my backyard… In Ecuador movement is/was pretty limited due to Covid-19 with a curfew in place from 2pm to 6am for the past 2 months. I was lucky enough to have an amazing backyard with a thriving population of marsupial frogs. And when I was more confined to the backyard I started to develop an interest to see, how variable the colours and patterns of those amphibians are and whether and how often I would manage to observe certain individuals. I went out every nigtht, am still about to evaltuate what I got. But I found that especially some males were at the same spot every night…
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?locale=de&place_id=any&preferred_place_id=7512&subview=grid&taxon_id=906968&user_id=ajott&verifiable=any

I write in past tense for two reasons: a) two weeks ago a heavy flood washed away huge parts of the backyard, including most of my little friends and their places they liked to perch on… first little froggy started to reappeared only about a week ago
and b) I managed to relocate to Germany a few days ago… so no more frog watching in the backyard, the project came to it´s natural end :-/

Was fun while it lasted.

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Considering how much time I’ve spent in my backyard taking photos, I thought my observation numbers this year compared to the same time frame last year would be about the same. They are not–I’ve done only a little more than half as many observations during our “lockdown” period this year compared to the same time frame last year. Part of the reason is that I was on a trip last year and out covering lots of new territory and new species every day. But the number of observations made in my own neighborhood went up 6-fold this year which is as it should be. Early on during the period, I saw a native bumblebee visiting flowers in my yard and made a point of looking for it every day; after 19 days it moved on. When looking for it each day, I looked at lots of honeybees and became intrigued by the colors of their pollen packs. I even considered setting up a project – “Pollen Pallete” – but haven’t.

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Before this started I already worked from home but now my husband also works from home. I used to record lunch time observations to share with him. Now we walk our suburb together—too much turf grass, but still extremely good to get out.
We are disappointed that we missed camping in Black Mountain NC to see the spring ephemerals. And also sad that we missed the trip to the SC coast to go tide-pooling and maybe see some spoonbills. Also a trip to a European destination is on hold. Looking at iNat observations from these places has comforted me and fueled my desire to travel again once we can.
My work has picked up so I have spent much more time on the computer. However, the recent tornado that hit my neighborhood has closed off certain areas I could walk before so fewer crickets and spiders. All the downed trees are finally getting cleared. Time will improve that at least. Must go!

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Definitely has.
Being stuck at home and having much more free time, ive gone outside into my backyard nearly every day to record mainly the arthropods and plants. Ive seen things ive never really seen outside my house too, like a fox (though ive heard many before), and a young opossum, likely the result of me being outside more.

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I don’t believe my rate has increased, but my variety certainly has. The vast majority of my observations, by choice, occur on my own property. This year, I have observed and photographed six species of birds new to my yard. I’m not sure if I just overlooked these birds in past years, or the pandemic caused me to spend more time at home observing, if climate change has brought new species to my area, if improvement of native plant species to my yard has attracted them, or all the above! What I do know is that it has been an interesting and exciting spring for me!

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Yes, my observations are way up. Most activities and places are closed or restricted, but it has always been okay here to exercise outside (nearby) with social distancing. Some of my favorite walking routes became too crowded, so I started going further away to open space when restrictions eased a little. Formerly, I hiked every week with a small group of friends, and we chattered away with each other. Now that I’m not interacting with them, I can stop and look at plants, insects, birds, and such much than I did.

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I’ve been getting out a lot more too, and it’s been so cool to watch everything wake up over the last couple months. I have a much higher observation rate than pre-quarantine. I’ve found a few new green spaces to explore near my house, too! I made a list to catalog new species I see. https://www.inaturalist.org/lists/2977612-New-Sightings-during-COVID-Lockdown

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My observation rate around these few months has definitely been lower compared to last year. For one, I stay at home for two weeks straight and going out only to buy enough groceries to last that time period, and two, my porch light is broken (I wonder why I haven’t gotten to fixing it)! So any creatures that are attracted by the lights, eg. moths, beetles, leafhoppers, flies, etc. are less likely to come over to be observed. Sometimes when the day is really good I would spend an afternoon in the nearby parks, but so far the frequency has been once a month. And adding on to the fact that I am a grad student so there’s also work piled up for me!

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Being stuck at home encouraged me to finally set up a “moth sheet” + UV light in my back yard. As someone who mostly shoots arthropods this has easily doubled the amount of stuff I’m photographing. I’ve probably posted as many observations in the last 2 months as all of 2019. Really cool to see how many interesting critters are living in my neighborhood that I’ve never seen during the daytime! Can’t go find them, make them come to you :-)

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