How much of your local area have you explored?

I would define a local area has any place that is within an hour’s drive or so. A reasonable day trip.

Speaking from an Ontario perspective have you …

Visited all the official trail system (that are listed in a local trail adjacency)?
Visited all the provincial parks operating and non-operating, conservation reserves, conservation areas, crown land, private camp ground with trails, city parks with natural features?
Attempted to find as many different habitats to visit such as deciduous, coniferous forest, swamps, marshes, fens, bogs, lakes, rivers, riffles, open areas, grasslands etc?
In addition to hiking have tried snowshoeing, mountain biking, canoeing, boating, wading to get into more remote areas?
Looked at geology maps for less common features such as eskers, kames, ice-contact deltas, etc?
Looked at soil maps looking for pockets of acid or basic soil, alluvial areas, etc?
Have you tried different observing equipment, ie close-focusing binoculars, cameras, insects nets, etc to look at unseen local wildlife?

I sure haven’t explored all my local area yet, although I have blessed with still having some left (I live in North Bay, Ontario) because I don’t live in an area that is mostly agriculture or city scape. I am currently going through unmarked roads up Highway 11 North. Yesterday I did kilometer 30 from home. The road turned out to be a trapper line trail with a wetland plus a natural gas and hydro corridor near the end. A less interesting location but interesting enough for a single visit.

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I spend most of my outdoor time in a fairly restricted area - about a 2 km stretch of bush along the Red River in Winnipeg. I’ve been going there for a decade or more, and what is most interesting is the slow changes that happen. The city is ‘rewilding’ the area, and I’ve seen trees start to grow without being artificially planted (planted trees tend to die). In places the riverbank has eroded to the point that what was once a path is no longer one. A few years ago a section of the bank ‘slipped’ further down, and while this happens a fair bit, this section has remained alive and the brush is growing. Since I’ve been actually observing what lives there, I’ve noticed trends and can predict where certain migratory birds will nest. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of diversity (especially in winter!), but it’s been very fulfilling to watch changes over time.

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Nice. Going to the same place time after time allows you to get to know it much better. With careful observing you can notice the subtle changes like succession and/or the colonization of non-native species. Plus you can predict where and when you will find the wildlife. When something like a bird fallout occurs it is quite apparent and exciting.

The only two areas I know really well are Laurier Woods, a well maintained trail system on a provincially significant wetland in the middle of the city and my 8 km commute route to work (by bicycle about a third of the time). While well explored places can be a bit boring at times, they will throw surprises sometimes. One of my favourite surprises in Laurier Woods was the day when there were Tennessee Warblers singing everywhere and you could several singing simultaneously wherever you went. Might never witness that again…

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I’m quite lazy to go far by foot, but I guess amount of data collected right near my house is still good to start with. Places where I live constantly are not close to biomes I’m more interested with, but I believe that every place without observations is ineteresting enough.
I’ve used microscope + tele- and macro lenses. Haven’t came yet to the level of checking geo and soil maps, but definitely Google maps’ satellite shots worth checking if you’re looking for a place to visit. Would use anything to get to more remote areas, though going on foot is always preferable

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I live in Manhattan, New York City, and like most NYC people, we don’t own a car. Before the pandemic it was easy to get around by subway, or a combination of subway and bus, as well as, when necessary, the somewhat more expensive non-subway trains.

During the pandemic I was reduced to traveling by foot, at first only in my immediate neighborhood, and then, as things improved a bit, I took some taxis, and sometimes buses.

I am attempting to visit, and to do my own little informal iNat bioblitz in, every single park and green space (including playgrounds) on the East Side of Manhattan, mostly the ones that are south of where I live. I just look for the green patches on the map. When I have exhausted all those possibilities, I will comb the parks and green spaces that are on the West Side of Manhattan, and the accessible islands that are off of Manhattan, the ones other than Randall’s Island, which I have already explored quite well.

I often take an insect net with me, a children’s one, which is small enough to fit in my backpack. I also have a good pond net and enamel dish which I take to places where I know there is a body of freshwater.

It is really extraordinary what you can find in small city parks and gardens – there is more nature in those places than people could possibly imagine. Even city side streets have quite a lot of nature.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/susanhewitt

I find things that are new to me very frequently, and quite often I find species that are new iNat records for NYC.

Currently I have 2041 species recorded from NYC, and I am at the top of the leaderboard for the New York City Ecoflora project:

https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/new-york-city-ecoflora

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Well, by that very reasonable metric, then I can confidently say I have explored…not much at all.

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I’ve pretty much explored most of the forest and field systems on my street, as well as most of the local parks and woods near me. I find it interesting how places not within an hour of me can have vastly different plant species than areas within 5 minutes of my house.

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I wrote out a list of places I haven’t botanized the crap out of and decided to end the list before it hit a second page in my book lol.
In 2 weeks I feel like I’ve been to 7 new places and only 3 were on that long list lol.
Next year maybe I’ll complete my hour’s radius. Haven’t even moved onto railroad tracks yet.

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In Atlanta, I haven’t explored much, I have only frequented the local parks within walking distance from where I live. Many of my observations there have been “opportunistic”, eg. a moth flying into my open window at night, or spotting a spider during my walk to and from school. So I have many observations clustered around select areas where I frequent. So I haven’t explored much at all of Atlanta.

Hong Kong is a different story. There is a small hill behind where I live which contains a hiking trail, and have explored the many different paths that reach to the top. From my home an hour’s drive will pretty much take you everywhere in HK maybe except for the westernmost regions. I have explored almost all the major country parks, though there are a few up North that I haven’t yet visited.

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With the lack of traffic due to Covid-19, an hour’s drive probably at least doubles the range of parks and open space that I could reach in an hour (pre=COVID) . Then, too, the SF Bay Area has an extremely diverse climate range. It covers baylands and bay marshes, the bays themselves, the valleys (largely developed but with significant pockets of parkland), the foothills, the mountains, and the oceans, beaches, and ocean marshes… all with many flavors of diversity due to micro climates. I imagine even the most prolific and enthusiastic observer would take several years to thoroughly cover a 1-hour’s drive territory from south San Jose where I live. I’ve lived here for decades and barely scratched the surface. A 60-minute drive could take you from 60s degrees F at the coast, to 80s in the valleys, to 100 degrees in the inland valleys. I used to say to people, if you don’t like the weather, “just go for a 30-minute drive and you can be somewhere completely different”.

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While I limit myself to an hour drive for a day trip, my day trips are usually much closer. More than half are within a half-hour drive. If I am by myself, I don’t go as far as when I go with my family. Really close to home I have mined out just about all the lands I am allowed access to with the exception of some more remote trail sections of a relatively new mountain biking trail that we recently discovered by accident and some of the tiny lakes you could paddle around in less than a hour.

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That’s an interesting question and the answer depends on context. From the perspective of iNat observations, almost all of the 492 observations I’ve posted since joining in June have been on our property or at the Pines/Powassan Mountain conservation area and trails where I walk every day. That’s mostly because I was curious about what I could find around the house and because I think that the Pines and the mountain are a little gem that doesn’t get the respect or the protection that it deserves (although the current mayor is at least trying).

Other than that, I’ve a few observations around my office in North Bay and I’ve just started poking around in promising areas around the region that don’t have much coverage on iNat. I’ve been using satellite imagery to get a sense of habitat. It’s a fun way to organize outings. We’re going to be exploring north of Mattawa next weekend, which fits inside the 1 hour limit.

I spent much of my childhood in northeastern Ontario (mostly New Liskeard) and my father is from North Bay so I’ve done a lot more wandering around in the weeds than what I’ve recorded on iNat, even if most of it is ancient history. The thing is that I didn’t start keeping records of this sort of stuff until my late 20s, after I had left the area (actually, after I left Canada for work) so I couldn’t say where I went in those days.

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Last year I set up a project to see how many species I could find in our immediate area (just under 2 square kilometres of city with two tiny parks), and I’ve already made almost 10,000 observations of over 1000 species! During covid, and especially during the hard lockdown here in april-may, I’ve had to explore this area even more closely, and it’s surprising how much there is to find on building walls and in sidewalk cracks ;)

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It really depends a lot on what sort of landscape I’m in. In places where it’s actually possible to do said exploring I generally do a lot of it; obviously the range depends on the transportation method. In the US I generally explore via car and on foot, which extends the range quite a bit, but there are issues of private land that means certain areas are off limits, even if they are nearby. Big difference between exploring nature when living in an urban area versus living in a rural area as well.

When I lived in China my transportation was via bicycle, so that limited by range but I explored pretty thoroughly within the range afforded by that method.

In Ecuador and Peru exploration was on foot, and my work was specifically about biodiversity monitoring and such, so again I was able to explore my areas pretty thoroughly, although some areas were impossible to safely get to.

Currently I’m on an island in Vietnam and the options are on foot or via motorcycle. There are only 3 real roads, so motorcycle is not much of an option, and the island is a mature karst environment, so it’s literally a collection of cliffs all jumbled together… imagine a bucket of gigantic Lego dumped out, then overgrown with vegetation and you have an idea of what it’s like. Many areas are extremely difficult to get to even on foot and one hour can sometimes wind up being less than a half km distance, so my explorations tend to be more limited.

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I’ve spent most of the last month focused on identifying microscopic things in just 3 different tiny petri dishes. So, at this rate, it may take me until the next geologic era to finish exploring my local area.

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When I saw the title I was assuming walking distance from home. Maybe that’s a British perspective.

Applying your criteria as best I can to the south coast of England I don’t think I’ve explored that much. I wonder what the most remote place within an hours drive of me is.

I just found this website which will give you a map of an hours drive from any location (it’ll do walking & cycling in Europe & N America, and public transport in France). The area looks vaguely plausible (and my in-laws are just outside at the area and about an hour away) though the exact shape of the edge looks dubious in a few places.

https://www.oalley.net/app/

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It shows definitely too optimistic results for driving in the city, but walking results look just right!

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That’s a good point. I have a few observations from a small stream/ditch that runs under a road. Many of my observations from there are blurry from using my phone camera’s maximum zoom, because I can’t easily get closer: it’s too far of a drop over the road’s guardrail, and the vegetation is very dense (and full of poison ivy) to go in from the bank sides.

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Probably.

North Bay is more or less on the northern edge of the transition between different notions of “local” that prevail in northern Ontario, or at least those parts of northern Ontario with highways, and the more densely populated southern part of the province. An hour is about how long it takes to get to the next town (population 800) if you’re driving north from North Bay.

I dated a woman from England some years back. She had a hard time with the fact that you could drive for two hours in some places without seeing even a small settlement. England (population density about 432 people per square km) is about 500 km at its widest point, less than half the width (east-west) of Ontario (not quite 15 people per square km). Those sorts of differences inevitably create different senses of scale and that includes what you think of as local.

On the other hand, in the most northern parts of Ontario you can’t drive anywhere because there are no roads except ice roads in winter, on which you can drive (slowly) for a few months. In those places the sense of local is a different thing again.

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I lived in Europe for a prolonged period before moving back to Canada. When people ask me the difference between the 2 I tell them ‘In Europe, people think 100 kilometers is a long way, in North America, people think 100 years is a long time.’

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